Deciding on a Heat Pump Versus Air Conditioner

Choosing the best air conditioning appliance for your home is one of the biggest decisions you may face regarding home appliances. Nearly every home owner would rather have an energy efficient dish washer, clothes washer, and dryer. But what about when deciding between a heat pump versus air conditioner? The high price of home energy usage and increased environmental concerns are resulting in home owners searching for the most efficient yet affordable appliance.
The name “heat pump” is somewhat misleading to most consumers, since it actually provides both heating and cooling in homes. When heating a home, a heat-pump collects warmth from the ground, air, and water in order to transfer this heat to the building. While a heat pump is in cooling mode, it simply removes hot air from inside of a home and sends it back outdoors. Essentially, a heat pump does the same thing all year round, but it simply transfers the heat in a different direction depending on the season. Air conditioners and heat-pumps in cooling mode are both given a seasonal energy efficiency rating (also known as SEER), which allows customers to know how much energy each appliance will use. According to the seasonal energy efficiency rating, a high number means lower energy consumption.
In hot climates a high seasonal energy efficiency rating is necessary in order to efficiently reduce the temperature inside of a home. In addition to being given a SEER rating, heat pumps are also given an energy consumption rating on the heating seasonal performance factor (also known as HSPF) scale. The heating seasonal performance factor indicates how much power is used by a heat-pump while it is in heating mode. Heat pumps have coils outside, which in turn collect ice during winter. Burners are then used by the heat pumps to melt ice and push warm air into your home. This means that in cold climates, heat pumps can use more energy to heat a home.
On the other hand, air conditioning systems cool indoor air by evaporating a refrigerant, such as Freon. Coils are inside of the home for cold air, and outside of the home for hot air. Air conditioning units contain compressors which transform Freon from its original state into a hot gas. This gas travels through air conditioning coils, loses heat and turns from a gas into a liquid. Once liquefied, it passes through a valve and evaporates into cold gas. When this gas enters the coils indoors, the coils absorb indoor heat. The result is a cooled indoor air. Home air conditioners use the SEER efficiency rating as well, so customers can be aware of their energy consumption. Large commercial air conditioning units often use the energy efficiency ratio (or EER) to measure efficiency. A higher EER indicates a more efficient appliance.
Air conditioners are a bit less energy efficient when cooling down a building than heat-pumps are. However, heat-pumps are only energy efficient above 40 degrees. If the temperature is lower, a furnace is usually required for heating purposes. The most efficient appliance ultimately depends on which climate you live in.

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