As we move into the hotter summer months, homeowners may wonder which product — a new air conditioner or heat pump — works best for their region.
The primary difference between air conditioners and heat pumps is heat pumps can both cool and heat. The trade-off is that the air conditioner is a little more energy efficient at cooling. Generally, a heat pump heats best down to about 40 degrees. Below that outdoor air temperature, you may want a furnace as your primary heating source.
The weather in Southern Florida, California and Texas is hot for most of the year. A heat pump’s warming ability would see little use each year. Plus, because you run your air conditioner so much, you want to invest in the most energy efficient air conditioner with a high seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER).
A heat pump might be an ideal system for moderate climates like the Mid-South. Tennessee, for example has moderate spring and autumn seasons, and very hot summers. So, a heat pump cools in the summer, then provides inexpensive electric heat in the spring and fall.
These set-ups, sometimes referred to as hybrid heat dual fuel split systems, are smart enough to know when it’s cold enough to heat with a furnace, and when it can use the heat pump.
The USDA provides a handy, interactive national temperature zone map that may help you determine whether an air conditioner or heat pump would best suit your climate.
There are both air conditioners and heat pumps that meet the ENERGY STAR guidelines for energy efficiency. The ENERGY STAR web site explains that “Though these products can be more expensive to purchase up front, the cost difference will be paid back over time through lower energy bills.”
It is important to know just how air conditioners and heat pumps operate, before making any final decisions. Howstuffworks.com provides a concise walkthrough for the basics of air conditioner and heat pump operation. By following these links, you’ll find that both products have inherent benefits, but the obvious difference is that you gain additional warming options supplied by a heat pump.
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