One very frequently asked question of Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) companies is whether an air conditioner or a heat pump is better for keeping the home cool during the months of summer. In addition, many homeowners also wonder whether one or the other is a better choice for cost effectiveness and energy efficiency. The short answer to both questions is that each system is an excellent choice, both are good at cooling the home, and both can achieve significant energy savings, especially if newer models are installed. There are many things to consider when choosing between an air conditioner and a heat pump for the home. Here are a few things to consider.
Heat pumps and air conditioners are similar in their cost and installation price, which is understandable because when a heat pump is being used in cooling mode, it operates in basically the same manner as an air conditioner. The cost of annual maintenance is also roughly equivalent, with a tune-up of each cooling system involving the same maintenance by a service technician. A homeowner wishing to keep down the cost of installation may want to lean slightly more toward an air conditioner, since initial costs are generally lower for an air conditioner than for a comparable heat pump system. This is partially due to the fact that the air conditioner only runs during the warmer months, and the heat pump is designed to operate year round.
If there is any difference in the operating efficiency of the two systems, a slight advantage must be given to the air conditioner, which is marginally more energy efficient and cost effective than a heat pump used in cooling mode. However, the operating efficiency of both systems can be improved in several ways, including the use of programmable thermostats. This allows homeowners to manage temperature according to time frames. When families are in the home or at work, and asleep or awake have a great impact on whether a cooling system needs to be running. Regular maintenance also affects the efficiency of cooling system in the home, so ducts, filters, coils, and registers need to be kept open and free of obstruction.
The Geographic Factor
With the characteristics of the two cooling systems being very similar, there is little reason to choose one over the other until location of the home is taken into consideration. Any home situated in a warm weather climate that does not require much heating would have little need for the dual-purpose capability of the heat pump. This means homeowners in warmer areas would probably receive greater benefit from the installation of an air conditioner.
By contrast, a home in the northeastern region of the United States which requires significant heating during the cooler months would greatly benefit from having both heating and cooling systems contained in the same unit. This is especially true because the heat pump really shines in comparison with typical furnace operation, being much more cost effective and energy efficient.
The decision between the two units greatly depends on several factors. As a homeowner, sit down and take a look at the different factors of the home, location, and desired efficiency and requirements of the two systems. Both have their merits and their disadvantages.