The Pros and Cons of Heat Pumps Vs. A/C

When it comes to prepping your home for summer (and keeping those indoor temps cool), you have two main options on the table: a heat pump or a traditional air conditioning unit. In function, there are several similarities between a heat pump and regular A/C – but it all comes back to the system that’s best for YOU. Let’s break it down!

The Similarities between Heat Pumps and Air Conditioning Units

It’s a common misconception that air conditioners pump cold air into your home. In reality, both heat pumps and air conditioners absorb heat from the inside of your home through a set of coils, and then transfer and release that heat to the outdoors through another set of coils. This process leaves nice, cool indoor temps for you to enjoy!

Another similarity that can be found in their actual appearance. The outdoor units for both heat pumps and air conditioners look similar when they’re sitting outside your home: both units are relatively minimal, and won’t ruin your gorgeous landscape or views. 

In other words, generally speaking, heat pumps and air conditioners look similar and perform roughly the same, with no huge differences in energy consumption or overall ongoing cost. 

A System for All Seasons

As you’d expect, there’s a major difference between a traditional air conditioning system and a heat pump – but not when it comes to cooling down your home. Instead, the differences become apparent during the chillier times of year!

As you may already know, air conditioners are single-function (cooling only) and are usually paired with furnaces to ensure heating in the winter. Together, an air conditioner and a typical furnace are a complete heating and cooling system. 

Heat pumps have a fantastic dual function which absorbs warm air from the outdoors (even in cool temps) and transfers it into your home, using the same sets of coils which cool your home in the summertime. Essentially, a heat pump is a complete heating and cooling system in itself. 

However, when temps dip below freezing, the effectiveness of a heat pump can be affected. With less and less heat in the air available outside to transfer indoors, the heat pump has to work much harder, using more energy in its effort to keep your home warm. Luckily, there are a few common remedies for this!

In extreme winter temps, a heat pump may need an additional electric heater to ensure it keeps the house nice and toasty. However, many homeowners opt to add a furnace to their heat pump as a backup heat source. This option is extremely efficient, with the furnace kicking on only as a last resort in extremely cold temps. 

Heat Pumps Vs. A/C: What’s Right For You?

No system is automatically one-size-fits-all! There are a few initial factors to consider when looking at purchasing a new cooling (or heating!) system.

To start, let’s talk about cost. When outdoor temperatures are moderately cold, the heat pump can work efficiently at keeping your home warm and cozy. But when temps drop down low or severe winter weather is inclement, a heat pump has to work much harder, driving up your electricity bill. Additionally, the initial cost for a heat pump is more expensive than your typical furnace/AC combination. 

However, in moderate/moderately cold conditions, a heat pump can cost far less to operate than a system that uses more expensive fuel sources like natural gas or fossil fuels.

The longevity of your system is also an important factor. Heat pumps are used year-round, both for heating and cooling, which can make for a lot of wear and tear – so it makes sense that their longevity may be a bit shorter than your usual furnace/AC system. AC gets a break in the winter months, meaning it doesn’t receive as much wear. However, regardless of the system you choose, annual maintenance is extremely important and will ensure that you get plenty of good years out of your system. 

Our professionals will look at a number of other factors to provide you with the best possible options in home cooling technology! 

Your Trusted Resource

In the world of heating and cooling, there are multiple options to consider when looking at purchasing a new system! We aim to provide you with as much info as possible, so you can make the best choice for you.

Our entire staff is also well-versed in the ins and outs of each system, and we’re proud to be a trusted resource in Whatcom County and beyond. Give us a call today if you have any questions – estimates are always free!