Should I Get a Heat Pump or Air Conditioner?

Every once in a while a customer calls and asks us, "Should I get a heat pump or air conditioner?" There is an easy answer from our point of view. However, that answer might not be too obvious to regular folks, so let's break it down.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are great. Who doesn't like being cool and comfortable when it's 100 degrees outside? These are time-tested, proven systems. And if cooling is your only concern, then going with a cooling-only air conditioner is not a bad idea.

What if you want more than just cooling?

Heat Pumps

Like an air conditioner, a heat pump is a great way to stay cool on a hot day. Both systems use the same process to take heat out of a space, so there is no difference at all in cooling comfort. A heat pump's real value is versatility.

Unlike an air conditioner, a heat pump can reverse cycle to pull heat back into your home. Which means that when it gets cold outside, you can flip your heat pump over to heating mode for some energy efficient warmth.

People who live in regions with mild winter weather can get along just fine with only a heat pump to keep them warm. They heat way, way, way more efficiently than electric furnaces or electric baseboards, and even give gas furnaces a run for their money in terms of costs per BTU.

The one area where a heat pump can fall short in winter is in extreme cold weather. The less heat there is in the air outside, the harder the heat pump has to work to get it. If the temperature gets low enough, the condenser can freeze up entirely. Which, as you might expect, is bad. However, many homeowners use heat pumps for heating part of the year, then switch over to gas or propane when the temperature really drops. Overall, that can result in significant savings compared to being entirely dependent on one system or the other.

The Choice is Clear

The question, "Should I get a heat pump or air conditioner," has an obvious answer: Get a heat pump. They cool just as well, they give you a real choice in winter heating, and they're typically very economically priced.

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