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Decision Time: Heat Pump or Central Air Conditioning?

If you’re upgrading to a new HVAC system, you have an interesting decision to make: A heat pump or central air conditioning?

To complicate things further, there are different types of heat pumps to consider, such as water-source and geothermal. For the purposes of this article, however, we’re going to focus on air-source heat pumps as they provide the best apples-to-apples comparison to air conditioners.

When it comes to cooling your home, you can’t lose with either one. They both work the same way: Each collect and transfer heat to the outside through a series of condenser coils.

Beyond that, there are some key differences to consider.

Cost

A heat pump costs more upfront than central air conditioning. However, the higher initial cost may be worth the investment when you consider the long-term energy savings. Heat pumps use electricity to heat a home. In places where winters are severe, that’s not exactly ideal. But this is Florida. We love our mild winters. A heat pump will be more than adequate. If you’re currently using natural gas, switching to a heat pump will cut energy use by approximately half when heating your home for the winter.

In cooling mode, a heat pump is just as efficient as an air conditioning system.

Do You Want a Two-in-One Solution?

If so, the heat pump is the clear winner. Heat pumps can both cool and heat a home whereas an air conditioner only cools. On the other hand, if you currently have a furnace or baseboard heating and you aren’t concerned about upgrading to a more efficient heating system, then an air conditioner is all you need.

Lifespan

Because the heat pump will be running year round -- cooling during summer and heating during the winter -- don’t expect it to last as long as an air conditioner.

How Are They Rated?

When shopping for a new unit, look for a high SEER rating. That’s the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it applies to both heat pumps and air conditioners. High-efficiency systems have a SEER rating of 14 go 18.

A heat pump has its own rating system for its heating capacity. Heat pumps with a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) of 8 to 10 are very efficient.

Bottom line: Both a central air conditioning system and heat pump are excellent options. If we had to choose for you, we’d install a heat pump because of the energy savings in heat mode.
 

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