When your home’s air conditioner breaks down or otherwise needs replacement, it’s no small event. It means you’re going to have to spend a decent amount of money on a new system. And you’ll be committing to living with that new system for years to come. Here at Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., we encounter homeowners in this position all of the time. And more of them than ever before are asking us if they should consider a heat pump instead of a conventional AC system as their home’s new HVAC solution. To help homeowners on the verge of making this choice, here’s everything you need to know about the pros and cons of replacing an AC with a heat pump.
The Difference Between an AC and a Heat Pump
Mechanically, air conditioners and heat pumps have plenty in common. Both rely on indoor air handlers and outdoor units to extract heat from the indoor air and vent it to the outdoors. Both exploit the refrigeration process to do their work. However, heat pumps can cost thousands of dollars more than a central air conditioning system. This is one of the reasons that some homeowners reflexively avoid considering a heat pump as an AC replacement.
However, the extra cost isn’t for nothing. It’s because heat pumps can do something that an AC cannot. They can operate in reverse. This means a heat pump can also heat your home in the winter, replacing your home’s existing heating system, too. The secret to this is some added system hardware, including a reversing valve that can change the direction that refrigerant flows through the system.
The Advantages of a Heat Pump
The primary advantage of a heat pump is its efficiency. In cooling mode, you can expect a heat pump to operate as efficiently as a higher-end conventional AC system. This means that replacing your AC with a new heat pump should come with the same efficiency bonus you’d expect if you purchased a new standard AC. However, in heating mode, you’ll see a much larger benefit.
Right now, natural gas furnaces remain the dominant residential heating system here in Champaign, IL, as well as in the rest of the US. And the average furnace in a home here operates at around 80% efficiency. This means about 20% of the gas you buy to heat your home goes to waste. There are more efficient furnaces, however, if you’re willing to spend more upfront. However, the most efficient natural gas furnace will only reach 98.5% efficiency.
A heat pump, on the other hand, can reach up to 400% efficiency under the right conditions. This is because they don’t consume any fuel to generate heat. Instead, they harvest heat energy from the outside air—even on cold days—and carry it inside to heat your home. This tremendous efficiency can lead to up to $10,000 in energy cost savings over the lifetime of a new heat pump.
The Disadvantages of a Heat Pump
In the summer, you shouldn’t notice any difference, comfort-wise, between a conventional AC and a heat pump. However, you should know to expect some differences in the winter. If you’re used to a gas furnace, you shouldn’t expect the air circulated by a heat pump to get nearly as hot. Without a combustion process to generate high temperatures, heat pumps instead rely on providing warm air over a longer period to maintain your home’s temperature.
Plus, you should also know that heat pumps do begin to lose some of their efficiency when the temperature drops below freezing. They will remain more efficient than a furnace down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, though. Below that, they may need to engage an inefficient electric resistance heating element to supplement the heat to your home. And while there are heat pumps designed to operate at sub-freezing temperatures, buying one will increase your upfront costs.
Ask Our AC and Heat Pump Experts
As you approach the decision of whether to replace your AC with a heat pump, you’ll want an expert in your corner. The knowledgeable staff here at Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. are those experts. Since 1952, we’ve served residents of Champaign County, offering quality HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also install and maintain humidifiers, and provide HVAC sheet metal fabrication, too. Plus, we’re both EnergyStar and EPA-certified, so you always know you’re getting top-quality products and services when you deal with us. So, for more information about heat pumps or your other HVAC needs in Champaign, contact Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. today!