A heat pump is really just an air conditioner that can run in reverse to move warm air from outside to inside and heat interior spaces. For some people, a heat pump is a great investment. For other people, an air conditioner (A/C) is the best solution. Here is some advice to help you make a decision about whether to install A/C or a heat pump in your home.
Location, Location, Location
As with everything else in real estate, whether you want a heat pump or an air conditioner in your home comes down to location. Heat pumps are great for heating a home where winter temperatures don’t fall below 40 F. Below that temperature, heat pumps struggle to extract heat from the cold outside air and their efficiency drops dramatically.
On the flip side of the coin is cooling. Heat pumps aren’t as efficient as dedicated air conditioners when it comes to cooling in some situations. Again, they work best in milder climates where it doesn’t get too hot and humidity levels don’t rise too high. Simply put, heat pumps are best for those who live in milder climates while dedicated furnaces and air conditioners are more efficient at the extremes.
A heat pump can cost substantially more to install than air conditioning. If you are installing it to augment your heating system in the winter and to provide moderate cooling in the summer, then it is a good investment. If you are installing it to replace air conditioning in the summer and your winters are pretty darn cold, then the energy savings probably won’t be enough to offset the cost of the system. If your climate is extreme (below freezing in winter or hot/humid in summer), you’ll have to do some calculations to see what opinions makes the most sense financially. If you already have an efficient system for heating your home, you’ll probably be better off with A/C than with a heat pump.
Air conditioners are more compact, so if space is an issue then A/C is the way to go. If you only want to heat/cool a single room, then a ductless heat pump, which can be very small, might be the best option. These systems are affordable and often come with rebates because they are more energy efficient.
Making the Decision
When deciding between a heat pump and air conditioning, you need to consider your heating and cooling requirements, your budget, whether you already have an efficient heating solution, and the space you have to work with. The balance of these factors should push you toward one solution or the other. If you fall on the line between the two, go with the cheaper option.