Heat Pump VS Air Conditioner? What is right for you.

Living in Southern California, the overwhelming pressure on homeowners is heat pump, heat pump, heat pump! But is a heat pump really the right choice for your home? I'll break down a few different Pros and Cons of heat pumps, and why you should or should not make the switch.

But first, WHAT IS A HEAT PUMP? Fair question, there is a fair bit of mysticism around heat pumps for the average consumer, but they are fairly simple products. In cooling mode, it works like your traditional air conditioner, using refrigerant to absorb heat from inside your home and releasing it outside. In heating mode, it simply reverses this process, taking heat from outside (even in cold weather) and bringing it inside. This as opposed to using a traditional fuel based furnace you would pair with a standard air conditioning system.

Pros of heat pump systems:

  • Eliminates the use of Natural Gas or Propane to heat your home. If you have solar, this can drastically reduce your overall costs. Also, propane is costly and heat pump systems drastically decrease heating costs when switching from propane systems
  • Government Incentives; California Regulators are focused on the electrification of our state, like it or not, this is simply the direction we are pushed in, a heat pump can come with tax incentives, rebates, and can also insulate you from future gas appliance regulations.
  • Reliability; with a litany of new regulation in Southern California regarding gas furnaces, the products have become more complex and less reliable. The SCAQMD requires that Ultra-Low Nox furnaces be installed in all replacements. These new furnaces are fraught with reliability issues, as manufactures struggle to meet regulatory requirements. This makes heat pumps a solid choice if you want to avoid reliability concerns.

Cons of heat pump systems:

  • Longer heat times; heat pump systems do not provide that instant blast of hot air that a traditional gas furnaces provides, heating to your desired temperature requires longer run times, especially in our local colder mountain climates like Idyllwild. Also, in colder mountain climates, backup electric heat strips may be installed in your heat pump system, which can increase your energy consumption during cold snaps.
  • Natural gas heating can be less expensive; Although natural gas prices are rising, in our area of Southern California, heating a home using natural gas is still more cost effective. Heat pump systems, like an air conditioning system, are powered by electricity. This is where solar shines, if you have a solar system already, a heat pump system will eliminate a solid portion of your natural gas expense in the winter.
  • Higher up-front costs; Heat pump systems tend to be more expensive on average than your traditional AC/Gas split systems, they also can require new power circuits to be ran to accommodate backup heating, raising installation costs.
  • Lower air conditioning efficiency; Though the difference is not massive, you can get higher SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratings) from an air conditioning split systems as opposed to a heat pump system.

Making the switch is not as cut and dry as some contractors would have you believe. It is important to ensure you understand the drawbacks and benefits before making a decision. If you are considering a switch, and reside in the Inland Empire area, (Hemet, San Jacinto, Palm Desert, Temecula, etc.) reach out for a free consultation! We are happy to answer any questions, and help asses what option is best for you.