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Heat Pumps vs. ACs: Which is Better for California Homes?

Are heat pumps better than air conditioners for California homes?

So, you’re looking to install a new cooling system in your California home, but you’re not sure if you should install a heat pump or central air conditioning.

Both heat pumps and central ACs can cool your home efficiently. The difference between the two actually has to do with your heating needs. Let us explain…

Heat pumps work as both a cooling system and a heating system, while air conditioners only cool your home. That means, if you have an AC and you want your home warm during colder months, you’ll need to pair it with a furnace or other heating system.

So, which system is better for homes in California? Heat pumps are best suited for homes located in moderate climates (like many parts of California), making heat pumps a great option for California residents who want a reliable, efficient way to cool AND heat their homes. However, there are certain scenarios where installing an AC is the most cost-effective option.

Making the best choice between a heat pump and an AC can depend on a variety of factors and situations, including:

Before we get started, let’s go over the difference between each system and how they work in different climates.

Need a new cooling system? We can help you find the right system for your home and budget. Contact True Home Heating and Air Conditioning and we’ll schedule a free in-home estimate with one of our licensed HVAC project managers.

Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners - What’s the Difference?

The most significant difference between heat pumps and air conditioners is that a heat pump has the ability to reverse the cooling process and heat your home, too.

Heat pumps work by absorbing heat from one space and transferring it to another space. In the summer, they absorb heat from the inside of your home and transfer it outdoors. In the winter, they absorb heat from the outdoors and transfer it inside your home. Because of this, outdoor temperatures significantly impact the efficiency of heat pumps.

Heat pumps work best in moderate climates because there’s typically enough heat in the outdoor air for the heat pump to absorb and then transfer it inside your home to keep you warm and comfortable. In moderate climates, heat pumps are much more energy-efficient than other systems.

Heat pumps do not work well in cold climates or in locations where the temperatures drop below 35° F. In cold climates with low temperatures, there just isn’t enough heat in the outdoor air for the heat pump to absorb. In these instances, a heat pump will usually switch over to a more expensive and less-efficient “backup” heat source.

Your Existing Heating System

The type of heating system that you currently have can impact your decision when it comes to deciding on a new cooling system. Here’s why:

If you have a new heating system: Installing a heat pump is more expensive than purchasing and installing an air conditioning system or a furnace alone. So, if you have a new furnace or other heating system that’s working well and is in good condition and you only need a cooling system, installing an AC might be the most cost-effective way to go.

If you have a gas heating system: Heat pumps run on electricity. If you have a heating system that runs on natural gas and is in good condition, installing an AC system may be better than replacing both with a heat pump because natural gas is less expensive than electricity.

If you have an electric furnace that’s in poor condition: If you have an electric furnace that needs to be replaced and you’re also in the market for a new cooling system, installing a heat pump to replace both your electric furnace and your AC is the best choice. That’s because electric furnaces are expensive to operate and cost about 50% more to operate than a heat pump.

Depending upon your current heating situation, converting to a heat pump may require laying some groundwork and doing some retrofitting. We recommend you consult with an HVAC contractor to determine whether your home’s existing heating and cooling system will play a role in your decision-making process.

Your Location in California and Your Temperature Preferences

The best choice will also depend on which part of California you live in, as well as your temperature preferences.

In California, temperatures throughout the state rarely drop below 35° F. However, on super cold days, many residents prefer to keep their home’s as toasty as possible. If this is you, you may prefer a furnace over a heat pump because furnaces can deliver air between 120° and 125° F, while heat pumps only deliver heat that’s 90–95° F (when outdoor temperatures are above 40° F).

Need a Cooling or Heating System for Your California Home? Call True Home Heating and Air Conditioning Today!

Contact True Home Heating and Air Conditioning today. We’ll dispatch one of our licensed project managers to your home to recommend a new HVAC system. Your project manager can help you determine which rebates and utility incentives you can use to lower the equipment cost.

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