Should I Install Air Conditioning or a Heat Pump?

If you are considering the purchase of a new air conditioner, there is reason to pause and think about a heat pump instead. Here are some reasons why a heat pump may be the better option for you.

Which is the best option? Air Conditioning or a Heat Pump?

Air conditioningShould I Install Air Conditioning or a Heat Pump

Air conditioners do their job well but they only have one job…to cool the air. This means they are used during the warmest days of spring and summer but the rest of the year they don’t serve a purpose.

The benefit of going with just air conditioning is the price. The average price of a new central air conditioning system is approximately $5,600. However, there are more inexpensive models that would bring the price down a couple thousand dollars and higher end models would bring the price up a couple thousand.

Heat pump

A heat pump costs more than an air conditioner, however, it serves its purpose year-round. Not only does it provide an energy efficient air conditioning option, but it also provides energy efficient heating.

In heating mode, a heat pump uses less electricity than a standard electric furnace. And in cooling mode, a heat pump is just as effective as an air conditioner.

Depending on the size and model of the heat pump, costs with installation range from $3,000 to $7,000.

Fuel sources

When using only electricity, a heat pump has the upper hand by providing energy-efficient heating and cooling. A heat pump is considered 300% more efficient than a furnace.  However, if a home’s furnace is gas, there may not be a strong enough argument to switch over to a heat pump because of the reduced cost of natural gas as a fuel source.

If a gas furnace is aging and needs to be replaced, homeowners should consider a change. A furnace that is more than fifteen years old can be updated with an Energy Star version that will save money. Other reasons to update a furnace include poor equipment operation leading to service calls, seeing an increase in energy costs and excessive dust, which can be indicative of leaky ducts.

Temperature regions

Temperature regions are one more major consideration before switching to a heat pump. Heat pumps work by extracting the warm outside air and transferring it indoors. They are most efficient with temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

In below-freezing temperatures, heat pumps are far less efficient. They have a defrost cycle that pumps hot refrigerant back to the heat pump to melt the snow or ice.

However, in a major snow or ice storm, a defrost cycle may not work properly. In this case, there is an “emergency heat” setting that can run until an HVAC professional can service the heat pump but the emergency heat significantly raise heating costs.


For states that experience milder winter weather (40 degrees or higher), heat pumps are a great energy efficient heating and cooling option. For states that experience extremely cold weather, frequently dropping below freezing, a furnace with a separate air conditioning unit is likely a better option.

If you have questions about whether Air Conditioning or a Heat Pump is right for you, contact us at Pilchuck Heating.

Get a Quote Today

More Advice for Homeowners