Heat Pump vs. AC Unit: Which Is Better for My Portland Home?

Are you in search of a new cooling system for your home? With average Portland temperatures ranging from 40 degrees to 70 degrees throughout the year, there are two effective HVAC options available to you as the weather warms up:

  • An air conditioning (AC) unit
  • A heat pump

Technically, an air conditioner and heat pump can do the same thing—cool your home—during warmer weather. But a heat pump can also heat your home when temperatures dip. So, the best option will depend on your heating and cooling needs.

There are several things to consider as you decide which HVAC system is suitable for your home. If you’re looking to install a brand-new system or upgrade your existing equipment, you’ll want to get the most efficient cooling system for your space and your money!

This blog explores:

  • How AC and heat pump systems work
  • The costs of an air conditioner versus a heat pump
  • How a combination system can provide year-round comfort

Do you need a professional to inspect your current system? We offer old-fashioned, stress-free service with same-day appointments available. Call us at 503-538-1950 or contact us online, and one of our expert technicians can assist you with scheduling an appointment.

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How Each System Works

Air conditioning systems

An air conditioner works by drawing in warm indoor air, removing the heat and humidity, and pushing the cooled air throughout the ductwork in your home. Because AC units only cool your home, they should be accompanied by a furnace for heating in the cooler months.

Beyond cooling your home, air conditioners help circulate air, reduce humidity, and remove airborne toxins.

Heat pump systems

Just like the name suggests, heat pumps move heat. The heat pump takes the warm air inside your home in the summer and moves it outside to cool your space, much like an air conditioner would. However, the heat pump can absorb the warm air outside your home in the winter and move it inside to heat your spaces, unlike an AC.

For moderate heating and cooling needs, a heat pump is an energy-efficient and cost-saving system. Although, it is not ideal for super-cold climates. Heat pumps lose their efficiency below freezing temperatures, mainly because it takes more energy to move heat from the cold air outside into your home.

Cost of Each System

Air conditioning systems

The average cost of a new AC unit in Portland is between $2,295 and $7,700. Several factors can affect the price, including:

  • The unit size: Larger homes will need a bigger, more powerful AC unit.
  • The system efficiency: AC units are rated based on a seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER). Units with higher SEER ratings can cool your home more efficiently and help cut back on energy costs, but they tend to cost more to install.
  • The installer: Some companies discount their AC installations like crazy, but you may pay the price down the line if they poorly install your system.
  • Equipment add-ons: System upgrades like smart thermostats and zooming systems can all increase the cost of your system.

It’s a good idea to maintain your AC units at least once a year to keep your warranties valid and maintain efficiency. If well maintained, an air conditioner can last 10-15 years.

Heat pump systems

The average cost for a new heat pump in Portland is between $4,995 and $11,000. Several factors can impact the price, including:

  • The system size: Based on your home's size and energy efficiency, the size of the heat pump you’ll need can change.
  • The system efficiency: Heat pumps use the SEER rating and the HSPF rating (comparing heat output to electricity use) to determine efficiency. The higher the ratings, the more efficient (and often more expensive) the system.
  • The installer: Poorly installed heat pump systems will often cost less upfront but require frequent and costly repairs.
  • Comfort features: Some models can cost more to install, but the addition of extra features like programmable thermostats and two-stage compressors can also increase the cost of your heat pump.

While the upfront cost is greater for a heat pump than an air conditioner unit, this HVAC solution will likely cost less than the purchase and installation of an air conditioner and furnace for year-round comfort (which can range from $4,500 on the low end and $13,200 on the high end for the pair with installation).

On an ongoing basis, heat pumps are also more energy-efficient and cost-effective than traditional baseboard heaters and furnaces. In fact, you could save more than 50% on your monthly electricity bill.

Since heat pumps both heat and cool, they will be working in your home all year round. The heat pump should be inspected and maintained twice a year, ideally in the spring and fall, for best performance. When well-maintained, a heat pump can last for 10-15 years.

Combination systems

It is possible to add a heat pump to your existing air conditioning unit or furnace as an effective HVAC solution, depending on the size of your home and your comfort needs. This combination of systems is called a dual-fuel system­.

When you upgrade your AC with a heat pump, the heat pump can heat your home during cooler weather, and the AC can effectively cool your home when it’s warm. Being able to switch between systems is an excellent way to manage utility costs all year long.

Similarly, it is possible to combine a heat pump with your existing furnace to save on your heating costs. The heat pump will effectively cool your home during more mild weather and heat it when the outside temperature is above 30°F. When the cold is more extreme, the furnace can heat your home to offer better temperature control and comfort.

Need a quote for your new AC system or heat pump? Contact Four Seasons.

When you hire Four Seasons, our friendly and skilled comfort specialists will inspect your home and help you decide which system (or combination) will work best for your budget and needs. We provide one-day AC installations and heat pump installations by our NATE-certified technicians.

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