On the hottest days of the year, millions of Americans count on some kind of cooling system to make their homes comfortable. Heat pumps are known as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional AC units and furnaces, but homeowners in some parts of the US are skeptical. Do heat pumps work in hot weather? How do they compare to an air conditioner?

We compared heat pump cooling efficiency at different outdoor temperatures to see if they’re an efficient and viable option on even the hottest days of summer.

Are Heat Pumps More Efficient Than AC? 

Air-source heat pumps are roughly 50% more efficient than air conditioners. Air-source heat pumps are the most common type of heat pump, but other variations are just as efficient. Ground-source heat pumps are 30-60% more efficient. That leads to substantial energy savings; one study found that heat pumps are $10,000 cheaper to own over 15 years. Heat pumps for cooling are the most efficient option!

Related: What is a Heat Pump?

Heat Pump Cooling Efficiency in Hot Weather 

Every heat pump model is evaluated with the same SEER rating as air conditioners, furnaces, and appliances. The real advantages of a heat pump become clear as outdoor temperatures rise. Higher outdoor temperatures do not impact heat pumps. They deliver the same efficiency no matter the difference between indoor temperature settings and outdoor temps.

Even if you live in a warm climate, don’t worry; heat pumps are efficient in hot weather!

Air Conditioner vs. Heat Pump 

Efficiency isn’t the only consideration when it’s time for a new cooling system. Upfront cost, longevity, and other factors should play a part in your decision process. Here’s how AC units and heat pumps compare in the most important categories.

Upfront Costs 

Heat pumps cost more than traditional AC units, but there’s a big qualifier there. Heat pumps can heat and cool your home, while air conditioners are one trick ponies. Depending on the type of heat pump, your location, and installation costs, adding a heat pump to your home costs between $4,000 and $7,000. However, regional and federal rebate programs can lower upfront costs by thousands of dollars.

Central air conditioning units are less expensive than heat pumps and usually cost between $2,500 and $4,000.

Lifespan Comparisons 

The average lifespan of a heat pump is roughly 15 years if used year-round. Air conditioners last 15-20 years, although their longevity is heavily dependent on maintenance and how often they’re used.


Most heat pump manufacturers recommend annual inspection and maintenance if it’s used during the summer month or two inspections if it's used year-round. In between service calls, homeowners can keep their heat pump running smoothly by:

  • Inspecting the heat pump for ice or snow build-up
  • Clearing leaves or other debris
  • Checking filters regularly

Air conditioning units should get the same level of attention. Annual maintenance goes a long way toward keeping your AC operating efficiently. In addition to keeping your AC clear of debris, you’ll need to:

  • Check drain lines regularly.
  • Check for loose electrical connections.
  • Inspect or clean coils.

Prioritize Efficiency with Trusted HVAC Professionals 

You don’t have to decide between an air conditioner and a heat pump alone. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning is your local expert in new HVAC technology and choosing the best equipment for your home, your family, and your budget. Request an appointment or call (800) 893-3523 today.