A normal motor is as likely to fail as a variable speed motor. As much as I hate to stay it, no matter what you get (cheap or spendy) it can and sometimes does break down.
Get the variable speed, no seconds thoughts. Saves energy, quieter, typically better air flow (especially when going into older ducts that might not be sized exactly right), and the big thing.... lots more comfort.
Shutting a heat pump off at 35 deg is a waste of a heat pump. They can run well below zero. The point when you turn it off is determined by the BTU output of the heat pump, and the heat loss of your house. The better it's insulated, newer windows, not leaving doors open etc, the lower the heat pump can run and keep your house warm.
I would reccomend going with the highest seer heat pump and most efficient furnace you can afford. It'd be real nice to put in an 18 SEER heat pump and 90% furnace, but you don't need to get that carried away either (unless the budget allows). Get a good 90% furnace, 14 SEER heat pump, nice thermostat (vision pro 8000 comes to mind), variable speed blower and you'll be set up nicely. Oh, also check into a good filter system, make sure they have a filter thats plenty big for the size unit they are installing (maybe put in a 5" filter).
I do have to agree with him about the discharge temps. They can be a bit cool compared to a gas furnace. But with the variable speed it should be able to run at a speed so it's not creating a wind tunnel in your house, so with the slower air speeds that will occurr some of the time it'll still feel like toasty warm air.
Since I don't know that guy I can't really comment for sure, so take this for what it's worth. But if you talk to guys who don't know heat pumps or don't like them, they give reasons exactly like that so they don't have to install them. With rates in your area a good salesman wouldn't sell you anything but a heat pump.
[Edited by amickracing on 10-21-2005 at 11:30 PM]