Pros and Cons of a Heat Pump vs Furnace
- By: Cheli Scott
- Date: Oct 11 2022
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Pros and cons of a heat pump vs furnace
As the year comes to an end and the weather gets colder it is time to start thinking about your winter heating system and the pros and cons of a heat pump vs furnace. A properly installed home heating system will provide energy efficient comfort year round, but it is especially important as temperatures drop.
There are two main options when it comes to home heating systems. A homeowner may want to install a furnace or a heat pump. Both have different advantages and disadvantages that have to be taken into account. Both also come in a variety of options, so you can get the product that best fits your needs.
The choice between a heat pump vs. furnace system to warm your home may feel daunting, but with the right information you will be able to choose confidently which system best suits your unique situation. Your needs may be different depending on where you are in the country, how often you are in your home, and its age.
When is it time to replace a home heating system?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to replace a home heating system. The most important one that comes to mind is comfort. You may be constantly adjusting the thermostat or your rooms might be heating unevenly. Some homeowners may even experience changes in humidity or start to feel unwell. These are all signs that your existing unit needs maintenance or an upgrade.
If you are experiencing an increase in utility bills, calling a technician often, or spending a considerable amount on maintenance, it might also be time to consider a change. Additionally, age and efficiency are an important factor. Generally, experts recommend you upgrade your system if it is more than fifteen years old to take advantage of the latest and most energy efficient models.
If it is your first time purchasing a home heating system, consider it an important investment into your home. A high quality, efficient system will add value and save you money over time, so it is best to start off with a well researched choice.
What is a heat pump?
A heat pump system uses electricity to move heat energy in one direction or another. When it is cold outside the heat pump transfers the heat energy from outside indoors to warm your home. When it is warm inside, the heat pump can work the opposite way, removing the warm air from your home and moving it outside. In this way, heat pump systems are very versatile and can also work as air conditioners.
What is a furnace?
A furnace uses oil, natural gas, propane, wood, coal, or electricity to generate heat via combustion and distribute warm air around your home through ducts. While furnaces can run on a variety of fuels, modern homes are usually heated by natural gas or electric furnaces. In some cases, where electricity or natural gas aren’t available, coal, oil, propane, or wood can be used. Unlike a heat pump, a furnace cannot remove hot air from your home, so an additional air conditioner may be necessary to provide comfort year-round.
Furnace vs. heat pump systems pros and cons
The general cost to install a heat pump vs furnace system is very similar. They both range around $5,000, however your unique conditions may make one or the other more cost effective for you. For example, a natural gas furnace system may require the additional cost of running gas lines to the house. You may also have to upgrade your existing appliances to natural gas. In that case, an electric furnace may be a better choice.
Alternatively, heat pump installation costs may vary depending on the size of the home and the efficiency of the unit. The most expensive units can be as much as $10,000 for a larger home.
If you are trying to save money on installation costs, you may be tempted to DIY. While installation is generally better left to the experts, it is possible to install some heat pump kits yourself. Furnace installation will require a trained professional.
Related to cost is energy efficiency. Depending on your environment and the outdoor temperature, the efficiency of a heat pump may vary. Usually, a heat pump uses a small amount of electricity, but in a cold climate these units have to work much harder and use more electricity to heat your home. In a mild climate, they are very energy efficient, but in a period of extreme cold they may not be capable of producing the same heat as a furnace.
In the heat pump vs. furnace debate, both require maintenance to operate efficiently but a heat pump system requires a little more maintenance than a furnace. Since a heat pump requires an outdoor unit you will need to clean it periodically to keep it clear of debris such as leaves or branches that will block airflow. You will also be required to change air filters monthly and may need to replace refrigerant throughout it’s lifespan. Furnaces also require you to change filters regularly, but since they are indoors will only need sweeping to remove dust.
It is best to have both inspected by a technician annually to ensure they are operating in safe and proper condition.
In the looks department, furnaces have a huge advantage on heat pumps. A heat pump requires an outdoor unit that stands outside of the home. A furnace can be placed in a basement or attic, where it is out of sight, making it much more pleasing to the eye.
On the other hand, a furnace will take up some space inside. A heat pump’s unit is outside, so it will not up square footage in your home. Depending on the layout of your home one arrangement may be more desirable than the other.
One of the most important factors in choosing whether you should install a heat pump or furnace is where you live. In a mild climate heat pumps are sufficient to heat a home in the winter, but in cold climates a furnace is preferred because it produces its own heat and is more efficient. In fact, a heat pump will stop working below freezing and is extremely inefficient at temperatures below 50°F. This makes furnaces considerably more reliable in those conditions, because they will heat your home in any weather.
You may also not live in an area with access to natural gas. In that case, a natural gas furnace would not be an option for you.
With proper maintenance both a heat pump and a furnace can heat efficiently for a long time. Furnaces generally have a slightly longer lifespan, lasting up to twenty years, while a heat pump may last closer to fifteen.
Making the choice between an electric or natural gas furnace
If you choose to install a furnace in your home, you may still be confused as to whether you should choose a gas or electric furnace. There are many factors that contribute to making the right choice including comfort, cost, and maintenance.
The cost of an electric furnace is cheaper than a gas furnace, but the electric furnace may have other maintenance costs later on down the line. It’s components are more complicated and may need to be replaced more frequently. Gas furnaces require more careful maintenance because they emit a small amount of carbon monoxide and you must be sure to keep them in proper working order at all times. This is not only to improve air quality in the home, but to prevent gas leaks that could lead to an explosion. Though increased maintenance responsibility may be a downside, a gas furnace will heat your home faster and use less energy than an electric one, making it more efficient. The increased efficiency will save you money in the long run. They are also made more simply, so they are more reliable.
Are heat pumps or furnaces better?
The answer is neither is better or worse. The decision between a heat pump vs. furnace has everything to do with your unique conditions and needs. If you live in a warm climate, like Florida, you can take advantage of a heat pump’s energy efficiency and ease of installation. If you live in a cold climate, like New York, it may be more important to have reliable heat in inclement weather, so a furnace would be a good choice.
In either case, in order to keep your overhead costs low and your home safe and comfortable, it is important to replace your home heat system when it is appropriate. While it may seem like an expensive and complicated endeavor, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your new system will keep you comfortable all year-round, increase your home’s value, and save you money on home heating costs in the long run.
If you are still unsure, it is always a good idea to talk to a professional who can help guide you to the right solution for your unique conditions, like our team at bhild. Call us today, or fill out our form here for a free estimate on HVAC services today!