If it’s time to replace your old furnace, don’t presume that another furnace is the only option. This may be the go-to choice for most North American homes, but heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular. Still, the question remains: Is a heat pump your ideal heating system? Explore several persuasive reasons to choose a heat pump, how this equipment is distinct from a traditional furnace and whether a heat pump is the best choice for your home comfort needs.
The underlying technology between a heat pump and a traditional furnace is essentially different. Furnaces burn combustible materials like natural gas, oil or propane to generate heat. On the other hand, heat pumps use electricity and refrigerant to move heat. This key difference influences the equipment’s efficiency, environmental impact and versatility.
Modern condensing furnaces have high annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings, which is certainly appealing. But this only illustrates the furnace’s ability to convert fuel to heat—it doesn’t account for the full energy footprint involved in the process of extracting, refining and transporting said fuel.
By comparison, a heat pump’s efficiency is measured by its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). While it’s difficult to compare these numbers at first glance, be aware that heat pumps typically perform better than furnaces.
Here’s why more and more homeowners are looking into a heat pump for their year-round heating and cooling needs.
The operating cost is the number one priority when deciding on a new home appliance. Furnaces can be quite efficient, but they max out at around 98% efficiency. On the other hand, heat pumps are capable of moving three times the heat energy than the electrical energy consumed in the process. In other words, heat pumps can be 300% efficient under ideal operating conditions. This cost-effective performance leads to reduced utility bills.
Your household’s environmental footprint could be more reduced with a heat pump. While electric furnaces are available, traditional gas-fired furnaces run on natural gas or oil, the production and distribution of which negatively impacts the planet. A heat pump operates without burning fuel, limiting your home’s environmental impact, especially if you also have solar panels to create environmentally friendly electricity from the sun.
One of the most impressive features of a heat pump is its versatility. It’s an effective wintertime heater and doubles as your air conditioner during the summer. Thanks to a straightforward built-in switch, the heat pump changes its operation and draws out warm air from your home, similar to a standard AC unit. This dual-purpose solution is highly desireable to many homeowners.
Heat pumps run more quietly than traditional furnaces because they don’t have to ignite fuel to generate heat. No combustion means less noise, resulting in a quieter living space.
If your home has existing ductwork, transitioning to a heat pump is fast and easy. The air handler will end up where your furnace is currently located, and the outdoor unit replaces your air conditioner. It’s as simple as that.
While heat pumps are remarkable, they may not fit every situation. Heating efficiency drops in extreme cold, making heat pumps less ideal in regions with harsh winters. However, advancements in cold-climate technology are making heat pumps more consistently effective in the far north, so keep your eye out for models designed to work in such settings.
It’s also worth noting that the up-front cost of buying a high-quality heat pump is generally higher than a traditional furnace. However, it also means you won’t have to buy an air conditioner. If both systems are noticeably less efficient, you may actually save money up front by swapping them with a heat pump. Plus, you’ll recoup any investment cost through lower energy bills over time.
If your home doesn’t already have the required ductwork, adding it contributes to your up-front costs. But furnaces need ductwork too, so this doesn’t necessarily lean toward selecting a furnace over a heat pump. In fact, ductless heat pumps are available for older homes and additions where ductwork isn’t present.
Lastly, a heat pump’s efficiency benefits start to fall off if you live in an area with exceptionally high electricity costs. You can mitigate this by installing solar panels, which generate electricity from the sun to power your heat pump and many other electrical systems.
Still not sure if a heat pump is right for you? Consult Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, and our Experts can help you determine if a heat pump meets your heating and cooling needs. Then, whether you opt for a heat pump or a traditional furnace, we can put in your new system above and beyond your expectations. Contact us today to request a free installation estimate.
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