When you’re ready to replace your old furnace, don’t presume that another furnace is your only choice. This may be the preferred choice for most North American households, but heat pumps are steadily growing in popularity. Still, the question remains: Is a heat pump the right fit for everyone? Explore several compelling reasons to try a heat pump, how it is distinct from a traditional furnace and whether a heat pump is the ideal choice for your home comfort needs.
The core design between a heat pump and a traditional furnace is inherently different. Furnaces burn fuel—including natural gas, oil or propane to generate heat. On the other hand, heat pumps use electricity and refrigerant to move heat. This core difference influences the equipment’s efficiency, environmental impact and versatility.
Modern condensing furnaces have high annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings, which is understandably appealing. But this only relates to the furnace’s ability to convert fuel to heat—it can’t account for the entire energy footprint involved in extracting, refining and transporting the fuel.
In comparison, a heat pump’s efficiency is measured by its HSPF. While it’s challenging to compare these numbers at first glance, be aware that heat pumps frequently outperform furnaces.
Here’s why more and more homeowners are considering a heat pump for their year-round heating and cooling needs.
The operating cost is one of the first things homeowners worry about when contemplating a new home appliance. Furnaces can be quite effective, but they max out at about 98% efficiency. On the other hand, heat pumps are capable of generating three times more heat energy than the electrical energy consumed in the process. In other words, heat pumps can be three times as efficient under proper operating conditions. This cost-effective performance leads to reduced utility bills.
Your household’s environmental footprint could be more modest with a heat pump. While electric furnaces can be found, traditional gas-fired furnaces run on natural gas or heating oil, the production and distribution of which has a detrimental effect on the planet. A heat pump operates without burning fuel, shrinking your home’s environmental impact, especially if you also have solar panels to produce green electricity from the sun.
One of the most striking features of a heat pump is its versatility. It’s an effective wintertime heater and doubles as your air conditioner in the summer. Thanks to a straightforward built-in switch, the heat pump changes its operation and extracts warm air from your home, just like a standard AC unit. This dual-purpose solution appeals to many homeowners.
Heat pumps operate less noisily than traditional furnaces since they don’t have to burn fuel to generate heat. No combustion means reduced noise, resulting in a more peaceful living space.
If your home is already equipped with ductwork, transitioning to a heat pump is quick and straightforward. The air handler goes where your furnace is currently located, and the outdoor unit replaces your air conditioner. It’s as simple as that.
While heat pumps are impressive, they may not be suitable for every situation. Heating efficiency is much more limited in extreme cold, making heat pumps less ideal in regions with long, cold winters. That being said, advancements in cold-climate technology are making heat pumps more viable in colder climates, so keep your eye out for models designed to work in such settings.
It’s also worth noting that the up-front cost of investing in a high-quality heat pump is frequently higher than a forced-air furnace. However, it means you don’t have to buy an air conditioner. If both systems are starting to show their age, you may actually save money up front by replacing them with a heat pump. Plus, you’ll gain back any investment cost through lower energy bills over time.
If your home is missing the required ductwork, installing it adds to your up-front costs. But furnaces need ductwork too, so this doesn’t necessarily favor choosing a furnace over a heat pump. In fact, ductless heat pumps are available for older homes and additions where ductwork isn’t present.
Finally, a heat pump’s efficiency benefits start to fall off if you live in an area with higher than average electricity costs. You can offset this by adding 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 figure out if a heat pump meets your heating and cooling needs. Then, whether you opt for a heat pump or a traditional furnace, we can install your new system above and beyond your expectations. Contact us today to seek a free installation estimate.
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