If you’d like to replace your old furnace, don’t assume that a new furnace is your only choice. This may be the default 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 compelling reasons to try 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 core design between a heat pump and a traditional furnace is fundamentally 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 fundamental difference affects the equipment’s efficiency, environmental impact and versatility.
Modern condensing furnaces boast high AFUE ratings, which is undoubtedly appealing. But this only measures the furnace’s ability to convert fuel to heat—it won’t account for the entire energy footprint involved in the process of extracting, refining and transporting the 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 often perform better than 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 the first thing that comes to mind when considering a new home appliance. Furnaces can be highly efficient, but they max out at approximately 98% efficiency. On the other hand, heat pumps are capable of providing three times the heat energy than the electrical energy consumed during the process. In other words, heat pumps can be 300% efficient under ideal operating conditions. This cost-efficient 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 oil, the production and distribution of which harms the planet. A heat pump operates without burning fuel, limiting your home’s environmental impact, particularly if you also have solar panels to generate cleaner electricity from the sun.
One of the most innovative features of a heat pump is its versatility. It’s an effective heating system in the winter and doubles as your air conditioner in the summer. Thanks to a simple built-in switch, the heat pump changes its operation and extracts warm air from your home, much like a standard AC unit. This two-in-one 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 less noise, resulting in a quieter living space.
If your home is already equipped with ductwork, transitioning to a heat pump is fast and easy. 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 innovative and energy efficient, 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 colder winters. At the same time, advancements in cold-climate technology are making heat pumps more efficient overall in colder climates, so be on the lookout for models designed to continue working in these kinds of climates.
It’s also worth pointing out that the up-front cost of investing in a high-quality heat pump is frequently 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 upgrading them with a heat pump. Plus, you’ll recoup any investment cost through lower energy bills over time.
If your home is missing the required ductwork, installing it contributes to your up-front costs. But furnaces need ductwork too, so this doesn’t necessarily lean toward opting for 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 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 ideal for you? Consult Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing, and our Experts can help you determine if a heat pump suits 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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