There are some key differences between heat pumps and gas furnaces. You’ll know which type is right for you after you read the article and watch the insightful videos.
Goodman Heat Pump : GSZ140361
Goodman Furnace : GMSS960803BN
Maintaining a comfortable temperature inside your home during the winter months, especially in a cold northern climate, can be expensive. It only seems natural then, that you want to consider your most effective form of heating. In light of this, questions around heat pump vs furnace are bound to arise. This article is going to explore the best way to heat your home. Is a heat pump cheaper than a furnace? Can a heat pump effectively heat your home? What are the pros and cons when considering a heat pump vs furnace?
Heat Pump vs Furnace
A heat pump is the most energy efficient way to heat a home. Basically, a heat pump transfers heat, whereas a furnace produces heat. Though this doesn’t completely answer the heat pump vs furnace debate. It’s a bit more complicated. Based on its efficiency, it seem like a heat pump is going to be your best option. It could be, but that would depend a lot on where you live. Let’s start by examining heat pumps and furnaces. Knowing how they work is a good start when deciding between a heat pump and a furnace.
VIDEO | What is a Heat Pump?
Heat Pumps | How Do They Work?
Essentially, a heat pump is an air conditioner working in reverse. Instead of transferring the heat inside a room to the outside, it transfers the cold inside the room to the outside. It’s important to understand that a heat pump (or air conditioner) transfers heat, it does not create heat.
By compressing a refrigerant and then decompressing it, heat pumps and air conditioners use the heat in the surrounding atmosphere to facilitate this reaction. A refrigerant is a liquid when compressed and turns to gas when decompressed. When changing from a liquid to gas, heat is absorbed from the surrounding air. When changing from a gas to a liquid, heat is transferred into the air. A heat exchange is used to either absorb the hot air in a room or release the hot air back into the room.
VIDEO | See How A Heat Pump Works
The energy used to create this reaction is electric. An electric motor is used to compress the refrigerant into a gas. No fuel is used, and this makes a heat pump a cleaner method of heating your home. Of course, the environmental benefits when using a heat pump are debatable. You can’t be too sure how your electricity is generated — coal-burning power stations aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Though when considering the environmental benefits of using a heat pump vs furnace, the heat pump is generally considered to be the best option. The electric energy used to transfer the heat can be up to 300% more efficient than burning fuel to heat the air.
Advantages & Disadvantages | Heat Pump
An important cost factor to consider, is that a heat pump acts as an air conditioner in summer. While your initial installation cost is going to higher for a heat pump, compared to a furnace, the heat pump fulfills a dual purpose. It can heat the air in winter and cool it in summer. Furthermore, your heat pump running costs are usually much lower. Unless you you’re paying exorbitant rates for electricity, you will normally pay more for fuel to supply a furnace, compared to the electricity used to supply a heat pump.
Based on its energy efficiency and dual purpose operation (heating and cooling), it may seem like a heat furnace is the obvious solution when compared to a fuel burning furnace. This is mostly true in a milder climate where temperatures in winter average around 30° – 40°F.
Since a heat pump doesn’t actually heat the air, it merely transfers the existing heat in the air, it is not too effective when the ambient temperature is too cold. There simply isn’t enough heat in the air to reuse. In colder northern climates, a heat pump will often need an additional heat source. This negates the benefits of the energy efficient nature of the heat pump. In cold climates, a furnace is more effective.
VIDEO | Upgrading from a Gas Furnace to A Heat Pump
Gas Furnace : Pros & Cons
A furnace uses basic technology. A burner uses fuel, like natural gas, or gasoline, transferring this energy by means of a heat exchanger. A fan blows air through the heat exchanger and this is circulated around the house through ducting.
A furnace blows hot air into the room and has an unlimited capacity for heating the air. A thermostat switches the burners on an off as required. So, a furnace will heat a home faster than a heat pump and is better equipped to maintain a warm temperature when the outside air is colder.
VIDEO | How A Gas Furnace Works
A furnace not only costs less to install than a heat pump, it is generally cheaper to maintain, and can last 2 – 3 times longer. This is offset by higher running costs. Furnaces require large quantities of fuel, which normally costs a lot more than the electricity required to run a heat pump. This makes it difficult to determine whether a heat pump is actually more cost effective than a furnace. It will depend a lot on how much they are used. The cost of fuel vs electricity isn’t universal and will depend on local prices.
Heat Pump vs Furnace : Which is your Best Option?
When it comes to costs, there are pros and cons to both heat pumps and furnaces. It really comes down to their effectiveness. In a cold climate, a heat pump is not really the best solution. It won’t be able to heat the air effectively, and the heat pump will be running continuously in a desperate attempt to maintain the required temperature. This will place excessive wear and tear on the unit and, ultimately it will require more maintenance and won’t have a long lifespan. A heat pump is perfect for milder climates is the South.
If your winter temperatures aren’t too low and summer temperatures are high, a heat pump is an obvious choice. It can handle the milder winter temperatures and cool the air in summer. Conversely a furnace is the only way to effectively warm a house in freezing weather and would be the best solution for cold northern homes.
This should simplify your decision when considering a heat pump vs furnace. In the north a furnace is best and in the south (generally) a heat pump is best. I know some southern states experience bitterly cold winters. You know how cold it gets in your area. Remember that a heat pump isn’t too effective when the temperature drops below 30°F. If you only experience really cold weather occasionally, a heat pump and an additional space heater (when needed) can still be a better option, especially if you rely heavily on cooling from an air conditioner in summer.