Which Is Better: Heat Pump or Furnace?

When it comes time to install or replace your heating system, the inevitable dilemma becomes whether a heat pump or furnace is better. Both have their merits. There is no right or wrong answer. It really depends on your situation. Discover the differences between the two heating sources so you can be empowered to evaluate which is right for your home.

How They Heat

There is a fundamental difference in how furnaces and heat pumps actually heat your home. A furnace is pretty straightforward. It burns fuel to create heat, which then transfers to the air moving through your system and out into your home.

A heat pump doesn’t create heat in any way. Rather, it absorbs heat from the air outside, even on cold days, and transfers it to the air inside. Think of it like how your air conditioner works, except in reverse. As long as the coils outside can get colder than the air temperature, then the refrigerant can absorb heat from the air moving over those coils.

Installation Costs

You’ll find there are many variables that affect the installation price of a heating system. With a furnace, factors include how efficient the system is and whether it has a single-speed or variable-speed circulation fan. Choosing between a single- or two-stage burner system will also factor into the total cost. The higher-efficiency models will run significantly higher than the basic models.

When comparing heat pumps to furnaces, keep in mind that you’re not just evaluating the cost of the heating system. Rather, a heat pump pulls double duty because it also cools in the summer. To get a good cost comparison, add both the cost of the AC and the furnace. In most cases, installing a heat pump is at least equivalent to replacing both your heating and cooling systems. If you don’t have ducts installed in your home, installing a ductless mini-split heat pump can save you substantially.

Heating Efficiency

When you burn fuel to generate heat, you’ll lose some of it through the exhaust. Furnace efficiency looks at how much heat transfers to the air compared to how much it creates. The lowest efficiency currently available is around 80%, with the highest being around 98.5%.

Since heat pumps don’t actually create heat, the efficiency looks at how much energy it consumes compared to the heat it transfers. Heat pumps can transfer 300 to 600 times more heat energy than the energy consumed. What that means for you is a lot less energy consumed and lower energy bills.

Total Comfort

Furnaces produce noticeably hot air that comes through your vents, and some people really enjoy that. Sometimes it feels good to take your socks off and feel the warmth on your feet.

A heat pump doesn’t produce extremely hot air but provides a more gradual heating of your space. However, that gradual heating provides a more even and consistent temperature than a furnace without the temperature swings you normally have between furnace heating cycles.

Additionally, heat pumps don’t tend to dry the air out as much as furnaces do. This means your air quality tends to be better over the winter without as much need for additional humidification.

Environmental Impact

The benefits of improved efficiency extend beyond your home’s heating bills. You have a smaller environmental impact while heating your home. Heat pumps don’t burn fuel, so it doesn’t produce exhaust to vent into the air. The high efficiency means that it uses less power overall. This lowers the impact of generating the electricity needed to run the system. No matter how you slice it, a heat pump generally has fewer environmental consequences than a furnace.

Expected Service Life

The average heat pump should last between 10 and 15 years when properly maintained, or about the same as an air conditioner. A forced air natural gas furnace has an expected service life of 15 to 20 years, or about five years longer than a heat pump.

However, keep in mind that this is again a single unit for both heating and cooling, compared to two different units. This means that when you replace it, you’ve improved the efficiency and reduced repairs for both seasons. It also simplifies planning and budgeting for heating and cooling system replacements.

Residents around Brown Summit and the entire Piedmont Triad area turn to Custom Air to keep their homes comfortable throughout the year. Our team provides AC and heating installation, repair, and maintenance together with indoor air quality solutions and duct services. We also offer crawl space encapsulation to solve your humidity problems. Contact Custom Air today to find the right heating system for your home.

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