Heat Pump or Furnace? Choosing Wisely for Your Home
Deciding on a new heating appliance for your household isn’t something you can rush into. You have to choose the right installation experts, select a heating unit that’s the right size, and evaluate the efficiency needs of your home. On top of all that, you also have to ensure that you’re selecting the right type of heating system for your specific situation. You may not realize this, but heat pumps and furnaces have quite a few major differences. Some of these differences are minor, such as the amount of noise each appliance makes, but some of them are far more significant. Selecting the right type of heater can have a major effect on your finances as well as your home comfort and lifestyle.
Different Heating Principles
The major difference between heat pumps and furnaces comes down to the method of heating they use, and this difference is the root of several other differentiators as well. As you may be aware, there are two primary types of furnaces: gas-burning and electric. Electric furnaces warm your house by constantly blowing air over a hot element. Gas-burning furnaces, on the other hand, utilize a combustion process in which they burn their fuel, which is usually either propane or natural gas. The main thing these different types of furnaces have in common is the fact that they all do their job by generating heat.
Heat pumps, however, do not generate heat. Instead, they use pressurized refrigerant coils to absorb heat that already exists outside of your home. They pull in this heat from the outdoors, and then they move that heat through your ductwork and into the rooms of your residence. When heat pumps do their job, there is no new heat being generated; they are simply transferring the heat from one place to another.
Differences in Efficiency
The fact that heat pumps do not actually need to generate heat gives them a big advantage when it comes to energy usage. As it turns out, moving heat from one place to another uses up considerably less energy than burning fuel or even utilizing a hot element. Because of this, having a heat pump in your home will lead to significantly lower monthly energy bills than using a furnace. Granted, there are other variables that will always play into this; your local utility costs, the climate of your area, and the efficiency of your individual heater will all be factors. However, during an average winter, it is entirely possible that a heat pump will cost as much as $1,000 less to operate than a propane-burning furnace. With a furnace that uses natural gas or electricity, that number will be closer to $500. For this reason, many homeowners working with a tight budget opt to go with a heat pump for their household.
The Cooling Factor
When you use a furnace to heat your house, you usually also need a separate air conditioner to accompany it. Unless you live somewhere that never gets hot, it is crucial that you also have an appliance that can cool down your home. Typically, this will cost several thousand dollars to install, and it will also take up extra space in your property. This is another area where having a heat pump is beneficial.
When the weather gets hot in your area, a heat pump is able to reverse the flow of refrigerant through its pressurized coils. When it makes this change, it will begin providing your home with cool air instead of hot air. This type of operation will use up roughly the same amount of energy as an air conditioner would, but it saves you the money you’d have to spend on a completely separate appliance. It also allows you to keep some extra square footage of your house open for other things.
Eliminating the need for a separate air conditioner is not the only way in which heat pumps can save you space. When you have a heat pump installed, one large component of the appliance is its compressor. This compressor requires a 24-inch clearance on all sides, but it is installed outside of your home rather than within it. The only main component that will need to actually take up space inside of your house is the air handler, and in some cases, that piece of equipment can be mounted high up on a wall to save even more space. This is in contrast to a furnace, which requires a 30-inch clearance on all sides and needs to be installed inside the house, which requires a fair amount of square footage. This is not always a consideration for homeowners, but it can make a difference if you are living in a small or cramped dwelling.
Amount of Noise
One area that furnaces have heat pumps beat is the amount of noise that they make during operation. Even when a heat pump is operating in tip-top condition, it is still likely to be making clicking or knocking noises fairly regularly. This noise comes through the unit’s air handler, and it is caused by the compressor outside cycling on and off as it runs refrigerant through its outdoor pressurized coils. If keeping a quiet home is important to you, this should probably be a consideration. Alternatively, a furnace that is working properly rarely will make any noise beyond the soft sound of whooshing air. Additionally, a furnace will usually be installed in your basement or utility room, which is usually far enough from the living area that you will not hear a peep.
Cold Climate Considerations
Although heat pumps do tend to have the advantage in terms of efficiency, this may not be the case for households in an extremely cold climate. This is because of the method pumps use to heat your home. Because they work by absorbing existing heat, having more outdoor heat available makes it easier for them to be effective. Granted, they will still be able to provide warmth even if it is freezing out, but it will be much harder on the appliance if they have to do so regularly. Furnaces do not have this issue due to the fact that the fuel combustion process is the same regardless of the weather outside. On average, heat pumps may still be slightly more efficient than furnaces in cold climates, but the difference will be much smaller, and the health of the pumps will suffer. For these reasons, many homeowners in areas where the temperature regularly drops below freezing prefer to own a gas-burning or an electric furnace.
At Hoff Heating & AC, we have been a dependable provider of heating and cooling services in the O’Fallon, MO, area since 1983. We want to serve our customers in any way we can, which is why we also offer quality work related to air quality, ventilation, new construction, sheet metal, and geothermal services. Our main goal has never changed, and that is to earn customer loyalty and trust by providing high-quality products and honest service. We care deeply about our clients and believe in making your family’s comfort our family’s business. To learn more about the services we offer, give us a call at Hoff Heating & AC today.