When you are at home, how do you keep warm? At HVAC Alliance Expert, we know that many houses have a heat pump vs. a furnace, and the homeowner must decide which to use for warmth. It may seem daunting to decide between a heat pump and a furnace for your home’s heating needs. After all, both of these systems aim to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the house. Otherwise, certain situations will soon call for a heat pump or furnace repair if they do not work as they should.
While heat pumps and furnaces generate heat, they do it in very different ways; depending on the conditions, one may be preferable to the other. Consider your home’s age, the local climate, and your own preferences when selecting a heating system. Homeowners must make wise choices during the selection process.
So, we want to lend you a hand! This guide will elaborate on the differences between a heat pump vs a gas furnace and outline their pros and cons to better decide which is preferable.
How Does A Heat Pump and Furnace Differ?
A heat pump is an HVAC system that transfers heat between two locations. These systems extract warmth from the ambient air, convert it to a liquid refrigerant, and transport it via a pump to a coil or heat exchanger inside the house’s ducting. As the air flows over the coil, it creates and distributes throughout the house.
Essentially a reverse air conditioner, heat pumps invert the airflow direction in a window air conditioner, which uses the warm air that normally escapes outdoors to heat the interior space. Most heat pumps have a switchable valve that allows them to switch between heating and cooling modes.
The heat pump consists of two units. The fan, evaporative coils, and compressor are all contained within a single outside unit. In an indoor unit, additional condensing coils and a second fan are kept in a dedicated cabinet. Indoor and outdoor coils are linked via a hose that passes through the wall.
Unlike heat pumps, a furnace burns fuel to produce heat or conduct electrical current through a resistive element. Locations like the basement or utility room are where the air handler is usually situated; it houses the blower responsible for pushing heated air through the home’s duct system.
A furnace comprises a blower, heat exchanger, and heat source. For fuel-burning models, combustion fumes are released through chimneys. However, modern high-efficiency gas furnaces do not necessarily need exhaust vents to work. They drain solely acidified water through a PVC conduit and reuse the combustion gasses to increase heat extraction. Even though they convert nearly all of their fuel into heat, the fact that they still use fossil fuels is another reason California wants to outlaw them.
Pros and Cons of The Two Heating Systems
When choosing which one is between a furnace vs. heat pump, every homeowner needs to consider the pros and cons of each heating system before arriving at a conclusion. We have listed them down for you below:
Heat Pump: PROS
- Uses Electricity but Less Operating Power
Heat pumps need electricity to function. This means that homes are safe from gas leaks and other calamities, such as explosions. Despite using energy, its warm air output exceeds the input of electricity. The Department of Energy estimates that heat pumps can help reduce energy and utility costs by as much as 50%, contrary to furnaces or natural gas systems
- Generates Warm and Cold Air
Unlike its name, a heat pump can also serve as an air conditioner, depending on the outside temperature and the homeowner’s preferences. You can use this any time of the year, and you will still be comfortable.
- Lower Installation Costs
Installing a gas, electric or oil furnace would set you back roughly $5,000, according to EnergySage. In contrast, a ductless heat pump typically ranges from $4,000 to $5,000.
Heat Pump: CONS
- Uses Energy
We highlighted energy usage for heat pumps as a pro. However, this can be a disadvantage if you reside in an area that frequently experiences power outages due to weather events like hurricanes or severe winter weather. A generator is a must-have emergency appliance that every furnace owner should readily store.
- Increases Carbon Footprint
Since they rely on electricity to function, heat pumps are not ideal for those who want to minimize their environmental impact. However, this problem will subside if you install solar panels beside the heat pump.
- Not Suitable for Cold Climates
Air-source heat pumps aren’t the best option for frigid environments. Installing a system that draws its power from the earth or water is one way to avoid this problem. However, this calls for costly pipe building underground or in the ocean.
- Dependable Heating
A furnace can generate heat even on the coldest days, unaffected by external weather conditions. Those models that burn oil, natural gas, or propane will also keep functioning without electricity. A power outage prevents a heat pump from functioning, while an electric furnace can run off a generator.
- Minimal Maintenance
Unlike a heat pump, homeowners can only use furnaces during the colder months to provide heat for their homes, which extends the unit’s lifespan. A furnace is more than adequate for those who do not require it in warm climates.
- Longer Use
Furnaces survive longer and are less vulnerable to wear and tear than heat pumps, which anyone can use all year round. They also have fewer moving components, so servicing is much simpler. You may expect your electric furnace to serve you up to 30 years.
- Costly to Install
Unless we include central air conditioning in the cost comparison, furnaces will be more expensive to set up. Electric furnaces are the most cost-effective alternative, followed by oil furnaces, with natural gas being the most expensive.
- Less Energy-Efficient
According to the Energy Efficiency Council, furnaces are only 50-95% efficient, but heat pumps can reach efficiency levels of 600, generating more heat than the electricity needed to run it.
- Carbon Emission Hazards
Carbon monoxide leakage, explosions, and poorer air quality are all possible outcomes of having any gas device in the home. It is important to ensure your appliances are securely fastened and not leaking regularly. Maintaining a healthy furnace requires professional annual checkups.
Taking the Ultimate Call
Whether you need a heat pump or a furnace depends largely on the climate conditions where you live. You can also use a furnace with a heat pump if you see fit, but it is better to check in with a reputable HVAC company first.
Can’t decide whether to use a heat pump and a furnace? Get in touch with our highly qualified HVAC professionals to learn more about your alternatives and to determine which system will work best in your home.