Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Which Is Right for My House?

Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Which Is Right for My House?

Advances in home heating technology and equipment have done wonders for homeowners. As models have become more efficient, not only are homes able to stay warm even longer in the winter months, but they are also able to save on energy bills, too.

However, many homeowners seeking to heat their houses may find themselves in a common debate: heat pump or furnace. There are definite advantages and disadvantages when using one or the other. In many cases, you’re only dealing with certain trade-offs, there could be deal breakers for some homeowners based on specific circumstances.

Here’s an overview of what to consider when you find yourself wondering: Is a heat pump, furnace or a combination of both the right choice for my house?

What heat pumps and furnaces have in common

Obviously, heat pumps and furnaces share a common purpose, which is to heat your home. They both distribute heat throughout the house through ducts that send heated air out and return ducts that suck air back through the system to be reheated.

The other commonality shared by both types of heating systems is maintenance. Both systems will require annual maintenance, some of which can be completed by a savvy DIYer and some that, as always, is best left to the professionals. Do keep in mind that heat pumps sometimes require a little more maintenance than a furnace, but in general, both will need regular upkeep to remain efficient and cost effective.

Now, let’s get to the differences, as this will likely inform which type of system you end up choosing for your home heating needs.

When to go with a furnace

We will start with the type of system that most homeowners are more family with: the furnace. Running most commonly off natural gas or electricity, a furnace is the more traditional choice.

With a furnace, heat from a burner is transferred to a heat exchanger. The furnace’s fan then blows air over the exchanger, sending heated air throughout the house. Installing a furnace will run you about $4,000 for electric and $4,500 for gas model, although this estimate varies widely by region.

Furnaces have a lifespan of 20 years, which is a definite advantage over heat pumps, which last about 15 years. Generally, a well-maintained furnace will outlast a fuel pump that also is well-maintained by the property owner.

When comparing furnaces to heat pumps, you might also keep in mind that many furnace models are easier to tuck away and do not always require as much equipment to make them operable.

Another clear advantage furnaces have over heat pumps is that a furnace consumes fuel to generate heat, which means it can keep generating that heat no matter the outside conditions. In contrast, a heat pump works by taking warmth from the air

So, in short, a furnace may be the best option for you if you are looking to get more years out of the heating system, want something that generally is a bit easier to maintain and will continue to be more efficient in very cold conditions.

One more consideration is that if natural gas is relatively cheap where you live, then a gas furnace may end up being the wisest option from a financial standpoint.

Is a heat pump the best choice?

There are no doubt many benefits to heat pumps. One readily noticeable is that they can keep your home at the right temperature no matter the season. Heat pumps can remove warm air from the house in the summer months and take warmer air from outside when trying to heat the home.

Heat pumps are also generally more efficient to run – again, as long as it does not get too cold outside. This can sometimes mean a heat pump is the better option for cost efficiency and savings. Why? Because heat pumps don’t generate heat, but transfer it instead. This doesn’t require as much energy and will save most homeowners some money.

However, there are some disadvantages, too. Heat pumps need standalone units on the outside of the home, while other types called mini-splits have equipment that must hang on a wall. This can create some problems if you are used to an HVAC system that hides in a basement or utility room.

While there are very clear benefits to heat pumps, remember that they do need some more maintenance to keep them running and, in general, will not last quite as long as a furnace. A heat pump may still be the best choice for your home if you are OK with some of the disadvantages.

Why not both?

For some homes, you don’t have to choose between a furnace and a heat pump. You can have both. This is called a dual fuel system, which can come built as a complete package or it could be a system that is split up with two separate energy sources. The heat pump runs on electricity, while the furnace runs on natural gas.

A benefit of having a dual fuel system is that one of the systems operates depending on what the conditions are like outside. In cool weather months, your heat pump may run by reversing the flow of refrigerant to bring warm air inside your house.

But the heat pump cannot always keep up. In these instances, the gas furnace will take over to provide more heat with more efficiency. That’s where the energy savings come in. A dual fuel system can deliver much more efficient and consistent heat – something you will likely notice when that next utility bill comes in the mail.

Ask a professional: Heat pump or furnace?

If you aren’t sure what the best heating system for your home is, then give the professionals a call at Comfortec Heating, Cooling & Plumbing at 888-362-2106. Our skilled experts can offer you some advice on the decision and, of course, can also help find the best unit – no matter the type – for your home.

We’ll even provide you with a quick and easy quote for what types of costs you might expect. Just submit this form, and we’ll get right back to you.

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