If it’s time to replace your old furnace, don’t presume that another furnace is your only choice. This may be the default choice for most North American homeowners, but heat pumps are steadily growing in popularity. Still, the question remains: Is a heat pump the best choice for you? Explore several persuasive reasons to consider a heat pump, how it differs from a traditional furnace and whether a heat pump is the ideal choice for your home comfort needs.
The core design between a heat pump and a traditional furnace is inherently different. Furnaces burn fuel—including natural gas, oil or propane to generate heat. On the other hand, heat pumps use electricity and refrigerant to move heat. This fundamental difference impacts the equipment’s efficiency, environmental impact and versatility.
Modern condensing furnaces feature high annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings, which is certainly appealing. But an AFUE rating only illustrates the furnace’s ability to convert fuel to heat—it won’t account for the entire energy footprint involved in extracting, refining and transporting said fuel.
By comparison, a heat pump’s efficiency is measured by its heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). While it’s not easy to compare these numbers at first glance, know that heat pumps typically perform better than furnaces.
Here’s why more and more homeowners are considering a heat pump for their year-round heating and cooling needs.
The operating cost is the number one priority when considering a new home appliance. Furnaces can be quite efficient, but they max out at approximately 98% efficiency. On the other hand, heat pumps are capable of providing three times the heat energy than the electrical energy consumed during the process. In other words, heat pumps can be 300% efficient under the best operating conditions. This budget-friendly performance leads to lower utility bills.
Your household’s environmental footprint could be more reduced with a heat pump. While electric furnaces are available, traditional gas-fired furnaces run on natural gas or heating oil, the production and distribution of which harms the planet. A heat pump operates without burning fuel, limiting your home’s environmental impact, particularly if you also have solar panels to generate cleaner electricity from the sun.
One of the most innovative features of a heat pump is its flexibility. It’s an effective heating system in the winter and doubles as your air conditioner for the summer. Thanks to a simple built-in switch, the heat pump reverses its operation and extracts warm air from your home, much like a standard AC unit. This two-in-one solution is highly desireable to many homeowners.
Heat pumps run with less noise than traditional furnaces because they don’t have to ignite fuel to generate heat. No combustion means less noise, resulting in a calmer living space.
If your home already has ductwork, transitioning to a heat pump is quick and straightforward. The air handler will end up where your furnace is currently located, and the outdoor unit replaces your air conditioner. It’s just that easy.
While heat pumps are remarkable, they may not suit every situation. Heating efficiency declines in severe cold, making heat pumps less ideal in regions with long, cold winters. At the same time, advancements in cold-climate technology are making heat pumps more efficient overall in colder climates, so keep your eye out for models designed to continue working in these kinds of climates.
It’s also worth noting that the up-front cost of buying a high-quality heat pump is often higher than a conventional furnace. However, it also means you won’t have to buy an air conditioner. If both systems are getting older, you may actually save money up front by replacing them with a heat pump. Plus, you’ll recover any investment cost through lower energy bills over time.
If your home lacks the required ductwork, installing it contributes to your up-front costs. But furnaces need ductwork too, so this doesn’t necessarily favor choosing a furnace over a heat pump. In fact, ductless heat pumps are available for older homes and additions where ductwork isn’t present.
Finally, a heat pump’s efficiency benefits start to fall off if you live in an area with higher than average electricity costs. You can mitigate this by adding solar panels, which generate electricity from the sun to power your heat pump and many other electrical systems.
Still not sure if a heat pump is right for you? Consult Levy & Son Service Experts, and our installers can help you decide if a heat pump matches your heating and cooling needs. Then, whether you opt for a heat pump or a traditional furnace, we can install your new system above and beyond your expectations. Contact us today to request a free installation estimate.
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