Is A Heat Pump System Better Than A Furnace?

Although furnaces are probably the most common way people heat their homes, there are actually several different types of heating systems you can use to keep your home warm. One of those is a heat pump system. Heat pumps have several distinct advantages over furnaces. Whether or not it's a better option for your home, however, depends on a few factors. Here's more information about heat pump systems to help you determine if getting one is the right option for you.

How Heat Pump Systems Work

Furnaces work by igniting gas and distributing the resulting heat into the home through ducts. Conversely, heat pumps work similar to air conditioners, except the units extract warm air from one exterior source and use fans to send it into the home via ductwork.

There are a few different kinds of heat pumps:

  • Air-source heat pumps that pull heat from the outside air into the home. This is the most common type of system.
  • Ground-source heat pumps that absorb heat from the ground to use. Though it is the most expensive type of heat pump, it's also the most energy efficient of the bunch.
  • Water-source heat pumps pull heat from water.
  • Absorption heat pumps that create heat by pulling ammonia into water, pressurizing it, and then using a heat source to remove the ammonia. These systems use alternative energy sources such as natural gas, solar, or propane to run. These heat pumps are primarily used in commercial or industrial settings.
  • Ductless mini-split heat pumps that work like air-source heat pumps but don't require a duct system to distribute the warmth. These are most appropriate for tiny homes, barns, or other spaces that don't use or aren't connected to ducts.

Despite their differences, these heat pumps basically operate in the same way and generally provide some common benefits over furnaces.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

Because of its simple operation, a heat pump doesn't require as much energy to function and can produce 1.5 to 3 times the amount of heat relative to the amount of electricity it draws. When compared to other electric-based heating systems (such as electric furnaces), heat pumps can save homeowners up to 40 percent on their energy bills.

Another advantage of heat pumps is these devices tend to distribute heat more uniformly than furnaces, eliminating cold spots in the home. This is because the heat itself is not as powerful as heat produced by a furnace. This causes the unit to run longer, giving the heat more time to flow through the home. Since heat pumps don't cycle (turn on and off) as much as furnaces, they don't wear out as quickly.

In addition to delivering warmth, heat pumps can also remove heat from the house, essentially functioning as air conditioners. So you're actually getting two appliances in one package. This makes them a good option for homeowners who may be working on a tight budget. In fact, the cost of a heat pump system runs anywhere from $5,500 to $6,000 compared to $400 to $12,000 for a gas furnace and $3,500 to $10,000 for central air conditioning.

Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

This biggest disadvantage of heat pumps is their ability to warm the home drops as the outdoor temperature drops and are completely useless in areas where temperatures fall close to or below freezing. This is because the availability of warm air dips as outdoor temperatures get colder. As noted previously, the pumps draw heat from the air or ground. If there isn't enough warmth available in the source, the unit won't adequately heat the home. While furnaces can work just about anywhere, heat pumps work best in locations with moderate climates.

Also noted previously, heat pumps warm the home more uniformly than furnaces. The heat is not as intense or hot as heat produced by a furnace, though. Some people may find the difference very uncomfortable. However, it's likely you may adapt to the change over time.

Lastly, most heat pump systems run on electricity, which may or may not be good for the environment depending on where the source of your electricity comes from. For instance, if the electricity in your area is produced by burning coal, then having a heat pump system would be environmentally unfriendly. On the other hand, if your electricity comes from solar panels, then a heat pump system would be the cleaner option.

If you're in the market for a new heating system in your home and you think a heat pump may be best for you, connect with a HVAC company in your area for more information about and assistance with buying one. For more information, contact a business such as Cape Fear Air Conditioning & Heating Co., Inc.