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Heat Pump vs. Boiler: Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Your Boiler?

When it comes to home heating, there are many choices available. Finding the most suitable method for your home and local climate can be a challenging research project. In this blog post, we will help you compare two options: cold climate heat pumps and traditional boilers.


We will discuss the pros and cons of each option in plain language so that you can make a wise and informed decision based on your circumstances. Bonus? Depending on where you live, you may be able to install a new heat pump and receive energy-saving guarantees, including eligible discounts. Click here to learn how it works.


Here’s what you’ll cover:

  • Pros and cons of boilers
  • Advantages and disadvantages of heat pumps
  • Are heat pumps better than boilers?
  • Are heat pumps cheaper than natural gas or oil?
  • Cold climate heat pumps vs. boilers: Which one should you choose?
  • Common questions about heat pumps and boilers


If you’ve just heard about cold climate heat pumps, you’re not alone.


In recent years, highly efficient heat pumps have been gaining popularity for a good reason: they provide impressive comfort in winter while consuming only a small fraction of the energy used by boilers. Here are the fundamental differences between the two:


Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the external air and transferring it to your home.

On the other hand, traditional boilers use natural gas, propane, or oil to generate heat and then circulate it through the home’s pipes.

Simple, right? Well, not entirely. Understanding how heat pumps and boilers work may not necessarily tell you which one is more suitable for your house. For this, getting expert advice can be helpful. See if your home qualifies for a free heat pump upgrade.


It’s time to dive deeper into heat pumps and boilers.


(But please note: we are fervent fans of heat pumps, especially for winter use. There’s a reason we refer to them as the Teslas of the HVAC world in this guide.)


Let’s start with the familiar option…


heat pump installation
Heat Pump vs. Boiler: Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Your Boiler?

Pros and Cons of Heating with Boilers

First, let’s briefly explain how boiler technology works. There are two types:


Boilers either heat water until it becomes steam, which then circulates through the home’s pipes to transfer heat (typically through radiators), or they heat water and circulate it through the home’s pipes.


Boilers use various types of fuel (in the US, most use natural gas or oil) and are an older technology, although they are not as popular as they used to be.


In fact, 60% of boilers in the US are located in the Northeast.


Interesting fact: There are 8 million boilers in the US, with the majority located in the Northeast.


So, why would you want to install a boiler in your home, especially instead of a heat pump? Here are some advantages.


(Read more about types of home heating systems and when to replace an existing heating system.)


Pros of Boilers:

Assuming your radiators and distribution pipes are in good condition, installing a new boiler is much cheaper than installing a heat pump.

Boilers are a tried and tested technology that many homeowners are familiar with.

Some people simply enjoy the feeling of radiant heat through radiators—it’s quite a unique sensation.

Boilers can also provide hot water without the need for an additional external water heater.

Boilers can use various fuel sources, such as electricity, natural gas, or oil.

If properly maintained, boilers can last for a long time—15 years or more.

On the other hand, boilers also have some apparent disadvantages.


Cons of Boilers:

Boilers have significantly lower efficiency than heat pumps, resulting in higher ongoing energy consumption (read Why Are My Heating Costs So High? to understand winter heating costs).

There is a risk of fire and explosion with boilers (though these occurrences are not common, they can happen).
They are slow! After adjusting the thermostat, boilers may take some time to change the temperature in the home.

Heating the home with a boiler may result in uneven heating.

Depending on the fuel used, boilers may compromise indoor air quality.

Boilers can be noisy, especially when experiencing issues.

Boiler technology is becoming increasingly outdated (it has been around for over 200 years), and if there are problems, repair costs can be high.

The average cost to replace a boiler is around $8,000, and if you also need to replace radiators in the home, the cost will be higher. This is just for replacing one system and does not include air conditioning.

If a boiler is older (or experiencing issues or leaks you are unaware of), it may be the cause of water damage in your home.

The performance of a boiler depends on its distribution pipes and radiators. If these are in poor condition, it can lead to energy waste and discomfort in the home.
Boilers are a completely separate system—if you want air conditioning, you need to purchase and maintain separate HVAC equipment (and a separate duct system!).

In summary, boilers are an older technology that can provide sufficient heat if well-maintained. However, their efficiency is far inferior to more modern choices, and they come with certain risks.

Looking for heat pump provider?

Shenling will be the best solution of how to use a heat pump in winter

Alright! Let’s take a look at the competition: high-performance heat pumps.


Cold Climate Heat Pumps – Pros and Cons
Mildly speaking, the operation of a heat pump is very different from a boiler.


The heat pump works by extracting heat from the external air and transferring it indoors.


In winter, this means extracting heat from the cold air and using it to warm your home.


In summer, the heat pump can actually transfer heat from inside your house to the outside.


Please watch the short video below to better understand how a heat pump works.


The advantage of this technology is that a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling for your home using a simple, unified system. You don’t need both a boiler and an air conditioner; just one heat pump will do.


Heat pumps can also dehumidify and filter the air, which boilers and radiators simply cannot do. It truly is a four-in-one technology!


(Click here to learn more about whole-house heat pump systems.)


Another advantage is that mini-split heat pumps do not require a duct system, so if you’re replacing an existing boiler, there’s no need to install ductwork.


This type of heat pump also provides individual room temperature control, which can be a huge help if you’re upgrading HVAC for a large, older home.


There are many other advantages to choosing a heat pump over a boiler. Here are some:


Advantages of Cold Climate Heat Pumps:

Heat pumps have significantly higher efficiency than boilers, so you will greatly reduce energy waste.
Heat pumps are an all-in-one system – heating, cooling, air filtering, and dehumidifying.

Heat pumps provide clean, fresh air (no odors and no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning!).

Heat pumps require no fuel other than electricity, so you don’t have to worry about delivering natural gas or oil.
They are very quiet – you might not even know your heat pump is running.

Heat pumps don’t require a duct system, and maintenance costs are low (no need to maintain radiators, steam pipes, or underfloor heating).
Mini-split heat pumps offer individual room temperature control, so you can stop arguing over the thermostat.
Many people love the way heat pumps provide continuous, fresh warm air for their homes.
Heat pumps operate safely, without the risk of explosions.

Basically, heat pumps are an amazing technology – the Teslas of the HVAC world. They only have a few drawbacks:

  • Upfront costs for installing a heat pump. 
  • The temperature at which heat pumps stop working.
  • Cold Climate Heat Pumps vs. Boilers – The Final Verdict


All of this leads to the most important question: Is a heat pump or a boiler a better fit for your situation?


We believe in customization – every home energy retrofit we do is completely customized – so we think the right choice for you depends on many factors specific to your home, local climate, and personal preferences.


We’re always happy to discuss it with you for free.


That said, we hope the following guidelines are helpful in making your decision:

  • If one or more of the following applies, a boiler might be a better fit for you:
  • You want to minimize initial installation costs as much as possible.
  • Your boiler distribution system and radiators are in good condition and don’t need replacement.
  • You want a system that can heat your home and provide hot water.
  • You’re willing to pay potentially higher energy costs associated with inefficient HVAC systems.
  • You want to minimize initial installation costs.
  • You want a system that can heat your home and provide hot water.
  • You’re willing to pay potentially higher energy costs associated with inefficient HVAC systems.
  • You don’t mind paying additional maintenance or repair costs (or you enjoy DIY-ing your HVAC!).
  • You don’t care much about indoor air quality.
  • You don’t need air conditioning based on your climate (or you don’t mind paying for and maintaining a separate AC system).
  • Your home doesn’t qualify for a free heat pump installation.


If one or more of the following applies, a cold climate heat pump might be a better fit for you:

  • You want the best and most efficient HVAC option on the market and are willing to pay more upfront to achieve that (or your home qualifies for zero upfront cost for the heat pump).
  • You don’t want to deal with HVAC – you just want the simplest, best-performing system!
  • You’re not interested in maintaining multiple HVAC systems and prefer an all-in-one system for heating, cooling, and improving air quality.
  • Consistent and even heating is important to you.
  • You like quiet and want your HVAC system to be as quiet as possible.
  • Your existing ducts and radiators are in poor condition and need replacement.
  • Installing new ductwork in your home is impossible or impractical.
  • Your home doesn’t have or need a duct system, pipes, and radiators.
  • Your home is large and old, making even heating challenging.
  • You need precise, individual room temperature control.
  • You care about air quality and want the healthiest environment possible.
  • Your home qualifies for a free heat pump installation.


There’s a lot to consider, so regardless of its value, we’ll give you our opinion here:


After years of doing HVAC and home performance work and talking to countless homeowners, we find that most people are better off (and happier!) using heat pumps.


In addition to the obvious advantages of heat pumps (simplicity, efficiency, better indoor air quality, etc.), they just feel like home.


81% of people said their home comfort improved by replacing fossil fuel heaters with heat pumps.


Heat pumps are an upgrade in real life. They provide very even and non-stuffy heating (and cooling!) for your entire home, with little hassle for maintenance. If you choose the ductless mini-split option, you can even control temperatures in each zone of your home separately.


If your experience is like that of countless other homeowners, once you get used to life with a heat pump, you’ll never want to go back to using a boiler. (In fact, you might even laugh at the idea…)


Installing a Heat Pump with Zero Upfront Costs

If you’re intrigued by the possibility of a heat pump but concerned about how much it might cost you, rest assured you’re not alone. The upfront cost of installing a heat pump is the biggest reason why more homes aren’t using them.


But there’s a solution to this challenge: if your home qualifies, you can get a heat pump installed for free. Current utility and national energy rebates, as well as new energy efficiency incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act, can also offer some additional help.


Here’s how it works: we’ll install your heat pump (and any other energy upgrades you might need, such as air sealing and insulation). You pay for the work using one of our flexible payment options that suits you best.


What if it doesn’t save energy? We’ve got you covered with our energy savings guarantee.


It’s a customer-favorite simple plan, and we think you’ll be satisfied too.


Is a Heat Pump Cheaper than a Boiler?

The installation of a heat pump is typically more expensive than a boiler (although, if your home qualifies, you can get a heat pump for free), but the monthly energy usage and maintenance costs of heat pumps can be much cheaper than boilers over time.


Can a Heat Pump Replace a Boiler?

Absolutely! A heat pump can provide better, more even heating than a boiler, and in most cases, a heat pump can do so more efficiently.


The only situation where a heat pump might not replace a boiler is if you live in extremely cold climates (imagine frigid arctic temperatures well below -13 degrees Fahrenheit).


In such climates, you might need to keep the boiler as a backup during extreme temperature periods (hello, polar vortex!).


But don’t worry, this situation is very rare! Modern cold climate heat pumps can handle almost any winter conditions that might come up, and they’ve been successfully used in places like Maine, Minnesota, and even Switzerland – all of which have winters far from mild like Florida’s.


In conclusion, both heat pumps and boilers have their pros and cons, and the best fit for your home depends on various factors. While boilers might be more cost-effective upfront and work well under certain conditions, heat pumps offer significant advantages in terms of efficiency, indoor air quality, and quiet operation. Heat pumps are also eligible for utility and government incentives, making them more accessible and cost-effective in the long run.


We believe that, in general, most homeowners will benefit from using a heat pump, especially in cold climates. Heat pumps are highly efficient, versatile, and environmentally friendly, providing both heating and cooling while reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.


If you’d like to explore the possibility of installing a heat pump in your home or learn more about its benefits and costs, feel free to reach out to us. We’re here to provide expert advice and help you make a wise and comfortable decision for your home.


Remember, we’re fans of heat pumps, especially in winter use. We’ll explain the reasons why in this guide, and we believe they’re like the Teslas of the HVAC world for a good reason.


Let’s start with the most familiar options…


Can a Heat Pump Be Used Together with Radiators?

Yes, it is possible, but not as straightforward! There are several possible ways to connect a heat pump to an existing radiator system. However, in most cases, upgrading to a ductless mini-split heat pump system will provide more efficient and overall better heating and cooling experience, allowing you to control the temperature of each zone in your home individually.


This way, you won’t be heating areas of your home that are not in use! (This wastes energy and money.)


Do You Need a Boiler with a Heat Pump?

No, that’s the beauty of a heat pump! It can become the sole heating and cooling system in your home without the need for a boiler.


(However, as mentioned above, if you live in extremely cold climates, you might prefer to have the boiler as a supplementary heating system to support the heat pump during the coldest days. Nevertheless, if the heat pump can work effectively in cold climates – as it does in Norway, Finland, and Minnesota – you can have a stand-alone heat pump that keeps your home feeling warm and comfortable throughout the winter. Most homes do not require a dual system.)


A high-performance heat pump can completely replace a boiler, operating with clean energy and making your home feel great all year round.


Is a Heat Pump Electric or Gas?

A heat pump runs on electricity, and that’s one reason why they are odorless and one of the best HVAC systems for air quality concerns.


Heat Pump vs. Gas Boiler – Which is Better?

For most people, using a heat pump instead of a gas boiler is a better option. The heating efficiency of a heat pump even surpasses that of the latest and most efficient gas boilers!


A heat pump provides incredible, consistent heat with much lower energy consumption compared to boilers. (And unlike gas boilers, heat pumps have no risk of explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning!)


Air Source Heat Pump vs. Oil Boiler – Which is Better?

Oil boilers have high operating costs and even higher maintenance costs, not to mention the hassle of dealing with fuel! Additionally, their efficiency is far inferior to that of heat pumps. In the end, we find that most homeowners are more satisfied with heat pumps than with oil boilers!

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