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Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Which Heating System Is Better?

When it comes to heating your home, you have several options to choose from. Unless you are an experienced professional (which is unlikely), understanding how to choose the right heating system can be overwhelming. Don’t worry, you need to know the following information to make the right choice.

 

What is a heat pump?

As part of a central heating and cooling system, a heat pump uses outdoor air to heat your home in winter and cool it in summer. Essentially, this means that your heat pump acts as an air conditioner when the weather gets hot and a heater when it’s cold outside – making it a versatile product. In addition to flexibility, heat pumps are also energy-efficient. Think of a heat pump as a device that constantly moves heat air from one place to another, where it’s needed or not needed, depending on the season. In winter, the pump extracts heat from the outdoor air or ground and distributes it into your home. In summer, the heat air from your home is expelled, creating a cool indoor environment.

 

What is a furnace?

A furnace, as part of a central heating and cooling system, converts fuel into comfortable heat and then distributes it throughout your entire home. All furnaces consist of four main components: 1) a burner that delivers and burns fuel, 2) a heat exchanger, 3) a blower, and 4) a flue that serves as the exhaust for gaseous byproducts. Depending on your situation, location, and needs, you can choose a heating system that uses natural gas or oil as fuel.

 

heat pump installation

What is a dual-fuel system?

A dual-fuel system combines the best features of a gas furnace and a heat pump. The dual-fuel system includes both a heat pump and a gas furnace, and it operates the heat pump at milder temperatures when its efficiency is higher and automatically switches to the gas furnace when the outdoor temperature gets colder. This not only provides the best comfort for homeowners but also allows for switching between the heat pump and gas furnace in the most efficient way, saving homeowners the most money.

 

Installation Cost

The overall installation cost of a furnace, heat pump, or dual-fuel system largely depends on the compatibility with your home and the current system setup. For example, some homes may not have access to natural gas, which makes the installation of an air conditioner and furnace a more expensive alternative to a heat pump system. Alternatively, homes without the necessary supplemental heating infrastructure associated with heat pump systems may incur additional costs. Your dealer is an excellent resource to determine which system is best for your home and can help further explain these installation costs.

 

Energy Efficiency

Under ideal conditions, a heat pump transfers more energy than it consumes, with a ratio of over 300%. In comparison, the efficiency of high-efficiency gas furnaces is around 95%. Since heat pumps are driven by electricity, they can significantly save on fuel consumption. Their efficiency exceeds 100% in various temperate climates, and they can be used for both heating and cooling purposes.

 

Indoor Air Quality

Similar considerations for indoor air quality (IAQ) can apply to both heat pump and gas furnace systems. To maximize home air quality, products such as whole-house air purifiers or ventilation systems can be excellent choices!

 

Cold Weather Performance

Gas furnaces burn fuel, so they can generate heat even on the coldest days. If the outdoor temperature frequently drops below freezing, a heat pump may struggle to produce enough heat to keep your home warm. Supplemental systems can work in conjunction with your heat pump and kick in on the coldest days. Unfortunately, these systems consume a significant amount of energy, and if used too frequently, they can offset the energy-saving benefits. Dual-fuel systems can handle mild and subfreezing temperatures, switching between heat sources based on outdoor temperatures and home heating demands.

 

Comfort

In general, the air produced by a heat pump is not as hot as the air produced by a gas furnace. Your home still gets warm but “cooler.” Some people may not prefer this. Heat pumps circulate naturally humid air compared to the dry heat produced by furnaces, so they won’t dry out your skin like furnace heat does.

 

Lifespan and Maintenance

Gas furnaces typically have a longer lifespan than heat pumps. With proper maintenance, furnaces can last for 20 years or longer. In comparison, the lifespan of a heat pump is typically around 15 years, similar to an air conditioner. Since the heating elements of a gas furnace are only used for a few months each year, maintenance requirements are lower compared to a heat pump. Gas furnaces also have fewer mechanical components, which means there are fewer parts that can fail or malfunction.

 

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Location Matters

Understanding that each home and homeowner’s needs are different, there are some general recommendations that can help you decide which heat source is suitable for you.

 

If you live in a moderate climate, a heat pump may be suitable for you.

 

If your winter average temperatures are around 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump could be a great fit for your home. Mild winter climates like the southeastern region are ideal for heat pumps. Additionally, areas with lower electricity rates are prime candidates for heat pumps.

 

If you live in a cold climate, a furnace may be suitable for you.

 

If your winters are frigid and temperatures consistently stay below freezing, a furnace may be your best choice. Furnaces perform better in cold climates as they don’t rely on outdoor temperatures to convert fuel into heat.

 

Dual-fuel combines the benefits of both systems.

In regions with mild or extreme winters, dual-fuel is a good option. Dual-fuel systems choose the best heating option (heat pump or furnace) based on your heating needs, and they work well regardless of the weather conditions.

 

Bottom Line

The best resource for choosing the ideal heating solution for your home is your local Trane Comfort Specialist. You will receive advice tailored to your preferences and specific home needs.

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