When a new heating system is needed, many homeowners simply default to the most common option. Gas-burning and electric furnaces are by far the most popular heating systems, but many people are unaware that heat pumps can actually be a better choice for some households. When deciding which type of appliance to invest in, your climate, budget, and personal preferences should all be taken into consideration. Heat pumps and furnaces have quite a few differences, and each kind of heating system will come with its own benefits and downsides. Whichever one you choose will be a major commitment and investment, so it’s wise to carefully examine your options before making a final decision.
How These Appliances Heat Your Home
The most fundamental difference between heat pumps and furnaces lies in the means they use to heat your home. Ultimately, the difference can be summed up by one main concept: furnaces create heat whereas heat pumps transfer it from one place to another. To elaborate further, gas-burning furnaces work by burning combustible fuels, such as propane or natural gas. This is different from electric furnaces, which warm your home by blowing air over an element that’s already hot. Heat pumps take a very different approach; they use their pressurized refrigerant lines to absorb heat that already exists outside. Once they’ve taken in that heat, they then redistribute it through your ductwork, out of your air vents, and into your living space.
The Installation Process
Regardless of whether you choose a furnace or a heat pump, you’re going to need the appliance to be sized and installed by a trained heating technician. However, there can be a significant difference in the amount that each type of heating system costs to have added to your home.
Gas-burning furnaces will usually cost around $4,500 to install whereas their electric counterparts will be around $500 cheaper. However, certain high-efficiency models of either type can end up running you more than twice that amount. Standard heat pumps will sometimes be within that similar range of $4,000 to $4,500, but it isn’t uncommon at all for them to be several hundred dollars less than that. There are also special geothermal heat pumps that pull their heat from underground and cost as much as $25,000 to install.
Amount of Space Required
Because manufacturers and local building codes typically require a 30-inch clearance on all sides of them, furnaces tend to take up a significant amount of square footage in your house. The compressor component of a heat pump requires a similar amount of clearance, but one large difference is that these compressors are set up outside of the home. As for the heat pump itself, it won’t need any additional clearance due to not performing combustion while it operates. In fact, depending on the type of air handler it uses, you may even be able to have it mounted high on the wall and out of the way. Ultimately, a furnace will typically take up more space inside of your home, and a heat pump will take up outdoor space instead.
Consider the Climate
If you live in an area that regularly sees temperatures below freezing, it may actually be more expensive for you to use a heat pump than it otherwise would be. These pumps are able to pull heat from outside even if it’s cold out, but they have to work harder to do so. This means that you’ll be spending more money on energy bills, and the pump itself will accumulate more wear and tear. In the long run, it may not remain healthy for as many years either. The one exception to this is the aforementioned geothermal kind of heat pump. These special pumps have their refrigerant lines set up underneath the ground. Even if the temperature outside is below freezing, the temperature where these refrigerant lines are located will remain relatively stable. As a result, geothermal heat pumps don’t typically require any extra strain to provide heat when the temperature drops. If you live somewhere that temperatures this low are commonplace, your best bet will likely be a geothermal heat pump or a furnace.
Before factoring in things such as local climate, unit efficiency, and utility costs, heat pumps will usually cost you less on monthly bills than furnaces will. This is primarily due to the fact that generating heat uses up quite a bit more energy than simply transferring it from outside. Granted, an electric furnace will be less expensive to use than a gas-burning one, but both kinds will typically cost more than a heat pump will. The exact difference in monthly cost will vary depending on your individual situation, but it’s entirely possible to save as much as $500 to $1,000 in only one winter by using a heat pump instead of a furnace.
Heat Pumps Can Also Cool You Down
One advantage that heat pumps bring to your household is diversity. When you use a furnace to heat your home, you also need to have a separate air conditioning unit for when the summer arrives. However, a heat pump is able to do the job of an air conditioner in addition to keeping you warm. When you need it to cool you down, the pump can simply reverse the pressure and flow of the refrigerant through its coils. This type of operation will typically cost a comparable amount to what an air conditioner would cost, but you won’t have to purchase or make space for the additional unit.
Furnaces Operate More Quietly
Furnaces have their advantages too, though, and one of those advantages is that they’re far quieter during operation. Granted, it’s entirely possible for a furnace to become noisy when something mechanical has gone wrong, but heat pumps tend to be loud even when everything’s running smoothly. Usually, this comes in the form of clicking and knocking sounds, which are caused by the air handler when the pump’s compressor cycles on and off. It’s easy to mistake these noises for a red flag, but they’re completely normal. However, if you prefer HVAC systems that remain relatively quiet, you might be better off going with a furnace instead of a heat pump.
Since 2016, we at BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair have been a trusted provider of heating, cooling, plumbing, and indoor air quality services in the Las Vegas, NV, area. Because of our efforts in the home comfort industry, we have received Best of Las Vegas honors in both 2019 and 2020. Keeping your home safe and comfortable is our top priority, and our mission is to always provide the best and most consistent customer service possible.
When it comes to your household needs, you should always go with skilled and dependable local experts. Give us a call at BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair for more information on our services or to schedule your first appointment.