In the market for home heating? Then you’re essentially looking at two options, a furnace or a heat pump. In this post, we want to give you an unbiased look at the differences between furnaces and heat pumps and how to choose what’s right for your home.
What’s the difference?
First, let’s start with the differences between a gas furnace and a heat pump.
Gas furnaces generate heat by burning fuel, usually natural gas, propane or oil, and then disperse that heat throughout the home.
A heat pump operates on a different thermodynamic principle. It basically acts as a reverse air conditioner. It takes heat from outside (even in the cold winter months) and transfers that heat to the home using electricity.
The area you live in will often dictate what kind of heating system you end up with. If there’s no natural gas, you’ll be forced to use a heat pump with backup electric heat. If there’s not enough electrical service, you could be forced into using gas. If there’s not enough natural gas services, then you could have to use propane. It’s a good idea to check with your local utility service provider before you get set on one system or the other. Our team can also come out and help you determine your options.
Furnaces provide their highest benefit in their effectiveness and reliability. They can efficiently heat a home to any comfort level. Furnaces tend to have a longer lifespan than heat pumps and cost less to maintain because furnaces have fewer moving parts. Additionally, furnaces cost less and installation is cheaper than heat pumps. In colder climates, the furnace is a good option because it provides its own heat source rather than pulling in heat from outside.
Of the options of fuel to run your furnace on, natural gas is preferable. It’s less expensive to heat your home and you’ll get a higher overall heat temperature.
Heat pump benefits
The main benefit to a heat pump is its energy efficiency. Since it runs off of electricity, it costs much less to power and uses far less energy. A heat pump also has the ability to act as an air conditioner during the summer months. This dual purpose can be appealing when compared to a furnace. Another added benefit is that heat pumps produce no emissions, particularly carbon monoxide. Finally, heat pumps circulate humid air so it won’t dry you out like a furnace can.
Depending on your neighborhoods available utilities, we usually recommend heat pumps if propane is the only option. However, with propane as a fuel source, you will want to opt for regular checkups on your fuel pump as propane can tend to run a little less clean and cause issues with the equipment.
Weighing out the pros and cons
Heat pumps systems and installation can be more costly but they’ll save you more on monthly utility bills. If energy efficiency is your main concern, the heat pump is definitely your best bet, but if ease of maintenance and reliability is most important then a furnace may be your top choice.
Living right on the border of climate zones 2 and 3, Williamson County does not have the harshest winters, but with the lowest average temperature of 36 degrees in January, it’s still not a place you’d want to go without heat in winter. Overall, for most homes in Texas we recommend a heat pump because it makes the most sense with our climate, but if you’re the type of person who likes it toasty all winter, a furnace may be for you.
The best of both worlds
One of the best solutions, if it’s an option for you, is to utilize a hybrid or dual fuel application. In this system you use a heat pump as your primary heating source, then when the temperature drops below 40, you use a gas furnace. The heat pump loses efficiency in lower temperatures, reaching what’s called a balance point where there is not enough heat in the air for it to draw heat into the house.
With the hybrid heating system all your bases are covered. You’ll stay warm in any weather and you’ll utilize the full efficiency of both systems.
If you’re weighing out the pros and cons of a gas furnace vs a heat pump, you should consult an HVAC expert. Our team at Brian’s Heating and Cooling, is able to accurately measure the volume of air in your home, factor in your climate and work within your budget to get you the best option. There are so many factors to consider. Go too small and you won’t be able to heat your home properly, plus you risk reducing the lifespan of the unit. Go too big and you have a unit that goes on and off frequently, making your home fluctuate in temperature.
We want to help you find that Goldilocks zone and get the right heating system for your home and your needs. Contact us today for a consultation and a step in the right direction to heating your home.