Should You Invest in a Heat Pump or a Furnace?

Heat Pump vs Furnace in Charlotte, NC

When it comes to keeping your home and family warm during the winter, you need to have a household heating system. Two of the most common that you’ll find today are the furnace and the heat pump. Knowing the difference between the two can allow you to choose the appropriate one to fit your heating needs.

What Is a Furnace?

Before you can make a well-informed decision of what you need, it’s important to first understand how a furnace works. Your furnace will be part of your overall central heating and cooling system that utilizes a specific fuel to create heat that is delivered throughout your home. Furnaces will burn one of four different types of fuel, including propane, heating oil, electricity, and natural gas.

A furnace works by having burners that ignite and burn the fuel of your choice. Hot air that is a result of the burning process enters the heat exchanger, where it’s transferred to the rest of your home via a blower system. And the harmful exhaust gases from the burning process are delivered into the flue to be piped out of your home.

What Is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps work differently than household furnaces. Instead of using combustible fuel to generate heat, heat pumps actually transfer heat. This type of system will draw heat from the outdoors via refrigerant lines. The heat is pumped inside and then released into your home.

Many homeowners get confused at the fact that heat pumps can transfer heat from the outdoors when the temperatures are below freezing. The reality is that heat pumps can draw heat from the air or the ground, depending on how you have your heat pump installed. It’s important to note that geothermal heat pumps, known as the ones that are installed below the ground, will remain below the frost line. This placement keeps them at a stable temperature around 40 to 50 degrees throughout winter.

Heat Pumps Can Cool Too

As we talk about how heat pumps work, it’s essential to bring up the fact that heat pumps can work in reverse to cool your home. This means that during the summertime, the heat from inside of your home can be transferred outside via refrigerant lines. Heat pumps are units that can be utilized to both heat and cool your home. Furnaces, on the other hand, can only heat your home.

Where You Live Matters Significantly

Where you live in the country is going to play a big role in your decision of whether to buy a furnace or heat pump. Since heat pumps draw heat from the outdoors, the cooler the weather is, the less heat it will provide. As the temperatures drop below freezing, you’ll notice that heat pumps become less efficient.

For the most part, heat pumps are intended to be installed in homes that have a winter temperature that doesn’t drop below freezing very often. Heat pumps are ideal for those in the southern part of the country who don’t deal with extremely cold winters. If you live in the northern part of the country, a furnace is most likely your best option as they work regardless of what the temperature is. Remember that furnaces burn combustible fuel to create heat. They don’t rely on outdoor heat as heat pumps do.

You Must Consider Space Requirements

When trying to decide between purchasing a furnace or a heat pump, one factor to take into consideration is how much space you have available in your home. Furnaces must be installed within your home, and most local building codes require that there are 30 inches of clearance on all four sides of your furnace. This means that you’re going to have to devote a small area of your home to your furnace. Additionally, if you burn heating oil for propane, you’ll need to install a holding tank for this fuel in your basement, underground, or outside.

On the other hand, heat pumps don’t require a whole lot of space. Rather, the compressor unit that houses most of the components for the heat pump can be easily installed outside. The only part of the system that will need to be installed inside is the air handler. Since the air handler doesn’t use any sort of combustible fuel, it can be hidden in a small corner or high up on the wall where it’s not encroaching on any of the floor space in your home.

The Truth About Operating Costs

When you compile the operating cost of using a furnace to heat your home as compared to a heat pump, it’s overly clear that a heat pump is much less expensive to run. Because of the fact that the heat pump doesn’t generate heat, it only needs to use electricity to circulate and pressurize its refrigerant. Furnaces burn fuel, which means you will be responsible for paying for the electricity to turn the furnace on as well as the fuel that it burns. Depending on the type of fuel that your furnace burns, this can get pretty expensive throughout the colder months.

A Closer Look at Unit and Installation Costs

Probably one of the biggest factors that you’re going to look at when it comes to determining whether you want to purchase a furnace or heat pump is the overall cost for the unit and its installation. On average, heat pumps tend to be more expensive than furnaces.

The average mid-efficiency furnace will run anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000. An air-source heat pump costs between $2,000 and $5,000 to purchase. When it comes to installation costs, heat pumps cost more. You can expect a furnace to cost around $1,000 to install while a heat pump is going to cost around $1,500 to have installed. It is important to note that the overall cost of your heat pump or furnace is really dependent on the specific size of it and its energy efficiency rating.

Comparing Lifespans

The average life expectancy of a heat pump that is properly maintained is anywhere between 10 and 15 years. The average life expectancy of a properly maintained furnace is going to be between 20 and 25 years. There’s no denying the fact that, on average, furnaces tend to last 5 to 10 years longer than heat pumps.

A Note on Carbon Monoxide

As you learned above, furnaces actually burn fuel to create heat for your home. During this burning process, carbon monoxide is produced. This is a dangerous gas that can be harmful to your family if a leak develops in your venting. Contrarily, heat pumps do not burn fuel. They simply transfer it from one place to another. This makes them safer to operate than a traditional furnace because there are no harmful exhaust fumes being produced.

Excellent Heating Services

Integrity Heating & Cooling offers excellent heating services for the entire Charlotte, NC, area. We’re also available for all of your ducting, generator, indoor air quality, and HVAC needs. Call us today to get the help that you need.

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