Heat pumps are quickly rising in prominence across the country, though they haven’t quite caught up to furnaces in terms of sheer numbers. With so many homeowners becoming aware of heat pumps for the first time, however, there are a lot of questions regarding which system would work best in which environment. Here, we’re going to try to answer some of those questions. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both heat pumps and furnaces.
Heat pumps are a unique type of home heating system, in that they don’t rely on combustion to produce heat. Instead of burning fuel, heat pumps move heat from one place to the other. This is accomplished through the heat pump’s main components: the indoor unit and the outdoor unit.
When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit evaporates refrigerant in a coil located inside its casing. The gaseous refrigerant draws thermal energy out of the surrounding air before carrying it down the refrigerant line to the indoor unit. The indoor unit then condenses the gas back into a liquid, releasing the thermal energy so that it can be used to heat the home.
Heat pumps are remarkably energy efficient, as they do not burn fuel to heat a home. They rely only on electricity and ambient thermal energy to operate. If you want to save money on heating bills, a heat pump is a good choice.
Unfortunately, the heat pump’s reliance on thermal energy in the air can also be problematic. In climates that frequently reach freezing temperatures, there often isn’t enough thermal energy for the heat pump to effectively heat the home.
Furnaces are combustion-based systems. That is, they burn some type of fuel in order to produce heat for distribution. They are widely popular across the country, mostly because they are relatively cheap and easy to repair or replace. Natural gas, which is the most popular furnace fuel type, produces a high amount of heat compared to the amount burned. This makes furnaces quite effective in heating a home.
Furnaces are not the most cost-efficient heating systems, however. The average furnace loses a lot of heat to things like duct leaks, and even natural gas furnaces cannot compete with things like heat pumps when it comes to energy efficient heating.