And, as you’ve probably calculated by looking at your utility bills over the years, it takes up to four times more energy to heat your home than cool it. This is the reason why your utility bills are so much higher in the winter months than the rest of the year. You must pay more to heat your home, especially if you have an older home.
Why is that?
Heating the air in your home requires that you “make” heat. In other words, you’re converting one type of energy (electrical) into another (heat). And generating heat requires a lot of electricity.
Cooling your home doesn’t require you to “make” air. Instead of using electricity to create cold, you’re using electricity to remove the heat from your home. This is why the outside part of your AC feels noticeably warmer. It’s literally moving the heat that was indoors and dispersing it outside. The heat you feel exiting from your outdoor unit was once inside of your home.
Moving air requires less energy than making heat. This is why you pay more to heat your home than to cool it.
This is also the reason why you must carefully choose your heating solution, whether you go with a heat pump, a gas furnace, or some other option.
In this post, we’ll examine how heat pumps can be a great option for many homeowners. We’ll also look at the top heat pump brands in the industry to help you decide which option is best for your home.
What’s the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace?
Ever wonder what the difference is between a heat pump and a furnace? The two are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are major differences between them.
Earlier we discussed how cooling your home requires that your unit transfers heat from indoors and moves it outdoors. A heat pump works in reverse order compared to AC, but in a similar way. Instead of moving heat from the inside out, a heat pump gets heat from outdoors and pulls into your home. And yes, it works even when it’s cold outside.
The heat pump doesn’t generate its own heat.
But a gas furnace does generate its own heat. It does that by burning some type of combustible fuel (like gas or propane). An electric furnace blows air over a heating element to generate heat.
Heat pumps typically work best in warmer climates. That’s not to say that you can’t use a heat pump in frigid temperatures. A heat pump can still work in cold weather, even if there’s a light dusting of snow on the ground. But here in Central Maryland where we experience occasional snow storms, a heat pump may not be the best choice. It can still warm your home, but will not work as effectively in sustained colder temperatures.
But that doesn’t automatically mean that heat pumps are not an option for those of us in cooler climates. If you want to take advantage of the energy-efficiency of heat pumps, you have two options.
Ground source heat pumps (also known as geothermal heat pumps) are a viable option for colder climates. In this type of heat pump, the refrigerant lines (which absorb the heat from outdoors to pull into your home) are buried underground, below the frost level. The earth below remains at a steady 50 degrees year round, regardless of the weather. So these pumps will always have warm air to pull from.
Another popular option is the dual fuel system. This type of system combines a gas furnace with a heat pump. You get the best of both worlds. Your system will use the more energy efficient heat pump in milder temperatures, but when the weather gets colder, the system automatically switches on the gas furnace. This reduces the amount of money you’d normally pay on your utility bills if you only used a gas furnace.
So, why go with a heat pump?
Heat pumps use much less electricity than furnaces. Heat pumps are a smart choice when you want to save money on your heating bills. They can also work as an alternative to your air conditioner. Just like it pulls heat from outdoors to warm your home, a heat pump can also pull heat from inside of your home in the warmer months.
Think of it in this way: A heat pump moves heat both indoors and outdoors. You choose the direction.
And because moving heat doesn’t require as much heat as an electric furnace, heat pumps are friendlier on the wallet. Even geothermal heat pumps, which cost more to install, will save you more on operating costs than going with a furnace or even a standard air-source heat pump.
Geothermal heat pumps also last longer than both air-source heat pumps and furnaces. Geothermal heat pumps have an average lifespan of 25 years. Both air-source heat pumps and furnaces have 15-year lifespans.
Other reasons to opt for a heat pump over a furnace:
Heat pumps are cheaper to install.
Heat pumps don’t take up as much space in your home.
Heat pumps don’t use gas, which can protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning.
And here are the reasons why you should consider a natural gas furnace:
Furnaces tend to break down less often.
Furnaces are useful in cold climates.
Natural gas furnace systems are more affordable to run than electric systems.