Preserving a comfortable temperature within your living space is one of the most important considerations when it comes to making your house into a home. Whether you are working on a brand-new build or thinking about upgrading your current heating system, there is a lot to take into consideration when it comes to choosing the type of heating system.
Is a more traditional gas furnace the right choice for you? Would your family benefit from a heat pump system? Which is more affordable, more efficient, and quieter? Does it matter which I choose depending on the climate I live in? Let’s take a closer look at both options so you can have a greater understanding of these systems and the pros and cons of each.
How does a Gas Furnace work?
So, while both types of heaters operate by heating air and then distributing that warmer air throughout the house via a duct system, gas furnaces generate that heat, while heat pumps merely redistribute it. Simply put, a gas furnace generates heat by burning fuel. Typically, a furnace will burn either gas or propane and then circulate that warmer air throughout your home via a duct system.
Pros of Gas Furnaces
Here are a few of the major benefits that are typically associated with gas furnaces.
Cons of Gas Furnaces
Here are a few of the major disadvantages that are typically associated with gas furnaces.
How does a Heat Pump work?
Alternatively, a heat pump works in a much different way from a gas furnace. It draws in heat from the outside and disperses that heat throughout your home. So, technically a heat pump doesn't create any heat; instead, it ingests heat through pressurized refrigerant lines and then disperses that heat into your home.
However, there are many options to choose from, and it will depend on your location and your specific needs. First, let's look at the three main types of heat pumps on the market today.
An Air-to-Air Heat Pump is by far the most common and generally works by transferring the warm outside air to the inside of your home. This means it is typically not the best choice for climates that get below freezing. If you have long, cold winters, it will be difficult for the heat pump to supply warmth to your home because there isn't much warm air outside to draw in. This also means higher electricity costs spent working the heat pump overtime to deliver the heat you need.
2. Ductless Mini-Split
A ductless mini-split heat pump works a lot like an air conditioner. Also known as "zoned HVAC" units or simply "mini-splits," these don't need any ducts to condition the air. Instead, it is typically a smaller unit with an outdoor compressor and an indoor air-handling unit and will work for older homes, add-ons, and renovations that may not already have a duct system.
A Geothermal heat pump gathers heat stored in the earth and uses it to heat the air that warms your home. They are going to be more efficient for homeowners living in colder climates. A geothermal heat pump will use the temperature deep in the earth (usually around 50 degrees F) as a heat source in the winter or a cooling source in the summer.
Unfortunately, geothermal units are much more expensive to install because of how deep they need to be installed into the ground and how extensive the coil system needs to be. (Related: Water Heater Replacement Cost And Consumer Guides)
Pros of Heat Pumps
Here are a few of the significant advantages that are typically associated with heat pumps.
Cons of Heat Pumps
Here are a few of the significant drawbacks that are typically associated with heat pumps.
What about a Hybrid System?
Yes, you heard that right! Why not look into a heat pump with a gas furnace backup? Because heat pumps are powered by electricity, you can decide between using either gas or electricity to help heat your house. So, for example, if gas is less expensive than electricity at any given time, you’ll be able to use more gas instead of getting gouged on electricity and vice versa.
Additionally, a hybrid system can keep you more comfortable by reducing cold spots or multiple-degree temperature swings that can happen with gas furnaces.
Talk to your local HVAC professional to see if a hybrid system is an option for you, and talk more about if you will benefit from the advantages a hybrid system can provide.
Consult with a Professional
No matter what you decide, before you take the plunge, please call your local HVAC pro. These professional technicians are experts in their field, and they will be able to measure the volume of air in your living space, take your climate zone into consideration, and assess your budget to help you choose the right type and size heating system for your home.
Additionally, this is not the time to go rogue and DIY. Heat pumps and furnaces both require an HVAC professional to connect them into your homes’ electrical panel. And when it comes to furnaces, you’ll find that most local building codes will require a licensed HVAC technician to connect your gas lines.
This is not the time to try and cut corners on your home projects; it could be dangerous and end up costing you more if you decide to try to do it all on your own.
Which Heater is Right for your Home?
At the end of the day, which heater you choose will mostly come down to one thing: where you live. Do you live in the South, where you have milder temperatures throughout the year? If the answer to that is yes, and your winters are only getting down into the 40s, a heat pump will most likely be the right choice for you.
The other main thing to consider is the cost of electricity vs. gas in your area. Is electricity significantly less? A heat pump will be your better option. And finally, how much space do you have? Heat pumps take up considerably less space inside your home, another great advantage.
On the other hand, if you are living in a colder climate that gets below freezing and has long, cold winters, a gas furnace will most likely be your best option. A gas furnace will be able to produce more heat consistently for your home. Any of the “dangers” of having a gas furnace can be easily mitigated by regular maintenance and inspections. There really is no reason to be worried about carbon monoxide if you stay up to date with your furnace maintenance plan.
Additionally, furnaces are the quieter option, and that cozy swoosh of the air as it switches on is a comforting sound to hear in the middle of winter. The only caveat here is if you do not already have gas lines built out that connect to your home, a gas furnace will be nearly impossible to install.