When it comes to heating and cooling your home, there are plenty of different ways to get the job done. However, few homeowners know which system is best suited for their needs. Our Trane Comfort Specialists are here to help walk you through your best options and decide which is right for your needs so that you can feel confident in your investment.
Choosing the Right Heating Solution for Your Home
Heat Pump vs. Furnace: What’s the Difference?
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump can both heat a home in the winter and cool it in the summer. As part of a central HVAC (or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, it is versatile and energy-efficient. While a heat pump is technically synonymous with an air conditioner, the term generally describes the part of the HVAC system that transfers heat. A heat pump essentially moves heat in two directions: from a home’s interior to the exterior (cooling) and the exterior to the interior (heating). An indoor thermostat monitors the interior temperature and sends signals to the Charleston HVAC system prompting it to either heat or cool the air.
What Is a Furnace?
There are four main components of all furnaces: burners, heat exchangers, blowers, and a flue, which serves as an exhaust for resulting gaseous byproducts. As part of a central heating and cooling system, a furnace regulates temperature with burners that convert fuel into heat. Fuel can come in the form of natural gas, propane, or electricity. More modern furnaces are typically gas or electric, however, with propane-powered furnaces continuing to fade out. Ultimately, which type is best for you will depend on where you live, your situation, and your individual needs. Once heated, the air is pushed into the living space through a heat exchanger and distributed around the home by a blower fan. Meanwhile, a fourth component, called a flue, helps to ventilate and exhaust gaseous byproducts.
What Is a Dual-Fuel System?
A dual-fuel system works to efficiently regulate the temperature inside of a home using two fuel sources: a heat pump and a gas furnace. This system essentially blends the best of both worlds, as the furnace primarily heats your home during the harsh winter months, while the heat pump serves as a more cost-effective heater in milder temperatures like the spring and fall. It also doubles as a central air conditioner in the heat of the summer. By alternating between the two, homeowners can maximize the comfort of their homes while holding on to significant savings when it comes to their monthly energy bills.
Which Heating System Is Right for Me?
When deciding which type of heating system is right for your home, there are five main factors you need to consider: efficiency, comfortability, lifespan, cost, and location. Now, we are going to take a look at how the above systems perform in each category so that you can compare and decide which is right for you.
1 – Efficiency of Heating System
As we mentioned before, the way a furnace heats your home is very different from a heat pump. Because a furnace must generate heat, while a heat pump can simply transfer heat, pumps tend to be more efficient than furnaces. Under optimal conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300% more energy than it uses, whereas a highly efficient gas furnace can generate about 95% more energy than it requires to fire up. That’s because heat pumps are powered by electricity, which can significantly reduce your monthly expenses. Though some types of furnaces are electric, they use exponentially more energy to create original heat.
2 – Comfortability of Heating System
Generally speaking, a heat pump doesn’t produce as much heat as a furnace, rather it blows on the cooler side. While this system is efficient in heating your home, it can lead to hotter and drier air, which is less than ideal for people with asthma, allergies, and dry skin. Though some prefer it, others opt for more humid air that a heat pump circulates. Another consideration is the presence of the heating system itself. Furnaces that are typically installed in a basement area indoors, and make little to no sounds while operating. This is especially helpful to know when your furnace is having mechanical problems as you would hear clanking noises. On the other hand, heat pumps tend to produce more sounds while operating as it is circulating the air from outside to inside. The advantage of that is that they are installed outdoors. They require less space and there only needs to be a two-foot clearance around the unit.
3 – Lifespan of Heating System
The lifespan of your system, no matter which you choose, is highly dependent on factors such as maintenance, brand, indoor air quality, size, and geographic location. When it comes to a furnace vs heat pump, the lifespan is typically comparable, though gas-fired furnaces tend to last a bit longer. With proper maintenance, furnaces often last more than 20 years, whereas a heat pump lasts for closer to 15 years. This is because furnaces are only used a few months a year, while heat pumps are often used year-round. Furnaces are also usually located in indoor spaces such as basements which keep natural conditions from causing deterioration over time.
4 – Cost of Heating System
When looking at cost, it is important to factor in short-term costs such as installation, as well as long-term costs such as maintenance and fuel input. Installation expenditures will depend on your home’s current system design and compatibility with an additional unit. A furnace may be a cheaper option if you have a natural gas line leading to your home or if you recently installed a new air conditioner. On the other hand, a heat pump may be beneficial if you do not have access to natural gas or if you need a new air conditioner. In general, heat pumps and dual-fuel systems tend to cost much more than a furnace upfront, as they dually heat and cool. When it comes to heating your home, furnaces tend to cost more to operate than a heat pump, though. These can cost anywhere from $850-$1,500 during a single winter season depending on where you live. Propane furnaces are the most expensive (and least common), followed behind electric, then gas. Furnaces do, however, tend to require less maintenance because they are used usually only in the winter months and have fewer parts that can break down.
5 – Location of Heating and Air System
Furnaces can generate substantial heat on the coldest days because it burns fuel, whereas a heat pump may struggle to keep your home warm in temperatures that frequently below freezing. When it is too cold outside, your Charleston heating and air system may temporarily turn off or blow cool air. Your HVAC system may go into a defrost cycle until warmer temperatures support the system again so that it can run properly. A furnace, however, is constantly generating heat and is located indoors so it doesn’t need a defrost cycle. If temperatures are usually above 35 degrees Fahrenheit, heat pumps are much more efficient. A dual fuel system can handle both mild and below-freezing temperatures, switching between heat sources, to save energy and money.
Though furnaces, heat pumps, and dual-fuel systems can all be great options, one or the other may be better suited to your home and your needs. If you are interested in exploring your options when it comes to keeping your home comfortable and energy-efficient, contact the Trane Comfort Specialists at AGL Heating and Air Services in Charleston, SC. Since 2004, we have proudly prioritized the well-being of our local families with honesty, quality, and integrity, and we can do the same for you!