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Heat Pump vs Furnace: Which Is Right For Me?

January 5, 2022

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, there are plenty of different ways to get the job done affordably and effectively. However, few homeowners know which system is best suited for their needs. As Trane Comfort Specialists, we at AGL Heating and Air are here to help walk you through your best options […]

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, there are plenty of different ways to get the job done affordably and effectively. However, few homeowners know which system is best suited for their needs. As Trane Comfort Specialists, we at AGL Heating and Air 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?

shutterstock air conditionerWhat Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump system is an all-electric system that uses refrigerant to cool a home in the summer and heat a home in the winter. 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 during the cooling season and from the exterior to the interior in heating seasons. An indoor thermostat monitors the interior temperature and sends signals to your HVAC system prompting it to either heat or cool the air.

shutterstock furnaceWhat Is a Furnace?

A furnace is a heating-only system that uses natural gas or propane gas to heat your home. As part of a central heating and cooling system, a furnace regulates temperature with burners that convert fuel (gas) into heat. More modern furnaces are typically gas, however, with propane 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 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. Heat pumps tend to be more efficient than furnaces. 

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 a gas 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.

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.

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. Propane furnaces are the most expensive (and least common).

5 – Location of Heating and Air System

Furnaces and heat pumps are similar in size which allows them to be installed in attics, crawl spaces, or closets. The main difference is the presence of a gas line and exhaust pipe. A furnace requires a gas line and it also needs an exhaust pipe vented to the outdoors. A heat pump does not need to exhaust any heat, therefore, it does not need an exhaust pipe.

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 our 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! 

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