You have many things to consider if you are in the market for a new residential heating system. Heat pumps and furnaces are the two most popular options with homeowners in America. Each is reliable and effective but they have their own unique advantages and disadvantages to think about before making a final decision.
A furnace may use propane, natural gas, oil or electricity as its energy source. Most homes in urban areas are connected to natural gas lines or electricity for heating purposes while houses in rural areas typically rely on propane or oil. Gas and electricity are delivered continuously and homeowners pay for usage on a monthly basis. If you use propane or oil, you will have to pay to fill the tank and refill it when it is empty.
Heat pumps are powered by electricity. They usually have an outdoor unit and an indoor unit. Unlike fuel-based furnaces, heat pumps do not produce carbon monoxide and there is no risk of the fuel igniting or exploding.
Furnaces operate by detecting changes in temperature and responding according to where the user sets the thermostat. When the furnace turns on, it produces heat that is blown through the ductwork and vents by an air handler. The system returns the air to the furnace, which filters, heats and redistributes the air until the indoor temperature reaches the level set on the thermostat.
A heat pump circulates refrigerant through copper coils located inside the outdoor and indoor units. When the unit is set to heat, the refrigerant in the coils in the outdoor unit evaporates into gas and absorbs heat. The gas travels indoors where the gas is condensed back into liquid. The condensing process releases the heat and the air handler distributes the heat throughout the building.
In most cases, a furnace is suitable for even the coldest climates while heat pumps are less efficient in sub-freezing temperatures. Most heat pumps have backup heating systems that kick in when outdoor temperatures are below freezing. When this happens, operating costs are significantly increased.
Doing the proper research can help you make the right decision when you are purchasing a heating system for your home. If you are having trouble determining whether your home is better suited for a furnace or a heat pump, a local HVAC contractor can help you make the right choice.
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