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Heat pumps vs. furnaces

Danielle Onat | 12/19/2016 | Posted in Heating, Furnace, Heat pump

Property owners choosing a heating system for their home or business often get a little confused when picking between heat pumps or furnaces. Each system has its pros and cons, and the right choice can often depend on your individual needs.

Furnaces are the traditional means of heating buildings. These devices use fuel to generate heat and then use a fan to circulate this heat through the building. There are gas furnaces, oil furnaces and electric furnaces.

Heat pumps act as sort of a reverse air conditioner. Instead of transferring heat from inside the building to its exterior, these machines absorb heat from the air or ground outside and transfer it inside the building. Even in cold outside air, heat energy is present. This heat outside is absorbed into a refrigerant that is evaporated at a low pressure and piped inside the facility. Once inside, the refrigerant is compressed back into a liquid. This process releases the heat that is then distributed throughout the building.

Pros & Cons of A Furnace

Perhaps the chief advantage of furnace is the start-up cost. These devices are fairly simple machines that use a very well-established technology. As such, they are inexpensive to install. Also, the effectiveness of a furnace is not impacted by the weather. As long as the machine has fuel, it will have no problem in producing heat. These machines do have some drawbacks, however. Depending on local power rates and your source of fuel, they can be expensive to operate. Furnaces also produce carbon emissions that can be harmful to the environment. These machines also typically have more maintenance needs than heat pumps.

Pros & Cons of A Heat Pump

Heat pumps’ greatest advantages are their energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact. Heat pumps are incredibly energy efficient, requiring less energy to use than traditional furnaces. This results in less carbon emissions and lower power bills. They also do not dry out the air the way furnaces do, so property owners won’t have to purchase humidifiers to add moisture back into the air.

Heat pump devices are more expensive to install than traditional furnaces, but credits or rebates from utilities may be available to help defray the cost of installation. Heat pump devices also do not work as well at very low temperatures, as there is less heat in the air for them to absorb energy from. Washington’s climate is mild, meaning that in all but the coldest of conditions, heat pumps should work fine. In parts of the country where heat pumps don’t work as well, they are often supplemented by an electric furnace. Heat pumps that draw heat from geothermal energy in the ground are also a solution to this problem.

Whether to purchase a furnace or a heat pump is largely a question of how much property owners want to spend up front and the climate of their area. How environmentally friendly property owners want their homes and businesses to be also plays into the decision.

About Washington Energy

Washington Energy Services is a family-owned business providing home energy efficiency solutions to Seattle area clients. Founded in 1957, Washington Energy Services has generations of experience in providing heating and cooling and other energy-related services, including sales, installation and service. A member of the Puget Sound Energy Contractor Alliance Network, Washington Energy Services has an excellent local business reputation.

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