Heat Pump Installation or Electric Furnace: Which is Better?
It is time to replace your electric furnace.
The old system served the family well and kept everyone warm and safe, but it is now more cost-effective to replace the system than make repairs. During the discussion about a new system, you just learned that you have a choice—an electric system and a heat pump system. The brochures were helpful, but here’s a little more information.
First, there is not a bad choice here. One is not better than the other. Both are effective at heating spaces. The key difference is how a homeowner will use them, so let’s dive in.
Heat Pump Installation: Functional Differences
The major difference between the two systems is how they do their job.
- An electric-powered furnace uses heating elements. Metal alloy rods inside of a small chamber resist the flow of electricity and get extremely hot (+2200 degrees Fahrenheit). A blower motor circulates air from the home into the chamber, warming the entire space.
- A heat pump uses the same equipment as the air conditioner and reverses the process. During the summer, an air conditioner removes heat from the home and releases it outside—less heat means a cooler space. In winter, the heat pump moves heat from outdoors to the inside—more heat inside means a warmer space.
- A heat pump can collect heat from outdoor air until the temperature drops to about 32 degrees. At this point, generating heat is more cost-effective than finding it outdoors. For this reason, heat pumps are always paired with an alternative heat source as a backup.
Heat Pump Installation: Cost Difference
- The equipment for either system is essentially the same since electric furnaces are usually paired with an air conditioning system. The difference in the equipment is only the controls that reverse the air conditioning/heating functions, which are present only in heat pumps. Equipment and installation costs are very similar.
- Both systems use electricity, so the “fuel” cost is the same. The only difference between the two systems is the amount of electricity needed for each process, so stay tuned.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) developed rating systems to measure efficiency in HVAC systems.
- For furnaces, efficiency is rated by Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE, expressed in a percentage of energy captured for heating. Electric furnaces score 100%, converting all the available energy to heat.
- Heat Pump efficiency is measured as Heating Seasonal Performance Factor or HSPF, similar to SEER ratings for air conditioners. The high efficiency of heat pump technology is dependent upon outdoor temperatures; efficiency is rather a sliding scale, mirroring outdoor temperatures.
- Moving heat into the home uses less energy than generating the heat; if a heat pump can pull heat inside, it is the most efficient choice.
Maintenance and Longevity
Both types of systems have very similar equipment and functions. Both systems require a large amount of airflow to accomplish the task of heating (and cooling). Maintenance includes thorough cleaning and testing of electrical components. The air filter should be changed regularly—at least every three months. There is no difference in maintenance procedures for either type of system.
The average lifespan for both systems is the same, approximately 15 to 20 years. However, excellent maintenance usually adds five years of useful service to HVAC systems.
Heat Pump Installation Help
Northwind Air Conditioning and Heat can help you with your new heat pump installation and repair needs. Contact us and get the help you need.