The home heating menu offers a number of choices, including heat pump, furnace or hybrid. Since heating costs typically represent over 25 percent of annual household energy expenses, the choice you make can have a definite impact on your budget. Also, furnaces and heat pumps have long expected service life, so you’ll be living with your selection for quite some time.
Here’s how the heat pump, furnace or hybrid issue stacks up.
Gas-fired furnaces generate heat with a flame. The technology is straightforward, and costs are low where natural gas is available. Combustion heating has certain inherent efficiency losses limiting standard furnaces to about 80 percent efficiency. High-efficiency furnaces offer ratings above 90 percent, but upfront costs are substantially steeper.
Heat Pump Heating
A heat pump transfers outdoor heat indoors. Functioning like an air conditioner running in reverse, the outside coil of a heat pump absorbs outdoor heat energy, concentrates it in a compressor cycle, then conveys the heat indoors in the refrigerant flow. Because there’s no combustion involved, heat pumps offer superior efficiency, producing as much as four units of heat per one unit of electricity consumed. During summer, the heat pump reverses and functions as an efficient central A/C to keep the house cool, too.
Drawbacks of heat pumps include marginal performance as outdoor temperatures drop below freezing. Supplemental electric heat generated by the heat pump is activated once outdoor air becomes too frigid. However, because of the higher price of electricity, the economics of supplemental heat are discouraging.
A hybrid heating system integrates a heat pump as primary heat source with a gas-fired backup furnace for supplemental heat. Once outdoor temperatures drop below the heat pump’s rated capacity, a controller automatically shuts down the heat pump and activates the backup furnace.
Utilizing natural gas as the backup heat fuel instead of expensive electric supplemental heat offers the most economical, best-of-both-worlds option for heat pump heating in areas where temperatures may intermittently dip to 20 degrees or lower.
For more on making the choice of heat pump, furnace or hybrid, contact Gentry Heating Inc. We proudly serve the greater Asheville area.
Image Provided by Shutterstock.com