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What’s the Difference Between Heat Pumps and Furnaces?

Posted: September 20, 2021

A Closer Look at Affordability and Comfort

heating equipment options maineAs someone who lives in the great state of Maine, you absolutely need a heating system you can count on all winter.

While most people are satisfied with the affordable warmth they enjoy with either a propane gas furnace or oil-fired furnace, you may be hearing a lot about electric heat pumps these days, especially with the debate going on about the all-out push to electrify everything, including the way we heat our homes.

How a Heat Pump Works

A traditional air-source heat pump is an all-in-one heating and cooling system. In the summer, the refrigerant in a heat pump captures heat inside your home and expels it to the outside. In the winter, the refrigerant does the opposite. Air travels through a coil in your outdoor unit. Heat from the air will be captured there and transferred to the refrigerant. Yes, even cold air has heat energy in it!
As the refrigerant warms, it turns into a vapor and travels to the indoor coil of your heat pump. A blower fan then pushes this heat through your ductwork and your vents.

The Challenge of Heat Pumps

When it’s really cold, there isn’t generally enough heat energy outside for your heat pump to keep you comfortable. The house just never seems to warm up. If temperatures drop to the single digits, many people complain that they can’t get their home much above 60 degrees.

You may end up using all sorts of electric space heaters, which are the most expensive way to generate heat. Or you may also rely on backup electric strips, which are also expensive and often emit a burnt odor; this is caused by dust and other residue that has built up around the strips.

To stay warm, people need to rely on a backup energy source. A study conducted in Massachusetts showed that 9 out of 10 people who have converted to a heat pump keep their existing heating system (heating oil, natural gas, etc.) as a backup. And for good reason—83% were unhappy with their heat pump’s performance in very cold weather.*

Plus, according to the same study, the cost alone to convert from another heating source to an electric heat pump can top $21,000. That’s guaranteed to make you shiver even more.

Heat Pumps, the Environment, and Efficiency

Electricity is a secondary heating source that is produced when primary energy sources (natural gas, coal, etc.) are converted into electric power.

But electricity production generates the second-largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. More than 63% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.*

Additionally, many people mistakenly view electricity as an efficient fuel. But the fact is, 60% of the energy needed to generate our electricity is lost in the conversion. That makes electricity a very inefficient fuel.

Heating Oil and Propane Furnaces

Many furnaces in our neck of the woods use propane gas or heating oil to create heat, which then gets circulated through your home. Older furnaces weren’t always extremely efficient, but today, there are modern models that are up to 98% efficient!

Also known as warm-air or forced-air systems, furnaces produce heated air in the combustion chamber.

A quiet, high-efficiency furnace that is well matched to your space and lifestyle can not only keep your home warm on even the coldest Maine days and nights – it can also save you a lot of money on your energy bills compared to older units. And unlike heat pump systems, it can keep you affordably warm throughout the winter.

If you’re interested in replacing your old propane gas or heating oil furnace, our knowledgeable and experienced team can help you choose the right size and type of equipment for your home.

Please contact us to request a comprehensive heating system evaluation. If it’s time to replace your system, you can trust the heating system pros at Murray-Heutz to make the right recommendation.