4 Factors To Consider Before You Switch From A Furnace To A Heat Pump

If your heating bills are skyrocketing, or if your home is uncomfortably cold due to an aging furnace, you may have considered replacing it with a heat pump. Heat pumps typically offer greater energy efficiency than furnaces — this is especially true if you have an older furnace. This can help you significantly cut down on your heating costs during the winter. Unfortunately, they're not perfect for every situation. Heat pumps have difficulty transferring heat when the weather outside starts to dip below the freezing point. To help you weigh the pros and cons, here are four questions to ask yourself when you're thinking about switching from your furnace to a heat pump:

1. Are You Trying to Reduce Energy Costs?

The primary benefit of using a heat pump instead of a furnace is its energy efficiency. Instead of creating heat with electricity or gas, a heat pump moves heat from the outdoors to the inside of your home. When it's operating in heating mode, a heat pump uses refrigerant to create very cold air that absorbs thermal energy from the air outdoors, which is then pumped into your home in order to raise the temperature indoors. Since this process doesn't use energy to directly create heat like a furnace, you'll see a significant savings in your home's energy bills.

2. Do You Need to Replace Your Air Conditioner?

Since a heat pump is capable of both heating and cooling, it's an excellent choice for homeowners who need to replace an aging central air conditioner. You'll get the benefit of a new air conditioning system while saving money by using your heat pump instead of your furnace when you need to keep your home warm.

3. Does Your Home Have Air Ducts?

If your home is in a colder climate, it may not have been built with central air in mind. Unfortunately, installing the air ducts necessary to support a central air system using a heat pump can be very expensive. Thankfully, you have the option to install a ductless heat pump system instead. A ductless system uses several air handlers spaced evenly throughout your home to deliver warmed air from the heat pump outside, freeing you from the need to install air ducts in your home in order to use a heat pump. While a ductless heat pump system is typically more expensive than one installed as part of a central air system, you'll still experience the same reduced energy costs compared to using your furnace for heating.

4. How Low Are Typical Winter Temperatures?

When temperatures outside dip to freezing or below, a heat pump begins to experience difficulty absorbing thermal energy from the outside air — the refrigerant simply can't get cold enough to draw in heat from the outside. When this happens, the auxiliary heat in the heat pump will turn on. Most heat pumps use simple resistor coils for their auxiliary heat, similar to what you would see in an oven or electric furnace.

While the auxiliary heat will keep your home comfortably warm, it's not a very energy-efficient method of heating your home. You'll receive much larger energy bills whenever your heat pump has to use its auxiliary heat. If you live in an area that frequently experiences temperatures below freezing or if your home has poor insulation, a heat pump may not be the right choice for you. You'll lose out on the energy-efficiency benefits of a heat pump when it's forced to frequently use its auxiliary heat. A better option is to contact your local residential heating services and have a high-efficiency gas or electric furnace installed in your home to replace your existing furnace.

Overall, switching from a furnace to a heat pump is a great way to save on your energy bills. The one exception is when you often experience temperatures below freezing, since this is when a heat pump must use its inefficient auxiliary heating methods. In this case, you are better served by upgrading your furnace to a newer, more energy-efficient model. If you're having trouble deciding whether to switch to a heat pump or install a new furnace, call an experienced residential heating company for a consultation — heating professionals who are familiar with the local climate will be able to help you decide which option is best for your home.