This winter might not be the coldest on record, but 2018 has already saddled Nashville more than its share of sub-freezing temperatures.
If you’re in the market for a new HVAC system or new heating equipment, recognize that heat pumps and forced-air furnaces function differently. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but one might be more suitable for your home than the other. Following are some of the pros and cons to keep in mind.
Gas Furnace Efficiency vs. Heat Pump Efficiency
According to Energy Star, the average American household spends over $2,200 annually on energy costs. “Space heating is the largest energy expense in the average U.S. home, accounting for 45 percent of energy bills,” according to energy.gov. That’s why efficiency matters.
But efficiency in home heating doesn’t indicate how well any particular unit can heat your home. It relates to how effectively an appliance uses its energy source to generate or distribute heat.
So, for instance, if the price of electricity is higher than gas, a high-efficiency electric heating system might cost more to operate than a less efficient gas system.
A high-efficiency gas furnace falls between 90 and 98.5 percent efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Therefore, a typical air-source electric heat pump tends to operate more efficiently than a gas furnace. Nearly all of the electricity that’s consumed is used to warm your home, though the cost of operation will depend in large part on the price of electricity vs. the price of gas.
Air-Source Heat Pumps Perform Well in Moderate Winters
Geothermal and absorption heat pump technologies are gaining market share, but air-source heat pumps are still the most common. They draw heat from outdoor air and transfer it indoors the way a refrigerator extracts heat from inside the appliance and moves it out.
Tennessee winters tend to be mild to moderate, so there’s usually adequate heat outside to transfer into the home. In other words, a heat pump can keep you warm and comfortable throughout much of the season. But the lower the temperature falls, the less heat is available and the harder the appliance will work to distribute heat.
When temperatures fall below freezing, you may need a supplemental heat source. Traditional heat pumps have built-in resistance coils that provide emergency heat. But this is not as efficient as heat pump technology.
Gas Furnaces Offer Improved Efficiency and Consistent Heat
No matter what’s happening outside, a forced-air gas furnace provides dependable heat. It relies on combustion, not heat from outdoor air, to warm your home.
As you might expect, older gas furnaces don’t bring much in the way of efficiency to the table. But new, high-efficiency furnaces are much more efficient. These sealed systems capture more heat and cycle it through your home instead of letting it escape through the flue.
Although consistent heat in any weather is attractive, a high-efficiency gas furnace might require some retrofitting. For example, you may need a new chimney or flue or your existing chimney may need a new lining. The Department of Energy explains that when you replace a very old furnace with a new one, the job may entail more than a simple swap.
Remember that the efficiency of your home plays a significant role in how well your home heating system functions. Install more insulation where it’s needed, seal air leaks wherever you find them, and consider window performance as well. While the stack effect causes heat to rise in your home, a thin pane of window glass is no match for conduction, which transfers your heat into the great outdoors.
What Does This Mean For You?
The bottom line, though, is that because Nashville winters rarely bring sustained extreme temperatures, chances are you can choose a high-efficiency heat pump or a new furnace and stay toasty warm all winter.
At Jewell Mechanical, we work closely with top HVAC system manufacturers to bring you the best in home heating comfort and efficiency. Contact us online or call us at (615) 581-1684 if you have questions about the optimal heating solution for your home. We provide HVAC services for Nashville and the majority of Middle Tennessee.