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Is a Furnace or Heat Pump Right for Your Home?

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The average central heating system will generally last around 10 to 15 years before needing replaced, and when that time comes for you and your home or business, you’ll probably face a pretty difficult choice. While make and model can be complex enough, figuring out what type of heating you want to install can be stressful.

Here in California, we primarily depend on two different types of central heating: heat pumps and furnaces. While some people use these terms interchangeably to refer to their heater, the truth is these two couldn’t be more different aside from the fact that they both warm your home. So which one is right for you? In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at these two different types of technology and discuss which one may be the optimal choice to heat your home going forward.

Furnaces

Furnaces have been found in some shape or form for centuries. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors would use fire to keep their homes warm during winter seasons as well as provide them with heat for cooking, cleaning and other household chores. These fires were usually kept in designated fireplaces, where the exhaust could escape, but some early civilizations learned that they could pump this warm air through channels and more effectively heat their entire home.

Today’s furnaces are considerably safer and more advanced than these earliest models, but the principle is essentially still the same: burn a fuel source to create heat, and that heat is then used to warm the air in your home. In modern forced air furnaces, the warmed air is pumped around your home through your air ducts using a blower fan for even heating. Only instead of using wood or coal like most of these predecessors did, modern furnaces most often use natural gas, a cleaner fuel source which is pumped directly into the furnace so you don’t have to constantly refill it.

Heat Pumps

Unlike a furnace, heat pumps don’t actually generate heat. Instead, they collect it, concentrate it, and move it from where you don’t want it to where you do. During winter, a heat pump collects residual heat from the atmosphere outside in order to warm your home using the reverse of the exact same process your air conditioner uses to cool it. This type of technology is considerably more complex and advanced than a furnace, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Heat pumps do have their advantages, but they’re not right for every situation.

Advantages of Furnaces

Furnaces have a considerable advantage in several situations. First, they can continue to work flawlessly in even extremely cold temperatures. Because they involve burning a fuel source, more or less their only imitation is whether or not the fuel source continues to flow. That means they can continue to produce heat even well into sub-zero temperatures. Heat pumps don’t have this ability. While they too can work until it gets particularly cold outside, their limit is much higher. Once the temperature outside gets too low, there simply isn’t enough heat to harvest and they can’t keep you warm. The odds of the temperature outside getting cold enough for this to happen here in Los Angeles are not particularly high, but that possibility is enough to cause some people to stay away from them.

Furnaces also have another advantage when it comes to costs: they’re cheaper to install, often cost less to run, and are cheaper to maintain. Because they don’t really have many moving parts beyond a blower fan, a furnace will generally be far more reliable and require considerably less energy and maintenance. Heat pumps on the other hand have several moving parts, and their complexity means they need more regular maintenance to operate smoothly. Likewise, the fact that they run on electricity can make them a more expensive heat source over long periods of time, with electricity prices continuing to soar in California.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps have their own set of advantages, especially for those who are eco-conscious and care about their environmental impact. There’s no comparison: heat pumps are far more efficient with the energy they consume when it comes to heating your home. In other words, if both a heat pump and a furnace were given the same amount of potential energy, the heat pump would be able to keep your home warmer compared to the furnace. This means those who are concerned about the planet and reducing their carbon footprint will more than likely want to go the heat pump route.

Eco-conscious consumers and even those who care about safety will only be further driven to heat pumps by fact that heat pumps don’t produce exhaust. Whereas burning a fuel source produces exhaust that needs to be vented into the atmosphere (it contains carbon monoxide, which can be deadly), heat pumps don’t actually burn anything so no exhaust is created. That means no risk of exhaust leaks into your home, no risk of carbon monoxide escaping into the air, and an even more eco-friendly future for the planet.

Finally, those who need to replace their air conditioner and furnace all at once may be tempted to go the heat pump route because it may be more cost-effective to do so. Some units combine both an air conditioner and heat pump into one unit, giving you the best of both worlds from one piece of technology.

To learn more about heat pumps and furnaces, talk to the experts at Moe Plumbing Co. by calling (818) 396-8002 today!

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