Furnace or Heat Pump: Which Is Right for Me?

Basement heating system

If you have an electric heat pump, you may have chosen it because of its reputation for being one of the most efficient ways to heat your home. And that’s true – but not always.

As temperatures drop below 40 degrees or so, a heat pump usually relies on a supplemental form of heat generation – often an electric heating element that is much less efficient than the heat pump itself – to keep the heat coming.

Why is this necessary? Because heat pumps operate by harnessing heat from the air outside your home (or, in the case of a geothermal heat pump, from the ground) rather than generating heat by combustion (as an gas furnace or gas- or oil-fired boiler would). After drawing in outdoor air, your heat pump extracts its heat, using liquid refrigerant to convert it to warm vapor that it distributes throughout the house. The colder the outdoor air is, the more difficult it is for your heat pump to operate this way; eventually, your heat pump can’t draw enough heat to warm your home, so it must rely on an auxiliary heating source – and with that comes a dramatic drop off in efficiency.

Warm air, more comfort

Efficiency isn’t the only reason why gas furnaces are the way to go in cold weather. The other? Warmer air coming from your vents – and warmer air means more comfort.

But don’t take our word for it: A recent study conducted by psychologist Frederick H. Rohles, concluded that in homes heated by forced air systems, the temperature of heated air being delivered through vents can have both a psychological and physical impact our comfort comfort. “If the air temperature (supplied through an air vent) is below your skin temperature,” the study concludes, “then you are going to have the perception of being cooled” – even if the room itself is getting warmer.

What does that mean for you? To put it simply, it means that in a room heated by a heat pump, you’ll feel cooler even if the room is the same temperature as a room heated the warm air of a propane gas furnace! Or, to put it another way, with a gas furnace, you can run your thermostat cooler in the winter than you would with a heat pump and still enjoy the same level of comfort.

Once again, in cold weather, propane gas heat wins.

Propane gas heat – the smart choice in cold weather. To learn more about propane heating system options for your Hudson Valley home, contact us today.