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Heat Pump vs. Furnace – Which Heating Unit Should You Choose?

Heat Pump vs. Furnace -- Which Heating Unit Should You Choose?Are you in need of a new heating system for your Denver home? A gas furnace is the obvious choice, but you may be wondering if a heat pump makes sense. How do you know which is best for your situation? One place to start is by looking at efficiency ratings: the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) for furnaces and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for heat pumps. But first, let’s look at how each works and the main difference between the two.

What Does a Furnace Do?

Furnaces burn fuel in order to generate the heat that warms your home. Regardless of the type of fuel (propane, natural gas, oil), they work the same way. The main advantage a furnace has over a heat pump is that, as long as there is fuel, it will work in any conditions, regardless of how cold it is outside. The furnace generates heat and then uses a fan to distribute the heat, typically via ductwork, to the rooms of your home.

Furnaces are measured with an AFUE rating. AFUE can range from 55% to over 95%. The percentage indicates efficiency, that is, what percentage of the fuel burned is actually turned into heat. For example, a 75% AFUE rating means that 75% of fuel burned goes directly toward heating your home and 25% is wasted through the exhaust vent. The higher the AFUE, the greater the efficiency.

What Does a Heat Pump Do?

Heat pumps, on the other hand, transfer heat rather than generate it. Heat pumps work like air conditioners in reverse. The heat pump moves heat from one area (outside your home) to another area (inside your home). Heat pumps use electricity, rather than fossil fuels, making them more environmentally friendly. Heat pumps are more efficient, but they are typically more expensive to operate than furnaces because electricity is generally more expensive than natural gas.

Heat pumps are measured with a SEER rating, like air conditioners. The SEER scale ranges from a low of 7 to a high of 20-25. (As technology improves efficiency, the rating ceiling goes up.) Today, most heat pumps are in the 14 to 21 range.

Heat Pump vs. Furnace – Which Should You Choose?

The main consideration for choosing a heat pump or a furnace is the region you live in. Heat pumps work best in mild climates, where the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing. When it is consistently very cold outside, there is no heat to draw from.  Furnaces operate consistently regardless of the outside temperature, so in colder climates a furnace makes sense.

Another consideration is fuel. Without access to propane (which can be expensive) or natural gas, a furnace is not an option. In general, though, a gas furnace is the most popular choice in the Denver Metro Area.

Need more answers to your home heating questions? Contact Indoor Air Quality today! IAQ serves Highlands Ranch and the entire Denver Metro Area.

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