Granted, the task of choosing the right heating system for your home is something very few homeowners relish. While these systems are absolutely vital to making the winter months bearable (literally—without the ability to heat our homes, humanity would never have been able to migrate away from equatorial zones), as far as purchases for the home go, heaters—furnaces and water heaters included—don’t exactly stimulate a person’s buying bone the way a state of the art home entertainment system would.
And yet, there are things about installing a new heating system that are worthy of excitement; specifically, energy efficiency, cost savings, and a reduced environmental footprint.
In particularly colder climes like those experienced in Canada and the northern United States, homeowners have more options than ever before when it comes to how they heat their homes—but how do those options stack up against one another?
Prime Competitors: Conventional Gas Furnaces versus Efficient Heat Pumps
Traditionally, residents facing brutally long and hard winters have relied on gas-powered furnaces to heat their homes, and it’s understandable as to why. Furnaces running on natural gas produce heat at a rate that simply can’t be matched by electric powered heating units. In spite of this however, it seems that heat pumps are gaining ground—largely because these units tend to be much more efficient and compact than the competition; and that translates into cost savings.
Why Are Heat Pumps Gaining Ground Now?
There are a number of reasons why homeowners in northern zones have begun to favour heat pumps. While the superior versatility of heat pumps will eventually be extolled, the first reason worth noting ironically has nothing to do with the pump at all.
The materials used to construct the modern home are significantly better at reducing heat loss. Couple that with proper insulation rated for your specific climate, and your home actually doesn’t need the copious amount of BTUs to keep it warm like older homes do. Heat pumps may be smaller in terms of size and output, but thanks to the modern home, heating units don’t need to rely on brute force to perform amiably.
Heat pumps come in a number of different designs, but all offer the kinds of benefits that one can’t expect to find in a gas-powered heater. They are:
- Mini-split: The mini-split system is ideal where ductwork is not an option. Typically consisting of radiant panels, the mini-split’s diminutive profile makes it ideal for a variety of different applications and tight spaces.
- Air-sourced: These units are able to extract heat from the air itself (either from the inside or the outside depending on the time of year). In the summer, this means that you won’t need to run your air conditioning unit as much as your air-sourced heat pump will jettison the warm air filling your home.
- Geothermal: This uses the renewable source provided by the constant temperature of the ground (starting about 2 meters below the surface); useful for both heating and cooling. While this is an expensive installation project, the investment will definitely pay for itself over the life of the system.
Surely Gas-Powered Furnaces Aren’t All Bad
Actually, furnaces that run on natural gas have come a long way in terms of efficiency. Furthermore, the price of natural gas has been relatively stable of late, and as far as combustible materials derived from the earth are concerned, natural gas is quite clean.
Heat pumps, for their part, run on electricity. And while small and energy efficient, the method by which the electricity that powers them is produced may not be anywhere near as eco-friendly as natural gas. Coal plants (at least in the industrialized world) may be on the decline, but in much of the world they are still quite common.