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What’s the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace?

Written on: September 8, 2021

Knowing the Difference Can Affect Your Comfort and Wallet

furnaces and heat pumps massachusettsA recent study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center showed that 9 out of 10 people who have converted to electric heat pumps keep their existing heating system (heating, oil, propane gas, natural gas, etc.) as a backup. And for good reason—84% were unhappy with their heat pump’s performance in very cold weather.

Why is this? Let’s dig deeper to show why people favor keeping their heating oil or gas-powered furnaces, even when they have installed a new heat pump.

How a Heat Pump Works

A heat pump is an all-in-one heating and cooling system. In the summer, the refrigerant in a heat pump captures heat inside your home and expels it to the outside. In the winter, the refrigerant does the opposite. Air travels through a coil in your outdoor unit. The heat from the air will be captured there and transferred to the refrigerant. Yes, even cold air has heat energy in it!

As the refrigerant warms, it turns into a vapor and travels to the indoor coil of your heat pump. A blower fan then pushes this heat through your ductwork and your vents.

The Problem With Heat Pumps

When it’s really cold, there isn’t generally enough heat energy outside for your heat pump to keep you comfortable. The house just never seems to warm up. If temperatures drop to the single digits, many people complain that they can’t get their home much above 60 degrees.

You may end up using all sorts of electric space heaters, which are the most expensive way to generate heat. Or you may also rely on backup electric strips, which are also expensive and often emit a burnt odor; this is caused by dust and other residue that has built up around the strips.

This lack of warmth is a common problem with older heat pumps. Although new technology supposedly has made heat pumps more efficient and better suited to colder climates like ours, we would say that consumers here in the Northeast are not sold on that yet. Leaving that comfort aside, there is still the high cost of electricity to consider as well as the environmental impact.

The Massachusetts average electricity rate is well above the national average, so you will pay a premium to heat your home full-time with electricity. Just as disturbing is the fact that Massachusetts does not have sufficient infrastructure to meet ever-increasing consumer demand.

Plus, electricity is not a clean fuel. Electricity production generates the second largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. More than 63% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas.*

Bottom line: if you’re interested in a heat pump, we would recommend a ductless heat pump system. This is a good way to eliminate hot or cold spots in rooms that never feel as comfortable as the rest of your house. Most people will use a ductless system to provide supplemental heat to reduce oil or propane consumption during the milder parts of the heating season.

People who do not have ductwork in their house also rely on these systems to cool their home more efficiently than window units. You can read more about how a ductless heat pump system works by going here.

How Heating Oil and Propane Furnaces Work

Many furnaces use propane gas or heating oil to create heat, which then gets circulated through your home. Older furnaces weren’t always extremely efficient, but today, there are modern models that are up to 98% efficient!

Also known as warm-air or forced-air systems, furnaces produce heated air in the combustion chamber.

Brideau Energy offers a great selection of both heating oil and propane gas-fired furnaces, and our knowledgeable and experienced team can help you choose the right size and type of equipment for your home.

A quiet, high-efficiency furnace that is well matched to your space and lifestyle can not only keep your home warm on even the coldest Massachusetts days and nights – it can also save you a lot of money on your energy bills compared to older units.

Want to Stay Warm? Rely on Brideau for Smarter Heating & Cooling

Brideau Energy has decades of experience keeping our customers safe and comfortable by installing heating and cooling equipment; delivering heating oil, diesel fuels, gasoline oil and propane, while also providing equipment service and repairs.

The experts at Brideau Energy are here to help you make the best decision for your home. Contact us today to learn more about our dependable products, delivery, and service in Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

* Source: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/electricity-in-the-us.php