As homeowners become more and more energy-conscious, interest in energy-efficient alternatives to traditional heating and cooling systems is on the rise. By far, the most popular alternative to traditional furnaces and air conditioners is a heat pump. During the summer, a heat pump works just like an air conditioner. But during winter, a heat pump works much differently than a traditional furnace. This begs the question: “Can a heat pump replace a furnace?” Today we’re going to answer that question by talking about why heat pumps are so efficient, the problems heat pumps can run into during extremely cold weather and the best type of heat pump you can install to keep your home warm all winter long!
Why would you want to replace a furnace with a heat pump?
As we mentioned above, heat pumps work much differently than conventional furnaces. For a full explanation of how a heat pump works, see this post. In short, a heat pump is more efficient than a traditional furnace because rather than burning fuel to create heat, it extracts existing heat from the air outside and moves it into your home.
When the temperature outside is in the mid- to upper-20’s and above, a heat pump is more efficient than a traditional furnace and can save you a significant amount of money on your monthly heating bills. This is the primary reason why homeowners are interested in replacing their furnaces with heat pumps.
Issues with solely relying on a heat pump to heat your home
The problem with relying solely on a heat pump to provide heat for your home is that heat pumps are not effective or efficient on days when it’s abnormally cold outside. As temperatures begin to dip into the low 20’s and below, there is not enough heat available in the air outside to effectively warm up your home. Unlike a conventional furnace, which can produce heat no matter how cold it is outside, heat pumps can only use the heat that’s available to them in the air outside.
Can a heat pump replace a furnace?
So given the issues above, can a heat pump actually replace a furnace? The answer is, “yes, but not completely.” You see, a heat pump will work great as a replacement for your furnace on most winter days. But when it gets too cold outside for a heat pump to work effectively, you should have a traditional gas-powered furnace as a backup heating source. As it turns out, this is a very common setup in St. Louis area homes.
A “hybrid” or “dual-fuel” heating system is a heat pump with a furnace as a backup heating source. On normal winter days when temperatures aren’t too cold, the heat pump will work to efficiently heat your home. When it starts to get too cold for a heat pump to work effectively, the system will automatically switch to the furnace for its heating supply. This process is done transparently so that you can always have the most efficient and effective heat source in use without even having to think twice about it.
If you have any questions about whether or not a heat pump can replace a furnace, or if you’d like a heating system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly, your St. Charles, MO, furnace installation and repair contractor. We provide service all over the St. Louis area, including towns like Maryland Heights, O’Fallon and St. Paul, MO.Problems with an Oversized Furnace » « What Is a Furnace’s Supply Plenum and What is its Role in the Heating Process?