Heat Pumps Vs. Electric
Unless you don’t feel comfortable you probably don’t devote much time thinking about indoor climate. If your heating unit isn’t very good or stops working altogether, then you’re going to have to think about how to make your living area comfortable again.
Perhaps you’re wondering which is best out of a heat pump and an electric furnace. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each one.
A heat pump system uses electricity but that’s not the traditional coils heated by electric which heat a room. Instead, a heat pump operates more like a refrigerator.
The electricity is used to move heat from a cold place to a warm one, which means the cold space gets colder and the warm space gets warmer. Heat pumps are efficient and usually cheaper than other types of heating.
There are three main categories of heat pumps:
- Air to air
- Water source
Air source ones (air to air) are what you typically find in new construction. They move heat between indoors and outdoors and use about half as much electricity as baseboard electric heaters and furnaces.
A heat pump also works as an air conditioner and are better at dehumidifying the air than regular central air conditioning systems.
Air to air heat pumps have been around for a long time but the older ones weren’t so reliable for heating the air in places with cold winters. Technological advancements mean that modern heat pumps can heat your home well during the winter.
Heat pumps don’t use as much electricity than most electric furnaces. A heat pump using electric backup heat is likely to use electric heat strips and those need a lot of electricity to run. You might not use this much unless you have extremely cold winters.
If you do live somewhere where sub-zero temperatures are common during the winter, you will need to use it more.
The main advantage of heat pumps is they can be used for heating and also air conditioning. Depending on the size of your heat pump, you’ll need either an auxiliary heating system or electric heat strips if your winter temperatures frequently fall between 10 and 25°F.
What Size Heat Pump to Choose
It’s important to ensure you buy the right size of heat pump to heat your living space. If it’s too small or too large it isn’t going to work properly. Determine the square footage of your living space to figure out what size is best.
A heat pump will work best if you have a well-insulated home and properly installed ductwork. If the ductwork isn’t installed correctly it can leak up to a third of the heat.
Mini Split Heat Pump
An older house or one without ducts will need a mini split, which is an air source heat pump without the need for ducts. They can be installed on the ceiling or high up on a wall.
They aren’t cheap but you can take advantage of tax incentives to reduce the cost. These pumps provide heating and air conditioning and run quietly.
Geothermal Heat Pump
This is more expensive to install but a geothermal heat pump is very efficient and will transfer heat between your home and a nearby water source or the ground. These systems suit various kinds of homes, can control humidity and slash energy usage by 30 to 60%. They are also better for extreme climates than the air source heat pumps.
Another type of heat pump is an absorption pump, and these don’t run by electricity. Instead, they are powered by geothermal heated water, solar heated water, propane, or natural gas.
They use a water/ammonia absorption cycle for heating and cooling. Rather than being pumped in a compressor the heat absorbs into the water and the heat boils out the ammonia.
You can have electric heating installed though a central furnace or through baseboard heaters. This will cost more than a heat pump but it is 100% efficient.
As for how the work, imagine a large hair dryer which uses electric heating elements to create heat. The furnaces blow the heated air throughout the house using forced air. The heat produced by an electric heater is usually warmer than the heat from a heat pump system.
The cheapest type of heating to get would be room electric heaters, which are also fairly straightforward to install. Wall heaters or electric baseboard heaters often supplement a central heating system. In a small house that’s somewhere cold, they can be used as the main heat source.
An electric baseboard heater is an efficient way to heat a space if you are adding another room on to the house. Adding ducts to a furnace or heat pump for a forced hot air system can change how the air flows through the ductwork.
In addition to that, with a forced hot air system, closing off vents you don’t use can place strain on the furnace.
Although installation costs less with room electric heaters, the rate of heat is likely more expensive. Furnaces and electric headers usually last longer than other kinds of heaters and don’t need a lot of maintenance.
No heat is wasted with electric heating, as the heaters are 100% efficient. With oil or natural gas, expect a minimum of 3% heat loss and up to 10 or even 20%. A furnace running on oil and natural gas might become less efficient as time goes on.
Electric plants are typically oil, gas and coal powered, but this might change when other kinds of renewable energy are available in the marketplace.
What is Ideal Room Temperature?
68°F is the ideal temperature for your home during the winter, and turning it down by 10 or 15°F at night, or if everyone is out, can save between 5 and 15% of your heating costs.