Which Is Best For Your Home: A Heat Pump Or A Traditional Furnace?

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If you're in the market for a new heating system, you might be confused about whether it makes sense to invest in a heat pump rather than a traditional gas or electric furnace replacement. The answer is that it depends on where you live, your house and your budget. Both types of systems have their good points.

Advantages to a traditional furnace

1. Less initial investment. While a heat pump is less expensive to operate, the initial cost of the system is higher than a traditional furnace, even most high-efficiency systems.

2. Heats more efficiently in freezing temperatures. Heat pumps work most efficiently in climates where the temperature seldom dips below freezing. In areas where the temperature goes into the 10s or 20s on a regular basis, you'll stay much warmer in the winter with a traditional furnace.

Advantages to a heat pump

1. Energy savings. The chief advantage of a heat pump is that this type of system uses much less energy—as much as 30 to 40 percent less, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This is not only good for the planet, but also good for your household budget.

2. Less noise. Because the main condenser is located outside of the home, a heat pump is less noisy than a traditional furnace. With a heat pump, you also don't have the noise of the blower when the system kicks in as you do with a forced-air furnace.

3. Tax credits and/or utility company rebates. Depending on what type of heat pump system you purchase, you may qualify for a federal energy savings tax credit of up to 30 percent of the purchase price and the installation. In addition, many states and municipalities offer additional tax savings for energy-saving home improvements, such as adding a heat pump.

4. Safer. With a gas furnace, there is always the slight chance of the combustion gases backing up into the house and causing a health hazard or, worse, a gas leak causing an explosion. Since a heat pump runs on electricity, this type of system carries no such risk.

There's no one right answer to whether a heat pump or a traditional furnace is the best system for your family. Both types of systems have their strong points. Before you invest in a heating system, it's wise to consult a good HVAC contractor who can help explain the pros and cons of both types of systems.