In the heating performance and energy efficiency debate, there are two main contenders: heat pumps and furnaces that burn fossil fuels like heating oil, natural gas or propane. Electric resistance furnaces and heating solutions tend to be the most expensive to operate.
Even without flue loss because there’s no chimney, the cost of electricity makes running electric furnaces far higher than those using alternative fuels. Energy.gov estimates heat pumps use about half the energy that electric resistance furnaces require to deliver the same heating performance.
Whether a heat pump is more efficient than a natural gas furnace is a tougher question to answer, and the answer might vary depending on the situation and the heat pump or furnace in question.
Mini-Split Heat Pumps Offer Flexibility in Heating Your Home or Business
The debate between oil or natural gas furnaces and heat pumps shouldn’t necessarily be framed as a zero-sum question of one or the other. There are many Maine residents who benefit from having both.
Mini-split heat pumps are inherently designed to provide localized heating, whereas furnaces that use heating oil, natural gas or propane are nearly always attached to centralized forced-air HVAC systems. Many Bangor area families or businesses use mini-split heat pumps to save money on their oil and fuel costs by leveraging energy-efficient min-split heat pumps in specific rooms where they spend the majority of their time.
The drawback of oil or natural gas furnaces is they consume fuel to heat the entire building – including the rooms that remain unoccupied most of the time. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to spend hundreds of dollars ever month maintaining a balmy temperature in a spare bedroom you rarely visit.
The solution might be to lower the thermostat temperature for the whole home to consume less fuel, then increase the temperature on a mini-split heat pump in your bedroom and living room. The rooms where you’re living will stay much warmer than that spare bedroom, and you won’t be hemorrhaging money to heat parts of your home that don’t need it.
Are Heat Pumps More Efficient Than Oil and Gas Furnaces When the Temperatures Drop Well Below Freezing?
In mildly cool weather there’s really not much of a competition between heat pumps and furnaces that burn fossil fuels. Heat pumps tend to lead the pack in efficiency by a healthy margin. The question gets more complicated when temperatures drop to the teens or lower. Advocates for gas and oil furnaces argue heat pumps lose efficiency at those low temperatures, but that argument is based on the assumption that all heat pumps are made equal.
Heat pumps designed and sold in markets with mild year-round weather generally aren’t designed to operate efficiently at extremely low temperatures. Heat pumps sold and installed by companies like Valley Home Services in Maine are designed with those low temperatures in mind. The models of heat pumps we sell, install and service will continue to provide efficient heating performance even during winter.
The total cost of your heating will be dependent on the cost of electricity and the cost of oil. In most cases an efficient, high-quality heat pump designed to operate at zero or subzero temperatures will be more efficient, especially if you need targeted heating.
For Heating Individual Rooms or Smaller Structures, You Can’t Beat Mini-Split Heat Pumps
Whether you need to heat a pole barn and garage or a bedroom and home office, heat pumps are a highly efficient and affordable heating solution. If you need a whole-home forced-air HVAC system, heating oil and natural gas furnaces may be more convenient, but they’re not necessarily the best heating option in every situation.
If you’re looking for a more flexible heating solution to keep your family comfortable during the winter without making your oil bills jump way up, consider a heat pump. Call Valley Home Services at (207) 945-9008 to schedule an installation consultation and find out if heat pumps are a good alternative for your properties.