Do you need a furnace with a heat pump?

For many homeowners, the energy-efficiency rating of their home's heating system is essential. Both a furnace and heat pump are popular HVAC system choices amongst homeowners. Each offers their own benefits and of course, have their own drawbacks.

So, how do you choose between the two? Do you need a furnace with a heat pump?

Whether you are a new homeowner or looking to upgrade your indoor comfort with a brand new HVAC system, join the team from AtlasCare as we break down the ins and outs of heat pumps and natural gas furnaces so you can feel more confident when purchasing a new heating system for your home. 

Is a heat pump enough to heat a house?

Yes, a heat pump can be sufficient to heat a house, but its effectiveness depends on several factors. Here's a closer look at some of the factors that influence whether a heat pump will efficiently heat a home or not:

Local climate

Heat pumps are generally more effective in areas that experience mild climates where the outside air still has a sufficient amount of thermal energy to extract. Mini split heat pumps, also known as air source heat pumps, work by extracting thermal energy from the outside air. Then using a refrigerant fluid, the heat energy increases the pressure of the refrigerant, turning the energy into gas. This heat pump technology then enables the heat pump to transfer heat into your home and increase the temperature of your indoor air.

In extremely cold climates where outdoor temperature has a tendency to drop below -25 degrees Celsius for longer periods of time, the efficiency of an air source heat pump can decrease as there is less available heating energy in the outside air.

In these cases, a backup heating source, like a natural gas furnace may be needed to create a dual fuel system to sufficiently supply warm air to your interior.

Size of the home

Another key factor you should consider is the size of your home. Like all HVAC equipment, heat pumps are available in different capacities and sizes. Therefore, the heat pump installed must be sized correctly to meet your home's heating needs while maintaining its energy efficiency ratings.

For example, while an excessively large heat pump may short cycle, lowering energy efficiency levels and indoor comfort, an undersized heat pump can find it challenging to maintain a stable temperature in your home during the heating season.

Insulation quality

Homes with adequate insulation hold into ambient heat longer despite there being cold temperatures outdoors. This ultimately helps a heat pump keep the space at an appropriate temperature in order to keep you and your loved ones comfortable. A well-insulated and energy efficient home can help a heat pump work more effectively.

In contrast, if your home experience high levels of heat loss, even a gas furnaces ability to provide heat and maintain it can be significantly diminished. Therefore, before moving forward with a heat pump installation, we recommend having an HVAC technician conduct a thorough inspection of your property to determine whether your new heat pump can properly heat your home.

If a technician determines that your house has high levels of heat loss and gain, you may be required to improve the insulation along your doors and windows as well as in your attic or basement as these areas are notorious for allowing cold air in.

Can a heat pump replace a furnace?

Yes, a heat pump can replace a furnace as the primary heating source in a home. Heat pumps are versatile heating and cooling systems that can provide dual heating and cooling capabilities. That said, it's important to remember that heat pumps work best in areas where winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing.

Therefore, if you live in a region that experiences harsh winter weather conditions, it may make more sense to opt for a furnace as opposed to a heat pump, as it will not be able to adequately heat your home without using excessive amounts of energy.

When choosing between a heat pump and furnace, it's best to meet with a local HVAC company, as they can help you choose which HVAC system to install in your home based on your needs, budget, local climate, and other variables. 

What are the benefits of switching from a natural gas furnace to a heat pump?

If you're leaning toward switching out your natural gas furnace or electric furnace in your home to a heat pump system, it goes without saying that you can experience numerous benefits over time. Here is a closer look at some advantages of switching to heat pump technology:

1. Heat pumps are safer to operate that a natural gas furnace

What makes heat pumps desirable compared to gas heating is how safe they are to operate. Gas heating in your home puts you at risk of carbon monoxide exposure, should anything go wrong with any of the furnace components during its combustion process.

On the other hand, air source heat pump systems do not burn fuel, thus preventing any change of toxic chemical exposure to your indoor air.

2. Lower environmental impact

Again, furnace systems burn fuel in order to provide heat to your home. Because of this, they contribute to higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions than heat pumps. Electric heat pumps use far less energy to move heat from the outdoor unit to your home, meaning they are less likely to create a negative impact on the environment.

3. Energy efficient compared to traditional gas and oil furnaces

Compared to gas and oil furnaces, heat pumps tend to be more efficient when they operate in the right outdoor temperature, given that this type of heating system does not generate heat. In other words, it takes less energy for heat pumps to move heat around than it would to create it and transfer it through your existing ductwork.

Can a heat pump replace a furnace and air conditioner?

Yes, heat pumps are able to replace your home's gas furnace and air conditioner given that these innovative units can satisfy your heating and cooling needs from a single unit.

Having a heat pump installed is a great way to eliminate the need for a separate gas furnace and air conditioner, which not only takes up more space, but also costs more to maintain over time.

Heat pumps work similarly to air conditioners. How so? This dual heating system is able to work in reverse when you want to decrease the indoor air temperature throughout your home during the summer time. Just like air conditioners uses refrigerant to extract heat from your indoor air before transferring it outdoors, heat pumps operate using the same process.

When should I switch from the heat pump to a furnace?

When choosing whether to make the switch from a heat pump to a furnace, there are a number of things to take into account. As heat pumps draw heat from the outside air to operate, the temperature outside is a main factor to consider.

If you live in an area where winter temperatures often fall below freezing, it may make more sense to stick with a furnace as it can be a more energy-efficient option than a heat pump.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with relatively mild winter and summer temperatures throughout the year, a heat pump is a great home addition as it offers dual heating and cooling solutions from a single unit.

That said, there are cold climate heat pumps available for homeowners to purchase for their home.

Ultimately, consulting with an HVAC professional is crucial if you’re looking for a customized assessment of your current heating system and to help you choose what type of unit to install moving forward.

Remember, all homes and homeowners are different, which is why meeting with a local professional is key to ensuring you get the best results and comfort levels in the long run if cold climate heat pumps are something you're interested in.

Can a heat pump be used as a primary heat source?

It is possible to use a heat pump as a home's primary source of heat. Heat pumps are adaptable heating and cooling devices that bring heat into your home after they have extracted it from the air outdoors. They can be used all year round and have an excellent reputation for being energy efficient.

In moderate climates, especially those with mild winters, a heat pump can often meet the heating needs of a home effectively, as there is still heat energy available in the air for the outdoor unit to extract.

However, in extremely cold areas, the effectiveness of an air-source heat pump will decline, which is why additional heating sources like gas furnaces or boilers are often installed alongside the heat pump when the outdoor unit stuggles to maintain the heat exchange. When temperatures drop below a certain threshold, the heat pump will turn off, allowing the furnace to heat a home.

This ensures that homeowners are able to heat their homes efficiently, which, in turn, will enable them to save money on their monthly energy costs.

Your Go-To Source for a New Heating System: Both Heat Pumps and Gas Furnace Models Available

 If you’re still deciding between a heat pump and furnace for your home, the team at AtlasCare is here to help. The team at AtlasCare proudly serves homeowners throughout Brampton, Toronto, Burlington, Etobicoke, Milton, Scarborough, Vaughan, Halton Hills, Richmond Hill, Markham, and Whitchurch-Stouffville.

If you live in one of these areas, we encourage you to reach out to us to schedule a consultation appointment with one of our home comfort advisors. During this at-home consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the many options available to you that meet your needs and budget. One of our home comfort advisors will also give you more information about our current discounts and financing options that can help you save big on your new equipment!

Reach out to the team at AtlasCare to book your appointment with us over the phone or reserve your consultation appointment online by using our booking form.