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Are Furnaces or Heat Pumps Better in Mass?

by | Nov 11, 2022

Is a Heat Pump or Furnace Cheaper?

If you’re like most people, you want to save money on your energy bills. After all, who doesn’t? But what’s the best way to do it? Many people in Medford and Winchester think that a heat pump is the cheapest option for heating their homes. But is it really? The answer may surprise you.

How Heat Pumps Work

Heat pumps work by moving heat from one place to another. In the summer, they move heat from your home to the outdoors. In the winter, they reverse the process and move heat from the outdoors into your home. This makes them very efficient at heating and cooling your home year-round.

The Cost of Operating a Heat Pump vs. a Furnace

Heat pumps are generally a little bit more expensive to operate than natural gas furnaces. This surprises most people because most companies want to sell families heat pumps, but heat pumps are generally more expensive to operate than furnaces. Heat pumps are at times cheaper and it depends on energy prices. When gas prices are high relative to electricity prices, heat pumps can become cheaper.

In the Boston area, gas and electric companies including National Grid, Berkshire Gas, and Eversource charge more per BTU for electricity than for natural gas. This assumes using high-efficiency heat pumps and furnaces. Utility companies also use natural gas to create electricity, so electricity prices are likely to stay higher than gas prices.

Heat Pump and Furnace Efficiency Matters

At current energy prices, nothing is more cost effective to operate than a high efficiency natural gas furnace. Luckily Mass Save will provide rebates for high efficiency gas furnaces. With that said, that isn’t the case if you have an old low efficiency furnace or a furnace that burns propane or oil. Propane and oil furnaces are as much as 5x as expensive to operate as a high efficiency natural gas furnace. A heat pump will also be cheaper if you are using anything other than a high efficiency natural gas furnace i.e. over 95% efficiency. Heat pumps are actually cheaper to use than all heating appliances except for high efficiency natural gas furnaces and boilers.

Heat Pumps replace Furnaces and Air Conditioners

A heat pump is both an air conditioner and a furnace. A heat pump can provide both hot and cold air. This means that heat pumps can be used to replace a furnace and add air conditioning to your home. A furnace doesn’t have that capability. 

Other Things to Consider Before Buying a Furnace

A heat pump may be cheaper to install than a furnace

Mass save provides larger rebates for heat pumps than they do for furnaces, so it may be worthwhile to get a heat pump even though it will be more expensive to operate. Also a heat pump is also an air conditioner, so if you are in need of a new heater and air conditioner a heat pump is a good option. 

A heat pump doesn’t produce exhaust or carbon monoxide like a furnace does

A heat pump uses electricity to operate, so it will not produce any emissions at your home. A furnace burns natural gas, so it is important to have proper venting in place. Improperly venting your furnace can be dangerous.

A heat pump may struggle on an extremely cold day

Modern heat pumps decline in efficiency as it gets colder outside and at some point, they stop working altogether. That point depends on the manufacturer but is generally about negative 20 degrees outside air temperature.

In Conclusion

Modern high-efficiency furnaces are currently about 30% cheaper to operate than heat pumps. However, furnaces might become more expensive if natural gas prices climb. A heat pump may also be a good option if the rebates make installation significantly cheaper or if you also need air conditioning. It isn’t straight forward which is better. You need to choose the option that is best for you. Call Colt Home Services today and we will help you make this decision.


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