The Benefits of a Heat Pump vs. an Electric Furnace for Northern California Homes

heat pump vs electric furnaceI’m a big fan of comic book movies. I’ve always been a little bit of a geek, but in the last 20 years or so, special effects have made it so that Hollywood can take old comic book characters and make them seem real on the big screen. I think my geekiness has since increased exponentially. But hey, if you’ve been to the movies at all in recent decades, I’m sure you already know what I’m talking about.

Now, like with all things comic books, there are two types of superhero movies: ones made by Marvel and ones made by DC. As a result, some fans are loyal to one of the other. Me, I like it all, and I actually think there are benefits to going to see both. Why am I so even keel about this? Who knows, maybe it has something to do with my line of work. As a furnace expert in the Sacramento area, I help homeowners pick from a couple of different home heating options. I don’t pick a side, because as with comic book movies, I think there’s a lot to like about each.

But, one question I do have to help homeowners answer somewhat often is about the benefits of a heat pump vs. an electric furnace. That’s actually what I’d like to talk about today. So, stick with me as we dig into the debate of heat pump vs. electric furnace, talk about the benefits of each, what factors homeowners should consider, and which is the best choice for a holistic approach to home energy efficiency. By the end of this article, you should have a much better idea of which is the right choice for your unique Northern California home!

The Basics on the Heat Pump vs. Electric Furnace Debate

A lot of homeowners already know the answer to the question: how efficient is a 20-year-old furnace? The answer is pretty simple: not very. To cut down on heating costs, and to better the environment, there’s a growing desire among homeowners in our Sacramento area to replace those aging models with newer and more efficient technologies. There is also, however, more than just one choice for doing this. Often, this question requires homeowners to compare a heat pump vs. an electric furnace.

Do I need a heat pump or a furnace in Northern California?Here are some basics about each:

Heat Pump Basics

A heat pump pulls in the heat from the air outside (even when it’s cold out) before transferring it to the air inside your house, thereby heating it. Think of a heat pump as a guide for the warmth that is always naturally present in the air around us.

I’ve also talked in the past about the viability of a hybrid heat pump and propane system, which taps a propane heater to help with additional warming whenever the temperature outside dips below 40. So, that option is worth noting, too.

One of the biggest benefits of a heat pump is that it does all this without using any gas or electricity to generate heat.

One of the biggest benefits of a heat pump is that it does all this without using any gas or electricity to generate heat. In fact, the biggest use of electricity when it comes to heat pumps is to run the fans that move air, which isn’t really much power at all.

Electric Furnace Basics

An electric furnace, quite simply, is exactly like your regular furnace, except that it doesn’t need to burn gas inside of it to generate heat. Instead, an electric furnace warms your home by producing heat with electrical heating elements, much like a gigantic hair dryer for your entire home. Just like a gas furnace, it pulls in air from outside, and then it uses elements powered by electricity to heat the air and push it back out.

Heat Pump vs. Electric Furnace: Factors Homeowners Should Consider

We’ve talked about whether homeowners should get a heat pump vs. a gas furnace in the past, but as you could probably tell above, this is a bit of a different situation given that both of these models are intended to reap lower costs and better energy efficiency than your older model furnace. It makes for a bit of a more nuanced conversation.

In my opinion, the best way to make a decision is by looking at some of the various factors interested homeowners should consider, which include:

  • Cost: Cost is often the most important factor for many homeowners, and with that in mind, I can almost unequivocally say that heat pumps come with a lower associated cost. Heat pumps don’t use much power at all when the temperature is above 40 degrees (which it is for the vast majority of days in Northern California), and, as a result, your heating costs stand to see a significant decrease.
  • Environmental friendliness: Information from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that heat pumps use up to 50 percent less electricity than electric furnaces. This, obviously, means they are far more environmentally friendly and efficient than their counterparts.
  • Climate: The one area in which an electric furnace is more effective than a heat pump is in generating more heat in a colder climate. Simply put, a heat pump can derive heat from even the coldest air, but truly frigid air below 32 degrees really starts to eat into its efficiency. An electric furnace is not reliant on redirecting heat from cold air, so the climate doesn’t change how efficient it is much. If you live in an area where the temperature regularly dips below 32 degrees, this is likely the better choice. Fortunately, in Northern California, it basically never freezes. The answer then comes down to a choice of comfort.

The Verdict on Heat Pumps vs. Electric Furnaces

As we saw above, heat pumps will greatly lower your utility bills while also upping your energy efficiency. They are also viable options in our areas, where temperatures rarely dip below freezing. It is now, however, a total no-brainer when it comes to picking between the two.

On the coldest days, it might take heat pumps considerably longer to warm up a home than it does an electric furnace, which can always generate heat on demand regardless of the outside temperature. I usually ask homeowners about their tolerance for the cold. If they don’t mind waiting under blankets while their heat pumps get going, I say go that route. If, however, the cold is especially tough for them to handle, they may want to consider an electric furnace.

…both electric furnaces and heat pumps are viable options for Northern California homeowners who want to save money on utility costs and also increase the environmental efficiency of their homes.

The bottom line in my opinion when it comes to the question of a heat pump versus an electric furnace is that both electric furnaces and heat pumps are viable options for Northern California homeowners who want to save money on utility costs and also increase the environmental efficiency of their homes. I’ve recommended them to many a homeowner, and the results have been great. I highly recommend any and all interested parties look into them as well.

Here at Bell Brothers, our heating and furnace experts have years of experience in this area. We can help you decide the heating pump vs. electric furnace question, and after you do, we can also help make sure the installation job gets done right. So, give us a call today!

Now that you have a much better idea about the benefits of each, it’s time to contact Bell Brothers and schedule your free in-home estimate on an electric furnace or heat pump installation project.

Our “No Surprise Guys” have been serving the Sacramento and Northern California area for more than 30 years. The price we quote is the price you’ll pay—guaranteed.

Image courtesy Marina Andrejchenko