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Missoula Residential HVAC Contractors Answer 20 Questions: Furnace Vs Heat Pump

Photo of a family enjoying a Missoula residential HVAC system.

Missoula residential HVAC

Whether you are designing your new custom home or looking to upgrade your home’s current forced air HVAC system, you have a few options.  Forced air heating systems are effective methods for making a comfortable space to call home.  

Today, we are going to compare a furnace HVAC system with a heat pump system in a fun game of 20 questions.  Remember, no matter the final tally, your home and your specific situation will determine which is a better choice for you. Let’s jump in!

What is a Furnace?

Furnaces are a type of HVAC unit that heats a home by heating air and then sending the hot air around the home.  Furnaces typically are powered by oil or gas and sometimes electricity.  Missoula Residential HVAC contractors install furnace systems in residences across Montana as a reliable source of heat for residents.

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat Pumps are a type of HVAC system that can both heat a home in winter and cool a home in summer.  Heat pumps are powered by electricity.  It is important to note that heat pumps pump heat, not create it.  Heat pumps collect heat from one location and send it to another location.  In winter, they collect heat from outside and send it into the home. In summer, heat pumps collect heat from inside the home and send it outside.  Heat pumps can be ground-sourced or air-sourced.  

Ground source heat pumps have a network of tubing in the ground, in the yard of a home, where the heat is collected.  Air source heat pumps have a unit outside of the home that collects heat from the outside air.  Missoula Residential HVAC contractors install Heat Pump systems as an efficient, comfortable source of heat for Montana homeowners. *For the sake of this article, we’re going to be talking about air-source heat pumps (not ground-sourced).

20 questions: Furnace vs Heat Pump

1. Is a furnace vs heat pump faster to install in a new build?

If you are installing an entire HVAC system in a newly built home, including ductwork, both a heat pump and a furnace can be installed in a day by a Missoula residential HVAC contractor. 

This question is a tie.

2. Is a furnace vs heat pump faster to replace in a home with a forced air heating system already set up?

If you are only installing the unit in your Missoula residential HVAC system, both a furnace and a heat pump will typically take 3 to 4 hours. 

This question is a tie.

3. Is a furnace vs heat pump easier to install in a home with a boiler HVAC system already set up?

The thing to remember here is that boilers heat water.  Both furnaces and heat pumps heat air.  Boiler systems have a network of tubing throughout the home that carries the hot water or steam, while both furnaces and heat pumps require a system of ductwork.  Because of this, both a furnace and a heat pump will require the removal of the hot water piping and the installation of ductwork throughout the home. Overall, changing the HVAC system from a hydronic system to a forced air system is one of the more complex installations.

Since both furnaces and heat pumps are forced air systems, this question is a tie.

4. Is a furnace vs heat pump cheaper to install in a new build?

Furnace system installation will typically cost between $5000 and $9000 in a new home, depending on a number of factors.  Heat pump installation will typically cost between $4000 and $8000 in a new home, depending on a number of factors.  With a slim margin, heat pumps win this point.

5. Is a furnace vs heat pump cheaper to replace in a home with a forced air heating system already set up?

If you already have a forced air heating system set up in your home and are only switching out the heating units, prices can vary.  A furnace replacement installation can typically cost between $3000 and $7000.  Heat pumps have a much larger range.  A heat pump replacement installation can cost as low as $1,500 and as high as $35,000.  This is mainly due to the variance in the cost of the unit itself, according to Missoula residential HVAC contractors.

We are going to give this point to the furnaces.

6. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to have a lower monthly power bill in the fall/spring?

In the fall and spring, heat pumps cannot be beat in efficiency.  Heat pumps can be up to 3 times more efficient than gas furnace heat. 

Heat pumps get this point.

7. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to have a lower monthly power bill in the coldest part of winter?

When temperatures dip down low, heat pumps become less efficient.  In the coldest months of the year, furnaces pick back up in efficiency and produce a lower monthly bill than heat pumps.

Furnaces get this point.

8. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to have a lower monthly power bill in the summer?

This is a trick question.  Your furnace will probably be switched off in the summer months, making its cost zero.  Heat pumps act as an air conditioner to cool your Missoula home in the summer, creating an expense. 

Furnaces are cheaper in the summer, thus getting this point. 

9. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to cost less for repairs?

Heat pump repairs, on average, cost about $400, costing up to about $4,500.  Furnace repairs cost, on average, about $300 and up to the low thousands. 

Furnaces get the point for cheaper repairs by Missoula residential HVAC contractors.

10. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to make my house have cleaner air?

Because heat pumps are not actually burning any type of fuel, the air they send into the home will have fewer particulates.  However, air purifiers can be installed in the ductwork of furnace systems.  This question can go either way with a number of caveats. 

For the basic HVAC system, heat pumps will get this point.

11. Will a furnace vs heat pump be more environmentally friendly?

Heat pumps are generally much more efficient than furnaces.  Additionally, furnaces typically burn fossil fuels, while heat pumps use electric energy, which can be renewable. 

For both of these reasons, heat pumps get this point.   

12. Is a furnace vs heat pump a safer way to heat my Missoula home?

Both of these systems are considered a safe residential HVAC system, in Missoula and across the world.  Many, many homes have used both of these systems safely for a long time.  One thing to note is that furnaces combust either gas or oil to heat, which is inherently a fire risk.  Heat pumps use electricity to move air and do not actually heat it, so the combustion process does not happen.  However, electrical fires do happen. 

While there is a very minute chance that either system could cause a fire, we are going to give this point to the heat pump.

13.  Will a furnace vs heat pump last longer?

Because a heat pump works year-round and a furnace only works for half the year, furnaces typically last longer.  Heat pumps typically last between 10 to 15 years, while furnaces typically last 15-20 years. 

Furnaces get this point.

14. Is a furnace vs heat pump a more straightforward machine?

A furnace is undeniably a simpler system than a heat pump. 

Furnaces get this point.

15. Is a furnace vs heat pump more reliable?

Furnaces can supply reliable heat no matter how cold the winter gets.  Heat pumps can struggle to provide sufficient heat at sub-zero temperatures. 

While modern heat pumps are remarkably efficient, furnaces get this point.

16. Is a furnace vs pump easier for me to DIY repairs?

Because furnaces are simpler machines, they are easier for Missoula homeowners to figure out and manage basic repairs than for a heat pump. 

Furnaces get this point.

17. Is a furnace vs heat pump going to be less noticeable in my Missoula home?

Heat pumps require an outdoor condenser unit, as well as an indoor unit that will be placed in one of the rooms of the home.  A furnace system has one unit that is typically installed in the basement of a home.  Both require ductwork, but that should be installed within the walls.

Furnaces get this point.

18. Would a furnace and heat pump work well together as a dual fuel system?

Missoula residential HVAC contractors have installed furnaces as an auxiliary system to a heat pump.  Missoula homeowners can have their heat pump set to switch to the furnace at a specific temperature. 

For example, the heat pump will heat the home down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and when the outdoor temperature drops below that, the furnace will take over.  This can maximize the efficiency of your units.  Because heat pumps run so much more at extremely low temperatures, a dual fuel system will prolong its life and that of the furnace. 

This question does not really have a winner, so we will call it a tie.  

19. Which type of HVAC system am I less likely to get stuck with a cold house in the middle of winter?

Furnaces tend to break down less often than a heat pump. But when a problem does arise, there is no backup system with a furnace.  Heat pumps can have auxiliary systems set up so that even if there is a breakdown, you still have heat. 

These factors have a tendency to balance out, so we will call this question a tie.

20. Is a heat pump or gas furnace better?

This question really depends on your home, your situation, and your preferences.  Natural gas is cheaper than electricity, but electricity can be produced with renewable resources.  Furnace repairs can be cheaper, but heat pumps can create cheaper monthly power bills.  You have to look at your situation and decide which will serve your Missoula home better.

Because this question is so subjective, it will be a tie.

Deciding Which Direction to Go for Your Missoula Residential HVAC System

If you were keeping track, heat pumps got 5 points, furnaces got 9 points, and 6 questions resulted in a tie.  If you are considering a heat pump or a furnace for your Missoula residential HVAC system, we can help you figure out which will serve your home the best.  Whether you are looking for advice or ready to schedule an installation, give Garden City Plumbing and Heating a call at (406) 728-5550 or contact us online today!

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