Heat pumps have been used in many parts of the U.S. as a means to heat homes since the 1940s, according to Angie's List. However, until recently, they were primarily utilized in areas that experienced very mild winters. They couldn't efficiently or adequately heat homes when temperatures dipped below freezing for extended periods of time. As such, for many decades, they were impractical for the average Maryland homeowner.
However, heat pumps have since been made to be much more effective in various climates, and now stand as a viable option for Marylanders. But is a heat pump or furnace right for you?
If you're hoping to make your home a bit greener by looking at your furnace or a heat pump, you'd be better off opting for a heat pump replacement. According to Energy.gov, heat pumps can reduce electricity use by about half compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters..
Many newer furnace models can be incredibly energy-efficient, with some reaching 98 percent efficiency. This means that 98 percent of the energy used by the furnace either creates or distributes heat. Older models may only be 60 or 70 percent efficient.
When the temperature drops to extreme lows for many days on end, a furnace may be the more efficient selection to warm your home. The heat pump will need to work much harder to produce the same amount of heat in these conditions. However, they do provide enough heat to keep your pipes from freezing – if your Maryland home is only a summertime residence, this option may be enough to keep your home in good shape while you spend your winters elsewhere.
Furnaces are one-purpose appliances. They heat your home and that's all. If you opt for a furnace replacement, you'll also need to install an air conditioner to keep a comfortable temperature in your home during the hotter months. Heat pumps, on the other hand, can also cool your home in the summer.
Moreover, ductless heat pumps can serve as spot fixes for rooms or zones in the building that run overly hot or cold. These systems don't require a system of ducts throughout the house, making them relatively convenient to install. These have a wall-mounted unit that can be installed into the rooms that need heat most.
Generally speaking, both furnaces and heat pumps are safe to operate when they're installed and maintained correctly. However, furnaces come with a few risks that heat pumps simply don't.
Furnaces heat your home with a flame. Oil, gas or electricity powers the flame, and a fan pushes the hot air throughout your home via a network of ducts or vents. The flame increases the risk of carbon monoxide entering the home.
CO is a natural product of oil or natural gas combustion but can be deadly. What makes it most dangerous is that it's invisible and scentless – you may not even know you're breathing it in. If your furnace isn't vented properly, CO can build up in your home, replace oxygen and create a dangerous environment.
Fortunately, there are CO detectors you can install in your home very easily. Additionally, knowing the common symptoms of CO exposure can help you identify an issue in your home. These include a dull headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion or loss of consciousness, according to Mayo Clinic. However, preventing CO from entering your home in the first place is best; this is why it's essential to install your furnace properly, maintain it adequately and upgrade it when necessary.
Since heat pumps are powered by electricity and use a refrigeration cycle to create heat rather than fuel and a flame, they don't present a risk of CO infiltrating your space.