electric furnace vs heat pump

When it comes to selecting a heating system for your home, one of the most typical debates that people have is between an electric furnace and a heat pump. There are pros and cons to each system, especially when it comes to how much energy it uses, how much it costs, and how well it works in different climates. In this article, we’re doing a detailed comparison to help you decide which might be best for your heating needs.

Understanding the Technologies: Electric Furnace vs. Heat Pump

Electric furnaces, as opposed to gas furnaces, generate heat by directly transforming electrical current into thermal energy by means of resistive components. As an electric current flows through these components, their temperature rises. They are basically big coils of wire. Electric furnaces typically come with heating elements, a thermostat, a blower fan, and, to make things even more comfortable, air filters and humidifiers.

A basic electric furnace works as follows:

  1. A decrease in room temperature triggers the furnace to turn on by way of the thermostat.

  2. The heating elements are heated by the flow of electricity.

  3. Air is heated as it is forced across these hot components by the blower fan.

  4. The ducts then disperse the heated air to every room in the house.

In contrast to more complicated systems, this technology’s simplicity helps it last longer and requires less maintenance, which is why it’s so highly valued. At the moment of usage, electric furnaces are practically 100% efficient, meaning that all of the power that is used is transformed into heat.

 Air source heat pumps & Ground Source Heat Pumps

Heat pumps, on the other hand, don’t rely on direct heat generating but rather the concept of heat transmission. Like an air conditioner, this system uses a refrigerant cycle, but it can also be turned on and off to heat or cool. An air handler, a reversing valve, an expansion valve, and an external unit housing the compressor and fan are the essential parts of a heat pump.

There are multiple stages to the heat pump cycle:

  1. When set to heating mode, the outside unit uses the refrigerant to draw heat from the ambient air to distribute warm air, regardless of the weather.

  2. As the refrigerant is compressed by the compressor, its temperature rises.

  3. The inside unit then uses a series of coils to transfer the heated refrigerant to the ventilation system.

  4. The indoor unit’s blower fan distributes the heated air throughout the home or building.

The process is reversed in the summer when the heat pump removes heat from the house and sends it outside, much like an air conditioner. One reason ground-source heat pumps and air-source heat pumps are so effective is that they transfer heat rather than produce it. This allows them to move three times as much energy as they consume, which can also be known as a 300% efficiency rating.

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For starters, we will show up on time with a fully stocked service van, eager to resolve your heating, cooling, plumbing or electrical problem.

Braeden RigbyBraeden Rigby
19:47 25 May 24
Comfort Union should be your first choice for all your HVAC needs. Amazing family run business with a people first approach that is difficult to find. Highly recommended for anyone that values quality work !
premnath parthibanpremnath parthiban
14:52 23 May 24
I spent almost one year to find the best HVaC replacement company and finally landed with Comfort union .I initially thought it was a small job but then realized the magnitude of work and effort it goes into it ..Asif initially came to my house , explained to me everything in detail including what is code of guidelines expected by city of Calgary , that showed his knowledge on the whole process ..Then came his brother Moore for installation - you will never find such a wonderful person who knows in and out of the HVAC and moreover the most patient person I have ever seen .. he did the whole installation with absolute craftsmanship and love for the work he did .. the best part was his perfectness and every work he did was so perfect and tidy !Finally, came Khan ji - to do the final inspection to add perfectness over the perfectness carried by Moore .. He did inspection and made sure everything was 200% correct ..Overall , I would recommend comfort union over any other service provider …Replaced my furnace , water tank and my humidifier …
JJ YanJJ Yan
02:22 22 May 24
Muhamad and Darryl did an excellent job on installation of our new Bradford White 75 gallon water heater. Extremely professional and hard working. They not only just did the work, but also explained the procedure thoroughly and maintenance focus points. Kept the work place tidy and in order. Highly recommended to everyone. JJ
mr2008 2.0mr2008 2.0
04:08 12 May 24
excellent carrier furnace and air conditioner installation, highly recommend to others
ortizmm2002ortizmm2002
20:52 06 May 24
It was great to see a father and son team work so professionally in the delivery and installation of our new Bradford White water heater. Thanks team for a wonderful job.
Arman GillArman Gill
03:21 30 Apr 24
Friendly staff and did amazing work with carrier hvac
Inderpal SinghInderpal Singh
02:59 30 Apr 24
Amazing work. Good work on AC installation. Competive rates
Fast response due to the urgent occasions. The team is very experienced. Highly recommended!
Tushar AroraTushar Arora
23:04 06 Apr 24
Comfort union offers top notch furnace and hot water tank replacement services - contact the best furnace company in Calgary for all your needs. Highly recommended!!
Dipendra SitaulaDipendra Sitaula
18:28 02 Apr 24
Great and reliable service.
sunny Maharjansunny Maharjan
10:11 01 Apr 24
Best reasonable and quick in their response.
E TanE Tan
01:45 31 Mar 24
I recently hired Comfort Union to install a new hot water tank in my home, and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. They went above and beyond to ensure that the installation process was smooth and hassle-free from start to finish.Daryl's expertise and professionalism were evident from the moment he arrived at my home. He took the time to assess the layout of the space and discuss the best options for the installation, providing valuable insights and recommendations along the way. His attention to detail and commitment to quality craftsmanship were truly commendable.Throughout the installation process, Daryl and Mo worked efficiently and diligently, ensuring that everything was installed correctly and functioning optimally. They were respectful of my home, taking care to clean up any messes and leaving the work area spotless once the job was complete.I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the entire team at Comfort Union for their outstanding service. Thanks to their expertise and dedication, I now have a reliable water heater that meets my needs perfectly. I would highly recommend Comfort Union to anyone in need of plumbing services – their professionalism and quality workmanship truly set them apart.
Ayaan DawoodAyaan Dawood
06:38 10 Mar 24
Imran Ahmed KhanImran Ahmed Khan
06:04 10 Mar 24
Maggie VaccaroMaggie Vaccaro
21:26 05 Mar 24
Quick response for appt. Came over and got all work done.Will call them again and will recommend them to others. Thanks!
Ashirul PatelAshirul Patel
22:57 26 Feb 24
We had great experience. They work out an efficient way to solve our furnace issues while maintaining the minimum cost.
Rakesh SachdevaRakesh Sachdeva
04:44 10 Feb 24
Muhammad is very professional and very cooperative. He has completed the work as explained. Everything was completed on same day we had issue. Very responsive.
Kly ClackKly Clack
22:28 08 Feb 24
Team at comfort union made me feel very comfortable about my purchases explained everything clearly and concisely so I could be confident in my decisions I would recommend them to anyone who asks.
Bhattarai AnuragBhattarai Anurag
02:33 07 Feb 24
Good service 👍🏽
Matt MelliesMatt Mellies
21:21 22 Jan 24
I had an issue with my furnace, went to reset my main breaker to power cycle trying to troubleshoot it... Breaker crapped out so I was sitting on an electrical, and furnace problem.Gave these guys a call and they were able to come out within 2 hours. Required a full main breaker replacement, and new gas valve on my furnace. They diagnosed it in only a couple hours, and fixed everything the same day.Had a great experience, the technicians that showed up were professional, and very knowledgeable. I'll definitely be using these guys when I eventually have replace my aging furnace.
Sharif ZayedSharif Zayed
00:15 22 Jan 24
Khan was so kind and considerate to help me during the -45 C calgary weather. We decided to replace our old furnace with newer and advance features choosing Carrier Furnace. We received the quote from Comfort Union which was competitively priced and the job was completed next day. Thanks.
Syed Zaigham RizviSyed Zaigham Rizvi
05:29 18 Jan 24
Had a bit of a crisis with rental property heating system in Calgary, our Goodman furnace gave out and had countless furnace repairs over the years. They got a new Carrier furnace installed quickly and very competitively priced compared to other carrier dealers. Wasn't expecting such quick service in the cold months. Definite recommend!
Mohammed SiddiqiMohammed Siddiqi
00:23 06 Jan 24
Absolutely stellar service from this HVAC company! The team was prompt, professional, and incredibly knowledgeable. They swiftly diagnosed and fixed our heating issue with precision. Their attention to detail and commitment to customer satisfaction truly set them apart. A 5-star experience – our go-to HVAC experts!
Agit KokuAgit Koku
21:40 13 Apr 23
I recently had Comfort Union come to my home to fix an issue with my hot water tank's pilot issue. Not only did the technician promptly fix the issue, but they also took the time to clean out my drain as a courtesy. I was impressed by their attention to detail and their commitment to providing excellent customer service.I would highly recommend Comfort Union for anyone in need of plumbing services.
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Climate Considerations for Heating Systems Across Canadian Cities

The temperature and weather of Vancouver are renowned for being mild with wet winters. Heat pumps work wonderfully in this climate since temperatures rarely drop below freezing. Because of their ability to remove or disperse heat without using a lot of energy, heat pumps work quite well in temperate regions. Air source heat pumps are highly efficient in Vancouver due to the city’s consistently high humidity and mild winters and summers.

Electric furnace or heat pump?

Advantages of Heat Pumps:

The mild winters and mild summers mean that heat pumps may keep on doing their job all year round without any additional heating. Combined with Vancouver’s dedication to renewable energy, this has the potential to reduce heating expenses while simultaneously improving the city’s environmental footprint.

Considerations for Electric Furnaces:

Electric furnaces can reliably generate heat, but they may not be the most cost-effective choice in this climate due to their lower efficiency compared to heat pumps.

Humid summers and chilly winters characterize Toronto’s more continental climate. Traditional heat pumps may not be up to the task during particularly harsh cold spells when winter temperatures regularly dip below freezing. Even in colder climates, heat pumps are a viable choice thanks to recent innovations in technology, especially cold climate heat pumps.

Which system to choose?

Advantages of Heat Pumps:

One benefit of heat pumps is their ability to function efficiently in cold climates, even when temperatures drop below -30°C. When compared to more conventional heating techniques, they can significantly cut down on carbon emissions while saving a ton of energy.

Considerations for Electric Furnaces:

When shopping for a heating system, keep in mind that electric furnaces may be preferable because they provide constant and dependable heat even in the coldest months and don’t require a backup system. One potential drawback, though, is that their running costs are higher.

The weather of Calgary is defined by dry, chilly winters and brief, pleasant summers. In the dead of winter, temperatures can drop into the negative hundreds, and there are often frighteningly cold winds to boot. During periods of exceptionally low temperatures, these circumstances might put heat pump efficiency to the test.

Advantages of Heat Pumps:

The installation of cold-climate heat pumps allows Calgary homes to retain the advantages of a dual heating and cooling system, even in mild to moderately cold weather. To further improve energy consumption and comfort during peak winter months, such systems could potentially incorporate hybrid models that integrate a gas furnace with a heat pump.

Considerations for Electric Furnaces:

Even in the coldest months of winter, an electric furnace will keep you warm with its constant heat output. During very cold spells, they might be more dependable, providing much-needed comfort.

Among large Canadian cities, Edmonton has among of the harshest winters, with temperatures dropping below -20°C and occasionally reaching -30°C during cold waves. In these extreme environments, reliable heating systems are essential.

Advantages for Heat Pumps:

Heat pumps have come a long way in cold climate technology, and they can work just as well in Edmonton—especially when combined with another heating system—on the coldest days.

Considerations for Electric Furnaces:

Electric furnaces have the advantage of consistently delivering high levels of heat, regardless of the outside weather, making them a great choice for Edmonton homes. Due to their dependability and efficiency in extremely cold conditions, they are a serious contender for main heating systems in those places.

Efficiency of Electric Furnaces and Heat Pumps

The efficiency of electric furnaces in converting energy is widely regarded as quite high. Their exceptionally high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings are a consequence of their remarkable ability to transform nearly all of the electrical energy they consume into heat. With an AFUE value close to 100%, the vast majority of electric furnaces efficiently convert nearly all of their power input into usable heat with minimal loss.

In assessing the whole economic and environmental efficiency of electric furnaces, the source of the power is critical, even though the conversion efficiency is high. In areas where fossil fuels are used extensively for power generation, the environmental advantages may be mitigated by indirect emissions and efficiency losses.

It may be more expensive to run an electric furnace during the winter months when heating demands are high because electricity is often more expensive than natural gas or other fuels.

The principle by which heat pumps work is unique. Powering the transfer of heat rather than its generation is their primary use of power. In most cases, this method uses less energy than making heat directly. The Coefficient of Performance (COP) is a metric for heat pumps that shows how much more efficient they are in comparison to direct electric heating.

In mild climates, heat pumps can achieve COP values between 2 and 4. Their efficiency ranges from 200% to 400%, meaning that for every unit of electricity utilized, they can transfer 2 to 4 units of heat energy. In extremely cold conditions, the efficiency of air-source heat pumps can drop dramatically, hence this efficiency can alter depending on outside temperatures.

Cost Implications of Installing and Maintaining Heat Pump vs. Electric furnace

Electric Furnace:

The average price tag for installing an electric furnace is between $3,000 and $8,000. The status of your current ducting, the cost of labor in your area, and the size of your furnace are all variables that affect this estimate. The installation process might be more complicated, requiring ducting changes and venting, which can drive up the expenses in regions like Alberta, where the climate necessitates major heating solutions.

Heat Pump:

Heat pump installation costs might vary greatly depending on the system type. Costs typically fall between $14,000 and $18,000 for basic ducted air-source heat pumps. Prices for more sophisticated systems, such as geothermal heat pumps, begin at about $25,000.

Installation costs could vary depending on things like the capacity of the system, the local climate, and the amount of insulation in the house. Due to their sophisticated construction, cold-climate heat pumps can withstand temperatures as low as -30°C with ease, but their high price tag of $10,000 to $19,000 reflects this.

Electric Furnace:

Electric furnaces range in price from $1,000 to $3,000 for a simple unit to $12,000 or more for a high-efficiency one with all the bells and whistles. The inclusion of high-tech features, like as programmable thermostats or air purifiers, and the unit's efficiency ratings are major price factors.

Heat Pump:

Heat pumps can have a higher initial investment, particularly for versions designed to withstand colder temperatures. A heat pump system for a typical environment would cost $5,000 to $9,000 (not including rebates), whereas a system designed for colder climates could cost $10,000 to $19,000 (not including rebates).

Electric Furnace:

Due to the greater cost of electricity compared to natural gas, electric furnaces typically have higher energy bills. According to the average power tariff in Ontario, the average yearly operating cost is around $1,300 and this can go up or down as per your specific city's power costs. In most cases, maintenance consists of checking the unit once a year and changing the filter, making it minimal and not so expensive.

Heat Pump:

Heat pumps have the ability to result in reduced yearly operating expenses due to their superior energy efficiency compared to electric furnaces. Depending on consumption habits and regional energy rates, monthly costs can be anywhere from $50 to more than $300. Heat pumps require more regular maintenance, usually every other year, to keep components like coils and refrigerant levels in check.

Electric Furnace:

If you take care of your electric furnace properly, it may last for 20 to 30 years. Elements like heating elements or electrical connections may require repairs, but they are typically easier to handle because there are fewer mechanical components. Installation costs alone for a new electric furnace or for replacement in Canada can cost between $3,000 and $7,500.

Heat Pump:

Since heat pumps are used all year round, their lifespan is often shorter, lasting only 10-15 years. Issues with the compressor or leaks in the refrigerant line are common repair needs. A heat pump system, especially one built for colder climes, might have replacement costs ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the construction details and the unit itself.

Heat pumps and other energy-efficient heating systems are eligible for substantial financial incentives in Canada under the government's Greener Homes Grant. The net cost of installation can be drastically reduced with rebates of up to $5,000 for standard heat pumps and up to $4,000 for cold-climate models.

Additional incentives may be offered by cities and provinces, especially for systems that contribute to reducing carbon emissions or fulfill certain energy efficiency standards. Heat pumps, for instance, are a long-term financial boon in provinces like Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia due to the abundance of programs that augment federal grants.

Conclusion

When deciding between a heat pump and an electric furnace, it’s important to consider the following factors: cost, environmental effect, operating efficiency, and local climate. Particularly in areas with mild climates and where power is generated from renewable sources, heat pumps usually provide better efficiency and reduced long-term expenses.

In contrast, electric furnaces are straightforward and very efficient, but depending on the energy situation in your area, they may not be the best choice in terms of cost or environmental impact.

Homeowners who are thinking about these alternatives can talk to HVAC experts like Comfort Union. They can give you personalized advice and solutions that will make sure your heating system is efficient, affordable, and fits your needs perfectly.

Reach out to us to learn more about our installation, maintenance, and repair services for all your HVAC systems including your natural gas furnace, cold climate heat pump systems, electric heat pumps, air conditioners, baseboard heaters, and parts such as heat exchanger, blower motor, and more.

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