• Heat Pump Facts and Fallacies

  • When it comes to home heating, it’s important that homeowners know the facts.  Cost, efficiency, comfort and the expectation of a return on your investment varies. We want to be sure you’re informed to make the best decision when you have to replace your furnace and are pressed by the heating equipment salesman to buy a heat pump.  In a nutshell, in the Midwest, we feel they’re a poor investment.  But don’t just take our word for it – do your homework.

    Use of a furnace alone, without a heat pump, will deliver more comfortable air and cost significantly less to operate. The colder the winter, the more you’ll save with a natural gas furnace.

    Myth:  Heat pumps deliver warm, comfortable heat.
    Fact:  Heat pumps deliver heat that feels cool or drafty.

    Many homeowners have learned first-hand from that heat pump heat simply is not comfortable.

    • Heat pumps deliver air lower than body temperature, at a cool 90 – 100 F. A natural gas furnace delivers air at a comfortable 120 – 125 F.
    • Simply turning up the thermostat does not solve the drafty feel of heat pump delivered heat.

    In addition, customers who set back their heat to 65 F or lower in the evening, or when away, find it takes several hours for a heat pump to move back to a warmer, 70 F room temperature.

    Even with the best electric rate, it would take approximately 28 years for a heat pump to pay back.  Check out these stats.  NG = Natural Gas Furnace; HP = Heat Pump:

    ANNUAL OPERATING COST*
     NG FURNACE ONLY  HP WITH FURNACE  ANNUAL COST DIFFERENCE  ADDITIONAL COST TO PURCHASE HP**  PAYBACK
     $744  $925 at retail electricity rate    -$181 loss   +   $1,300      =  No payback
     $744   $698 at discounted electricity rate  +$46 saved  +   $1,300      =   28 years

    * Using three-year average residential natural gas price of $1.05 per therm for the period ending 11/30/06; a three-year average retail residential electricity price in Minnesota of $0.083 / kWh as of December 2006, and discounted electricity price of $0.05 / kWh; 94 percent efficient furnace and a 9.0 Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) for the air source heat pump.

    **The average additional cost to purchase the heat pump is based on dealer quotes ranging from $1,000 to $1,600.

    Myth:  Heat pumps are cost-effective.
    Fact:  In colder climates, the efficiency and cost effectiveness of a heat pump declines substantially.

    When the temperature dips below 35 F, a heat pump’s efficiency decreases significantly to a point where it cannot maintain the home thermostat’s set point of 68 – 70 F without a supplemental electric heat source. That leaves few days of optimal efficiency in a typical Indiana heating season — especially considering the winter of 2013-2014. Whether the heat pump or the supplemental heating system is operating, heat pump owners will see a SIGNIFICANT increase in their electric bills.  Ask the guy trying to sell you a heat pump to refute that.  He can’t!

    Myth:  Heat pumps deliver a quick return on investment.
    Fact:  A heat pump purchase may never pay off.

    • A heat pump adds between $1,000 – $1,600 to the equipment purchase costs.
    • Heat pump warranties are typically only 5-to-10 years, compared with a typical 20 year warranty for a natural gas furnace.
    • Substantially more electricity is required to operate the heat pump during the heating season. And, since electric operating costs on average are higher than natural gas, the payback period for heat pumps is significantly longer than the two to three years suggested by some manufacturers.

    Myth:  Heat pumps are easy to install and maintain.
    Fact:  Heat pumps involve several cumbersome installation, location and maintenance issues, such as: 

    • Heat pump units must be elevated.
    • A conventional air conditioner/natural gas furnace combination only uses the air conditioning during the hottest weeks of the year, whereas a heat pump runs all year, resulting in more wear, increased maintenance and shorter life expectancy of a heat pump.
    • Heat pump customers must frequently remove leaves and debris from the condensation and defrost drain hole or the heat pump will not work properly. Customers need to be informed about this critical issue, as not properly clearing the debris will affect efficiency as well as the unit’s warranty.

    Myth:  There is no difference in the environmental impact between heat pumps and natural gas furnaces.
    Fact:  Heat pumps are much less environmentally friendly because they require a substantial amount of electricity to operate.

    Electricity is a secondary fuel which means it must first be produced from another energy source such as coal, uranium, natural gas or oil. Indiana produces a significant amount of its electricity by coal, the biggest source of pollutants in this area. Natural gas is clean-burning, 90 percent efficient and produces significantly fewer emissions than electricity. Electricity is only 27 percent efficient.

    Natural gas furnaces remain your best energy value

    To sum it up — a natural gas furnace and traditional air conditioner is, in our opinion the most comfortable and economical choice for you here in Indiana. The cost savings become even more substantial when you install a high efficiency natural gas furnace for your customers.

    * Specification of Energy-Efficient Installation and Maintenance Practices for Residential HVAC Systems, July 2000