Choosing the right heating system for your home can impact more than just your comfort level, it can also significantly impact your budget. Two of the more popular options for heating are the electric heat and heat pump systems. Each has its own set of features and benefits. Comparing these benefits to your needs as a consumer, and your intended usage will help you to make the best selection of the two heating options.
Heat pumps are differentiated by the source of the heat they transfer. The most popular type is the air source heat pump, which transfers warm air from outside of the house to cooler areas inside of the house during the winter months. In the summer months, it transfers cooler air from outside to replace former air inside. Other types of heat pumps include geothermal, absorption and ductless mini-split systems for homes without installed duct work.
There are many types of electric heating systems. Electric furnaces, electric baseboard heaters and electric wall heaters are a few of the more popular types. Electric heating systems are also called electric resistance systems because of the resistance (or heating) coils that convert 100 pecent of the consumed electricity into heat. Localized fans or a central blower can be used to distribute the heated air throughout the house.
Heat pumps are usually larger systems, designed to heat large areas or an entire home. They may represent a significant financial investment when compared to a comparable electric heating system. In contrast, an electrical heater designed to heat the entire house may be comparable to the cost of installation but the actual unit cost will be much cheaper. In addition, electric heating units can be purchased to heat specific areas, rooms or floors of the entire home.
If you live in an area that does not have temperature extremes, then a heat pump can save you 30 percent to 40% off heating and cooling costs associated with a comparable electric system. Since heat pumps are designed to move heat instead of create it, they are usually four times more efficient than electric heaters. For less moderate climates where temperatures can drop more dramatically, electrical systems are more reliable, and can provide more heat over a given area than a heat pump. However, heat pumps dehumidify the air much better than electric systems. This can be a benefit in humid climates but a negative in dryer climates.
Whether you chose an electric heating system or a heat pump, proper maintenance and usage is important to maximize the value of your system. The U.S. Department of Energy states that regular service inspections and preventative care, including changing filters, cleaning duct work, and keeping vents clean and dust free, can save energy and reduce operating costs.