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Gas Furnaces: a Clear Choice in Cold Weather

Wrapped in a blanket

Posted: March 14, 2018

If you have an electric heat pump, you probably chose it because of its reputation for being one of the most efficient ways to heat your home. And that’s true – but only to a point.

As temperatures drop below 40 degrees or so – as they have been often lately here in North Carolina – your heat pump relies increasingly on its emergency heat setting, losing quite of bit of its vaunted efficiency as a result. Why does this happen? To answer that, you first have to understand a bit about how a heat pump works.

Heat pumps operate by harnessing heat from the air outside your home (or, in the case of a geothermal heat pump, from the ground) rather than generating heat by combustion (as an oil or propane gas-fired space heater, furnace or boiler would).

After drawing in outdoor air, your heat pump extracts its heat, using liquid refrigerant to convert it to warm vapor that it distributes throughout the house. The colder the outdoor air is, the more difficult it is for your heat pump to operate this way; eventually, your heat pump must rely on strips of electric heating coils as an auxiliary heating source, and with that comes a dramatic drop off in efficiency.

In other words: in colder temperatures, the efficiency of a gas furnace leaves a heat pump far behind.

Warmer air = more comfort

Efficiency isn’t the only reason why gas furnaces are the way to go in cold weather. The other? Warmer air.

It may sound obvious to say that warmer air feels more comfortable, but it’s actually true: a recent study conducted by psychologist Frederick H. Rohles, concluded that in homes heated by forced air systems, the temperature of heated air being delivered through vents can have both a psychological and physical impact on occupant comfort. “If the air temperature (supplied through an air vent) is below your skin temperature,” the study concludes, “then you are going to have the perception of being cooled.”

What does that mean for you? To put it simply, it means that in a room heated by a heat pump, you’ll feel cooler even if the room is the same temperature as a room heated the warm air of a propane gas furnace! Or, to put it another way, with a gas furnace, you can run your thermostat cooler in the winter than you would with a heat pump and still enjoy the same level of comfort.

Once again, in cold weather, propane gas heat wins.

Propane gas heat – the smart choice in cold weather. To learn more about propane heating system options for your North Carolina home, contact us today.