Winter Heat: Boiler, Furnace, or Heat Pump?

Most things in life aren't easy to cut and dry. Complex systems rarely offer a one-size-fits-all solution, and a good technology choice in one situation may be less applicable or even counter-productive in another. The winter heat and summer cooling industry is the same way, and sometimes consumers feel overwhelmed by all the choices.

In fact, you're probably wondering things like:

  • What kind of winter heat system do I need?
  • How do I know if my heater is energy efficient enough to save?
  • How different are heaters really?
  • Do I look fat in these jeans?
  • Is my cat trying to kill me?
  • He is right?

Don't worry, we can help with those. Some of them.

Winter Heat Options

For heating, you've got some options. You could go with the mainstream gas furnace, an old-fashioned boiler, or an energy efficient heat pump. They all have advantages and disadvantages.

The Venerable Gas Furnace

A natural gas or propane furnace was the dominant North America home heating system for most of the 20th century and maintains substantial market share well into the 21st century. Why? Mostly because fuel was very, very cheap in the 20th century, and other technologies hadn't fully matured.

Today, there are more eco-friendly and efficient HVAC tools than a gas furnace. But, pound for pound, furnaces still produce some of the best winter heating power of any HVAC system. If you live in a very cold weather region and you can get access to cheap natural gas supplies, then a gas furnace may be the best bet for you.

The Big Boy Boiler

While gas furnaces were the heater of the 20th century, boilers were a big deal back in the 19th century. The technology is simple. All you need for a boiler is a closed vessel where you can heat water or another fluid. You don't need a lot of high tech to get that done.

For much of the modern era, boilers were most commonly used in ocean-going ships or very large buildings. Many skyscrapers still rely on boiler technology to maintain effective heating all winter long.

Today, boiler consumers have some real choices. There are now compact, efficient boilers that can compete with furnaces for efficiency and performance. If you're interested in the technology, a modern, electronically controlled boiler can be a real option for winter heat.

The Energy Efficient Heat Pump

HSPFHonestly, we have a love affair with energy efficient heat pumps. They're just the best. They cool like an air conditioner, but can also heat. It's two jobs in one unit and we really, really like these units.

The downside is that a heat pump loses efficiency in very cold weather. That means they're not suitable for extreme cold weather regions. If you live in a milder climate, then we absolutely recommend an energy efficient heat pump.

Even if you live way up north, a heat pump is still a good option. You won't be able to use it all winter, but you can save a little in winter and spring when the weather is fluctuating between really cold and unpleasantly cool.

And the Winner?

For severe cold weather climates, we recommend you use either a gas furnace or a gas boiler to ensure sufficient heating strength when the temperature drops low. Homeowners in mild weather regions should take a serious look at energy efficient heat pumps. If you're still not sure, contact us today, and one of our product experts can help you find the best unit to fit your home needs.

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