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Should I use Natural Gas to Heat my Home, or Should I use a Heat Pump?

Like pretty much any question posed to the Internet, trying to determine which product is superior can be a monumental, if not impossible task. Frustratingly, if you research long enough, you will find ample reason as to why product A is better than product B and a number of equally compelling reasons that claim product B is better than product A – ultimately leaving you with just as many questions as when you began your search.

If you’re mulling over several different furnace replacement alternatives, there are a number of differentiation that should be considered; of course, cost (both as an initial investment and in terms of the price of operating the unit), lifespan of the system, and ease of maintenance are pretty standard considerations. But one differentiator that doesn’t always get its due is which type of furnace is best for reducing the carbon footprint of a home. The answer to that comes down to three things: the energy source used by the furnace, its performance efficiency, and the building in which it is installed.

There is no disputing the raw heating potential of a furnace that is powered by natural gas. Natural gas, as far as fossil fuel energy sources go, burns relatively cleanly, but extracting natural gas from the earth can have some pretty serious environmental consequences.

For their part, electric heat pumps can also do an admirable job of heating your home but, like natural gas extraction, generating electricity isn’t always without issue. Hydroelectric facilities, while they do provide a renewable source of clean energy, can displace wildlife and destroy ecosystems. Nuclear power is also clean energy, but comes with significant risks, and isn’t renewable. Coal burning power plants are much worse than the previous two, expelling copious amounts of carbon into the air, exacerbating the planet’s greenhouse effect. If the environmental impact of your heating unit is of consequence, knowing your local energy sources is just as important as any other consideration when choosing the heater or furnace that is destined for your home or business.

Energy sources aside, either a modern, high-end gas-burning furnace or electric-powered heat pump can be remarkably energy efficient from an energy/heat generated ratio perspective, but if the environments they are required to heat are not designed to reduce heat loss, any gains received by investing in an efficient furnace or heater will be offset by the increase in frequency the unit has to heat the space.

For this reason, proper insulation plays a key role in a heating system’s efficiency regardless of heat source. By selecting the proper insulation/windows/doors for your particular climate, your home will experience much less heat loss, thereby reducing the number of times per day your heating system is required to turn on.

Modern, efficient, home building supplies have allowed the pervasiveness of heat pumps in northern climes to rise dramatically, as these enclosures are much better at retaining heat than they once were.

Ultimately, if the home heating system satisfies everything you’re looking for, then that is the right heating solution for you. Even if being green isn’t at the top of your priority list, it can be a fortunate by-product of investing in a system that is designed to save you money on heating costs.

For better or for worse, advances in technology have made gas-powered furnaces and electric-powered heat pumps much more effective. The fact that the area in which heat pumps are used in is expanding northward may indicate to some that heat pumps are surpassing the use of natural gas. While that may or may not be true, one thing is for certain – everything else being equal (cost, maintenance schedules, etc.), one can admit that heat pumps possess the greatest potential thanks to the limitless potential of green energy.


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