What’s the Most Cost Effective Type of Heating: Propane, Electric, or Geothermal Heat Pumps?
Heat pumps can be a great way to heat your home. There are several types available—including electric, propane, and geothermal—and it can be difficult to determine which will be the most cost-effective for your home. This overview will describe the benefits of each, helping you select the best option for your needs.
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Electric Heat Pumps
Electric heat pumps use a compressor and refrigerant to absorb heat from the outside air during the winter and transfer it inside. During the summer they can reverse the cycle, absorbing heat from indoors and transferring it outside.
Electric heat pumps operate very efficiently as long as the weather is mild, but once it drops below freezing, they must use a supplemental heat source to operate effectively. This is typically an electric resistance heater, which can be expensive to operate.
Benefits of an electric heat pump include:
- Low installation cost
- High reliability
- Simplicity, compared to geothermal or propane heat pumps
Electric heat pumps are inexpensive to install, but they perform relatively poorly in extremely cold weather.
Propane Heat Pumps
A propane heat pump is also known as a hybrid or dual-fuel heat pump. It combines a standard heat pump with a propane furnace, which is used as supplemental heat during cold weather, instead of electric heating.
Some benefits of propane heat pumps include:
- Efficient heating regardless of temperature
- Inexpensive operation compared to electric heat pumps
- Lower initial costs that geothermal heat pumps
Propane heat pumps more efficient than electric, but are more complex to maintain.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Geothermal heat pumps include a ground loop, which is a series of underground pipes that refrigerant is pumped through. Underground, the temperatures stay at about 55 degrees year-round, allowing the system extract heat in the winter, and deposit it in the summer.
During the winter, cool air from your home is blown over a heat exchanger connected to the ground loop, absorbing heat from the refrigerant to heat your home. In the summer heat is extracted from the air by the ground loop, cooling your home.
Benefits of a geothermal heat pump include:
- Higher efficiency than either propane or electric heat pumps
- Low operational costs
- Low environmental impact
Though a geothermal heat pump is the most efficient of the three, it is also the most expensive to install, due to the ground loop.
Which Heat Pump Is the Most Cost-Effective?
Over the long-term, geothermal is most cost-effective, but it is expensive to install and not practical in many areas. The propane heat pump offers the best balance of long-term efficiency and installation cost as long as propane is available, and electric models are good options in mild climates.
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