Heating is an essential component for maintaining a comfortable interior environment and there are few places where it’s more vital than the Pacific Northwest. So, for Washington residents, it’s important to make careful considerations before installing a heating system to determine what will work best for your house. Every heating system has its own set of unique advantages and disadvantages. Learning about these trade-offs will help consumers decide which heating system is the best choice for them. With that in mind, let’s examine a few of the most popular heating systems in the Pacific Northwest.
Fundamentally, heating systems can be broken down into two overarching types. Gas and electric. As the name implies, electric systems rely on components which generate heat when powered with electricity to warm a space. In contrast, gas furnaces burn natural gas to heat homes.
What are the Advantages of Gas Furnaces?
While gas furnaces are typically considered older technology, they do possess certain advantages. For one, gas furnaces heat a space considerably quicker than their electric counterparts. This can be a big advantage, especially for Pacific Northwest residents, such as homeowners in Seattle and Tacoma. Additionally, natural gas is relatively cheap and highly energy efficient. Because of this, the actual cost of heating can sometimes be lower for gas furnaces compared to electric.
What are the Disadvantages of Gas Furnaces?
All these advantages said gas furnaces aren’t without disadvantages. For one, gas furnaces typically require very careful installation and maintenance. This is due to the inherent risks associated with a gas furnace. Natural gas is highly flammable and many of the fumes produced during the combustion process (such as carbon monoxide) are highly toxic and must be released outside. A gas furnace that isn’t properly serviced or installed correctly can become a serious health hazard. Because of their more complex installation process and extra maintenance, gas furnaces are often more expensive to keep than electric heating systems. Lastly, a gas furnace is typically noisier than and won’t last as long as an electric heating system.
Rather than rely on natural gas, heat pumps use electricity and they’re the heating system most homeowners today are familiar with. Heat pumps can be broken down further into two systems, ductless and ducted.
Ducted Heat Pumps
Ducted Heat Pumps operate by connecting a heat pump to a duct system. Heated air is then pumped from the heat pump and through the ducts to heat a residence.
What are the Advantages of Ducted Heat Pumps?
A major advantage of this system is that if your house already has an air duct installed, it’s relatively simple to install a ducted heating system. Additionally, unlike gas furnaces, ducted heat pump systems can both heat and cool an environment. Finally, ducted heat pumps are efficient, especially in combination with geothermal systems. In moderate climates, such as those often found in the Pacific Northwest, ducted heat pumps are inexpensive to run and maintain.
What are the Disadvantages of Ducted Heat Pumps?
On the other hand, ducted heating systems are not without their own shortcomings. For example, ducted heat pumps are known for consistency issues. Air ducts sometimes have trouble equally distributing heat throughout a home and can lead to certain warm and cold spots. Secondly, ducted heating pumps sometimes struggle and lose efficiency when outside air temperatures drop too low. This can sometimes make ducted heat pumps not the best heating system for the Pacific Northwest during chilly winter nights. To prevent this, a heat pump is sometimes combined with a gas or electric air handler in a kind of hybrid system. Such combined systems can be even more efficient but will incur added installation and maintenance costs.
Ductless Heat Pumps
Like their ducted counterparts, ductless heating systems utilize heat pumps to warm air. However, unlike them, ductless heat pumps don’t rely on internal home vents to distribute warmed air. Sometimes referred to as mini-split, these systems use wall-mounted indoor units (air handlers) connected to an outdoor condenser unit.
What are the Advantages of Ductless Heat Pumps?
Ductless heat pumps are innately more efficient than ducted systems. This is because they don’t lose energy in ventilation systems which can result in 25% or more savings. Like a ducted heat pump system, ductless heat pumps can both provide heating and cooling, making them a great versatile choice for the Pacific Northwest. In addition, ductless heat pumps may be cheaper to install versus ducted for houses that don’t already have existing ductwork. Finally, many utility companies in Washington provide rebates for homeowners looking to upgrade to a ductless or mini-split system, potentially as high as $1,500 for qualified customers.
What are the Disadvantages of Ductless Heat Pumps?
Homeowners who already have ductwork installed in their residence may find that a ducted system is cheaper to install for them compared to a mini-split heating system. Second, ductless heating systems suffer from limited heating capabilities. The larger a house is, the more air handlers a house will need. And as with ducted heat pumps, ductless systems may struggle with extremely low temperatures even if a house has numerous air handlers. Finally, the presence of multiple mini-split air handlers will incur larger maintenance costs, given that each handler will need its own servicing.
What’s the Best Heating System for Pacific Northwest Residents?
Overall, every heating and cooling system popular on the market will offer its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For residents in the Pacific Northwest, the best heating system is often determined by individual needs and priorities. If you’re interested in having a new heating system installed, receiving quality maintenance, or have any questions, feel free to contact G&S Heating and Cooling, the heating & air conditioning experts in Snohomish, Island, Skagit, and King County. Services areas include Everett, Marysville, Lynnwood, Anacortes, and more!