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Pumping up the savings

We’re replacing our furnace soon. Would a heat pump help save us money?—Jonathon

Since heating and cooling accounts for nearly half of household energy use, it is important to evaluate if your equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable.

An electric air-source heat pump can be a good alternative to a furnace system that runs on propane or fuel oil, and to the electric resistance heat used in electric furnaces and in baseboard and wall units. (How does a heat pump work? Find out here).

If your old furnace has an air conditioner attached, replacing both the heating and cooling system with the all-in-one solution of a heat pump might produce significant cost savings. If you cool with window units, or have an older central AC, moving to an air-source heat pump could reduce your summer energy bills.

Opt for an ENERGY STAR heat pump, which at minimum is rated 15 SEER and 8.5 HSPF.

The bottom line

How much a heat pump can reduce energy costs depends on the size and efficiency of your home and climate. Online calculators can help you predict energy savings. One entry with sample data found that the cost of heating in Kentucky with a new heat pump is about half the cost of heating with a typical propane furnace or an electric furnace.

Call your local electric cooperative if you’re thinking about switching, as many co-ops offer incentives and rebates.

Heat pumps not only reduce energy costs, but they can also eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and problems that can occur with on-site storage of propane or heating oil.

PAT KEEGAN and Brad thiessen write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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