Is It Expensive to Heat with a Heat Pump? (Cost Analysis)


Many people have been told that heat pumps can reduce heating cost. However, some people don't agree with it. So, is it true that running a heat pump can save energy cost or is it actually more expensive to heat with a heat pump?

A heat pump is cheaper to run than a propane furnace and an electric space heater. However, a heat pump is more expensive to run than a firewood stove. The cost of running a natural gas furnace and a heat pump is similar.

Whether or not a heat pump can save you cost is heavily depending on your current heating system and the price of the commodity.

Cost of Running a Heat Pump

Fall (Oct, Nov & Dec) and winter (Jan, Feb & Mar) are the heating season.

As per mentioned by Trane, the average amount of heat needed for a colder winter climate in a heating season is 180,000,000 BTU.

A standard heat pump has a heating energy efficiency of HSPF 9.

Based on HSPF 9, the power consumption of a heat pump across the heating season is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 9 = 20,000 kWh.

The average residential electricity cost in the United States is $0.145 per kWh.

US Average Residential Electricity Cost

Therefore, the cost of running a heat pump is $0.145 x 20,000 kWh = $2,900 per heating season.

Heat Pump Running Cost vs Electric Space Heater

One kWh of electric resistive heating is equivalent to 3412 BTU.

Using the same amount of heat needed in a heating season, the amount of electricity needed is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 3,412 BTU = 52,755 kWh per heating season.

As shown earlier, the average residential electricity cost in the United States is $0.145 per kWh.

Therefore, the cost of running an electric space heater is $0.145 x 52,755 kWh = $7,649.48 per heating season.

In comparison, an electric space heater is 2.6 times more expensive to run than a heat pump.

Heat Pump Running Cost vs Propane Furnace

One gallon of propane is equivalent to 91,500 BTU.

Using the same amount of heat needed in a heating season, the amount of propane needed is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 91,500 BTU = 1,967.21 gallons per heating season.

The average residential propane price in the United States is $2.50 per gallon.

US Average Residential Propane Price

Therefore, the cost of running a propane furnace is $2.50 x 1,967.21 gallons = $4,918.03 per heating season.

In comparison, a propane furnace is 69.58% more expensive to run than a heat pump in a heating season.

Heat Pump Running Cost vs Firewood Stove

According to Cutting Edge Firewood, Oakwood is the most common type of firewood used for heating in the United States.

One cord of oakwood can produce 26,200,000 BTU of heat as per Utah State University.

Using the same amount of heat needed in a heating season, the amount of firewood needed is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 26,200,000 BTU = 6.87 cords of oakwood per heating season.

REthority stated that the cost of firewood is about $300 per cord.

Therefore, the running cost of a firewood stove with oakwood is $300 x 6.87 cords = $2,061 per heating season.

In comparison, a heat pump is 40.71% more expensive to run than a firewood stove with oakwood.

Heat Pump Running Cost vs Natural Gas Furnace

One cubic feet of natural gas is equivalent to 1,037 BTU.

Using the same amount of heat needed in a heating season, the amount of natural gas needed is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 1,037 BTU = 173,577.62 cubic feet per heating season.

The average residential natural gas price in the United States is $17 per 1000 cubic feet.

US Average Residential Natural Gas Price

Therefore, the cost of running a natural gas furnace is $17 ÷ 1000 x 173,577.62 cubic feet = $2950.82 per heating season.

In comparison, a natural gas furnace and a heat pump have similar heating cost.

However, there is a high chance that the cost of running a heat pump is lower than a natural gas furnace and here is why:

The average residential natural gas price in the United States is increasing.

US Residential Natural Gas Price Increase

If the natural gas price rises to $22.50 per 1000 cubic feet, the cost of running a natural gas furnace becomes $3905.50 per heating season and that's 34.67% more expensive to run than a heat pump.

In other words, if the natural gas price is more than $16.70 per 1000 cubic feet, it is cheaper to run a HSPF 9 heat pump.

But, that's not the whole story yet.

Some of the most efficient heat pumps have a heating energy efficient of HSPF 12.

Based on HSPF 12, the power consumption of a heat pump is 180,000,000 BTU ÷ 12 = 15,000 kWh per heating season.

Hence, the cost of running a HSPF 12 heat pump is $2,175 per heating season.

Such a low running cost is almost on-par with a firewood stove and far better than a propane furnace, an electric space heater and even a natural gas furnace.

At $2,175 per heating season, the natural gas price needs to be under $12.53 per 1000 cubic feet in order for a natural gas furnace to be less expensive to run than a high-efficient heat pump.

US Past Residential Natural Gas Price

Such a low natural gas price may be unlikely as the trend is going upward.

As the natural gas price hike and the heat pump energy efficiency continue to improve, the heating cost of a heat pump may be less than a natural gas furnace.

Summary

Below is the summary of a HSPF 9 heat pump versus other heating systems:

Heat Pump
(HSPF 9)
Electric
Space Heater
Propane
Furnace
Firewood Stove
(Oakwood)
Natural Gas
Furnace
Usage per heating season20,000 kWh52,755 kWh1,967.21 gallons6.87 cords173,577.62 cubic feet
Commodity price$0.145 per kWh$0.145 per kWh$2.50 per gallon$300 per cord$17 per 1000 cubic feet
Total running cost$2,900$7,649.48$4,918.03$2,061$2,950.82
% Difference+163.78%+69.59%-28.93%+1.75%
Potential saving with a standard heat pump$4,749.48$2,018.03($839)$50.82
Heat Pump (HSPF 9) vs Other Heating Systems

Below is the summary of a HSPF 12 heat pump versus other heating systems:

Heat Pump
(HSPF 12)
Electric
Space Heater
Propane
Furnace
Firewood Stove
(Oakwood)
Natural Gas
Furnace
Usage per heating season15,000 kWh52,755 kWh1,967.21 gallons6.87 cords173,577.62 cubic feet
Commodity price$0.145 per kWh$0.145 per kWh$2.50 per gallon$300 per cord$17 per 1000 cubic feet
Total running cost$2,175$7,649.48$4,918.03$2,061$2,950.82
% Difference+251.7%+126.12%-5.24%+35.67%
Potential saving with a high-efficient heat pump$5,474.48$2,743.03($114)$775.82
Heat Pump (HSPF 12) vs Other Heating Systems

Conclusion

So, back to the question, is it expensive to heat with a heat pump? The answer is no if you are comparing it to an electric space heater and a propane gas furnace. But, if you are comparing it to a natural gas furnace, a HSPF 9 heat pump is more expensive to run while a HSPF 12 heat pump is less expensive to run. Nonetheless, a heat pump is always more expensive to run than a firewood stove with oakwood.

If you need me to help with your HVAC system, purchase the Email Consultation service.


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Yu Chang Zhen

I enjoy working on air conditioners and ventilation fans because Malaysia is a very hot country.

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