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Old 06-19-2012, 07:52 AM
 
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I've noticed that a lot of the new houses in NW WA have propane heat. In a mild-winter area, where temperatures infrequently go below freezing and almost never reach single digits, what would be the advantage of propane over heat pump? I thought that heat pumps were more efficient and propane pretty expensive.

I can think of a couple reasons, but I'm not satisfied with them:
Heat pumps cost more to begin with, and builders want to do things cheaply.
If the house has a propane fireplace, they need the tank anyway, so why not have propane heat?
Air conditioning is not needed.

Are there any good reasons?

Also, if a house has propane heat, is all the duct work the same as it would need to be for a heat pump? Could it be easily converted?
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Old 06-19-2012, 08:16 AM
 
Location: The Triad (nc)
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The PNW has always had a lower electric rate than most areas.
If duct work is already installed...
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Old 06-19-2012, 09:41 AM
 
Location: Johns Creek, GA
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Your not comparing apples to apples.
Heat pump vs. standard furnace (forced-air)
Propane vs. Electric vs. NG

The obvious advantage of a heat pump is having A/C- Even if you don't use the A/C it still requires electricity to operate.
If using Propane, Electricity or NG for heat then a standard forced air furnace could be used- the fuel is the heat; but of course you still need electricity to at least run the blower.
The only way to know if one fuel source is better suited for your life-style over another is to do an annual cost comparison (usually your local service providers have this information). If your noticing a lot of propane tanks- I would assume that the overall cost for Propane is cheaper.

"...if a house has propane heat, is all the duct work the same as it would need to be for a heat pump?"
Yes- there is no difference. Forced air systems are all basically the same.
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:16 PM
 
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Do you ever get below ~30 F (I've only been to the PNW once, in July!)? If so, with a heat pump, you would need a backup.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blazerj View Post
Do you ever get below ~30 F (I've only been to the PNW once, in July!)? If so, with a heat pump, you would need a backup.
Yes, but not that much. I've read that newer heat pumps are supposed to work even at colder temperatures. As far as I know, all heat pumps switch to all-electric when it is too cold to pull heat from the air.

We're in NC now; our winter nights are colder than NW WA, and we use heat pumps.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:13 PM
 
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Nothere arealot of heat pumps with gas and even more effcient ones with thermal assitance.Electirc is because its cheaper inital cost.
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Old 06-19-2012, 02:16 PM
 
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I wonder too how many folks simply like gas flames for cooking and propane powered backup generators and propance fueled built-in gas grills and firepits?
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Old 06-19-2012, 10:30 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh area
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
I wonder too how many folks simply like gas flames for cooking and propane powered backup generators and propance fueled built-in gas grills and firepits?
That's what I was thinking. They put it in for cooking, fireplaces, and then you might as well use it for heat, especially since at that point it would be cheaper to just put in a propane furnace and no A/C.

But it's hard to know for sure which is more cost effective. Since it doesn't usually get that cold AND the electric rates are low, I would have thought a heat pump is still good.

Certainly putting in the propane furnace is cheaper at the beginning because then you only have one box, the furnace, and a small amount of additional gas plumbing. Heat pump is like installing furnace plus A/C because there's still an indoor furnace/blower (usually "electric furnace" with electric heating backup, but you can put a heat pump into a system with another type of fuel for heating), plus an indoor coil, plus a refrigerant line, plus the outdoor heat pump unit.

If you weren't doing propane at all, because you were happy using electricity for cooking, etc, then I would guess this would be in favor of the heat pump. If you're going to have propane anyway, and definitely don't need A/C, then it would likely take a while to recoup the added cost of the heat pump over a propane furnace. But, it would still depend upon electric rates vs propane delivery, so it would take some math to know for certain.
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Old 06-22-2012, 04:34 PM
 
Location: Lubbock, Tx
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Do a search on "heat pump" before you buy on City-Data. They might be OK in a climate with mostly mild temperatures, but not where it gets cold. Why? Below about 40 degrees, the heat pump cannot extract enough heat from the outside air, so it has to suppliment, and so the cost goes up quite drastically. They also don't heat the air very well, so you get cool air circulating in the winter time, so it never feels very warm, and people complain about cold drafts. Plus, since the run so much, they wear out faster, and so replacement is more frequent. Northern climes just don't use them.
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Old 06-23-2012, 10:42 AM
 
Location: Lafayette, Louisiana
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Depends on your location's winters. Installing a heat pump system is no different than installing any other central air unit. That's what a heat pump really is, a central air system that runs in reverse when in heat. The condenser coils (that thing outside the house with the fan blowing upwards) blows warm to hot air in the summer because it is transferring the heat from your home to the outside air. When in heat mode, it's the coils inside the house that become the condenser coils. The refrigerant picks up heat from outside and transfers it into the home. It takes a while to begin to blow air warm enough to heat the home. For this reason, new heat pump systems come with electric heat strips for when it's too cold outside to heat the home. In lower warm areas, heat pumps are more efficient than electric heat strips only heating systems. However, gas (propane or natural gas) is a more energy efficient source for heating the home, especially in colder climates that regularly drop below 40 in winter. If you live where gas is available, go with gas. If your home is all electric, just switch to a heat pump depending on your location. I'll be cheaper and easier to convert an electric central air system to heat pump with electric heat strip back-up than to convert an all electric home to gas heating. Though I live in south Louisiana where heat pumps would work through most of winter without heat strips coming on, I would rather live in a gas home with gas stove, gas heat, gas water heater, and even a gas clothes dryer. It it has a gas fire place then that would be a nice bonus. If you do switch to gas, don't forget your carbon monoxide detectors.
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