Pellet stove vs. Heat pump

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dbull18

New Member
Dec 4, 2020
20
South Eastern PA
I currently have an old stove that needs to be replaced, and I am debating if it makes more sense to just get a heat pump. My house is 2800 sq/ft and had fairly good insulation (built in 1970s/new windows and doors) I have two pellets stoves. One in the basement and one in the first floor living room. I plan to keep the pellet stove in the basement. It is relatively new, burns nicely and easily heats the basement. The stove in my living room needs to be replaced. It is old, burns poorly, the circuit board is busted and it doesn't have an auto starter.

I also have electric baseboard heat throughout my house. Each room has it's own thermostat. With my current setup, I find that during the coldest days we use the baseboard heat in rooms where the first floor pellet stove doesn't reach (bed rooms and first floor office on opposite side of the house). I originally planned on replacing the pellet stove in the living room with a new pellet stove, but I'm not sure if that is my best option.

I have central A/C and while it works fine, it is old and will most likely need to be replaced soon. I am thinking that it might make more sense (financially and for comfort) for me to replace the A/C with a heat pump. My one concern is that the heat pump will not be able to efficiently heat my house during the coldest parts of winter. I live in southeastern PA. We don't typically have extremely cold winters, but it does go into the 20s and teens in the coldest parts of the winter.

I don't have natural gas lines in my area and I am trying to avoid getting propane tanks to backup the heat pump.

Does anyone have experience with a newer heat pump in a similar climate?
 

jackman

Minister of Fire
Jan 15, 2013
623
Oregon
I don't have a newer heat pump but thought I'd share a few thoughts. My heat pump (15 years old) heats/cools 2400 sq ft upstairs while the pellet stove heats the 1200 sq ft walkout basement. Since you already have a pellet stove you understand the maintenance and lifting requirements. I would not trade my heat pump for a pellet stove in the upstairs. It's simply too much work. The heat pump is convenient.

My heat pump does ice up when I get sustained temps below freezing so I end up using the heat strips which would have approximately the same efficiency as your baseboard heaters. The new heat pumps are much more efficient and, from what I've researched, can function efficiently even below freezing. There may be rebates and tax credits available which tip the scale in favor of a heat pump. If your AC unit is near the end of its life cycle the incremental increase in cost for the heat pump may make the budget decision easier to justify. Your costs for energy and how long you may stay in your current house also weigh into the decision.

Hopefully, others that live in your part of the country will also jump in and offer suggestions. Do let us know how you choose.
 

old greybeard

Member
Oct 29, 2018
73
PA
Heat pumps are excellent. We’re in central pa and our emergency strip almost never comes on. 20 year old heat pump, still going strong, knock on wood.
We supplement with a propane heater in the family room. Keep the hp at 68, run the propane to 78 while in the room. Propane can keep the whole house warm if power goes out. Electric bills usually about 150 in winter.
We do little maintenance on the hp. Lifetime washable air filter, keep the outside unit clean. Spray the fins once or twice a year. And never let them pressure test the unit, our gas system has never needed recharged and has never been opened up. A snake shorted out the control board and we replaced the inside blower once. Cheap heat. And if you’re AC needs replaced the cost to upgrade to a hp will be worth it.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,163
SE North Carolina
It probably makes a lot of sense to replace your AC with a heatpump. Extra cost won’t be to much. You will need to add a 60-80amp 220 circuit to run resistive backup heat strips... if you want those. 10KW is a good starting point.

You have electric baseboard and a basement pellet stove to use during the coldest 10-15 days a year. So I would say you are probably in much better position than most to make the switch.

couple thoughts on heat pumps. Here in costal NC our heating needs on the coldest days are greater than the cooling needs on the hottest. It makes sizing a traditional single stage a challenge. do you size for heating needs and end up with a cooling system that short cycles or size for cooling and have system that needs supplement heat? New variable speed compressors are really a great choice, but pricey.

I’m just guessing here but a cheaper 14 SEER ac and new pellet stove is about the same price as a new 20 SEER variable speed heatpump.

just my thoughts

Evan
 
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ABusWrench

Burning Hunk
Sep 11, 2015
177
East Canton, Ohio
I've got a Lennox Elite heat pump, air handler with backup resistant heat strips. Have no oil, natural gas or propane. All electric house with a wood burning fireplace. Have had some work done to improve the heat pumps efficiency. All brick ranch with a walkout basement which faces north. 1750 sq. ft. main floor and 1750 sq. ft. basement. Have a Harman P61a pellet stove in the basement. With the improvements to the heat pump I can use it down to 32-35 degrees. Before improvements 40 degrees was the lowest I'd run it. After that I run the Harman, which heats the entire house down to about 10 degrees. After which I use the resistant heat strips to supplement the stove. I only heat the main floor with the heat pump, making the basement chilly. Stove is in the basement so it heats the entire house. Don't personally like the heat "feeling" the heat pump puts out. Never seems real warm. Pellet stove puts out "real" heat. Average 6 tons of pellets a year. With said improvements to heat pump and a somewhat mild winter I only used 5 ton the past heating season. If I was to redo the setup, I would use multiple mini split heat pumps to better "zone" the house. Keep the pellet stove in the basement and add another pellet stove to my sunroom. Your mileage may vary.
 

dbull18

New Member
Dec 4, 2020
20
South Eastern PA
Thanks everyone for the replies. I can't seem to find a consistent answer for a heat pumps performance in cold winters. It seems like a 50/50 split. Half of the people I talk to say that they don't like how the heat pump heats their house and the other half think it's awesome. I have an HVAC guy coming out on Friday to take a look at my system and give me some options.
 

Oregun

Member
Jan 12, 2017
112
Oregon
I have heat pumps and a pellet stove. The heat pumps work great here in PNW down to 32F depending on how well your house is insulated. That is when we switch to the pellet stove which puts out more comfortable heat below 32F.
There are more expensive heat pumps you can get which put out more heat at lower outdoor temperatures.
The pellet stove puts out air at a higher temperature than the heat pump so even if the room temp is adjusted to 72F it will feel warmer with the pellet stove.
To summarize, It feels warmer with pellet stove at 72F in the room than it does with the heat pump set at 72F.
 

old greybeard

Member
Oct 29, 2018
73
PA
Natural Gas in Pa is another way to go. My heat pump is cheap and efficient, but NG would be cheaper and warmer. Wish it was closer. We ran alot of propane recently as it was very cheap, but went up this winter and we cut back.
We have pretty cheap electricity in PA as well.
 

cpetku

New Member
Dec 24, 2019
40
Clarkston MI
My primary HVAC source is a luxaire heat pump with natural gas backup. Keeps the house pretty comfortable. The HP isn't efficient below the upper 30's and Natural Gas becomes the fuel of choice based upon cost. Also if the outside temperature approaches freezing and there is drizzle, the outside coils tend to freeze up and the unit can't produce heat. If you need to replace the AC unit, I'd recommend an air source heat pump (looks like a big AC unit) since it can heat during some of the winter.

Unfortunately you will need a backup heat source for the days below the mid thirties. An alternate is a water exchanged heat pump (multiple wells) or a closed loop system. These cost a lot more to install and can require quite a bit of property. If you feel electric baseboard heat is cost effective on cold days, give it a try, but be prepared to install another stove since someone has to pay for the drop in efficiency required to generate electricity...

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/pellet-stove-vs-baseboard-heating-66481.html

My pellet stove is installed in an addition where the HVAC isn't connected...
 

creztor

Member
Nov 13, 2018
13
Australia
Heat pumps will cost you less to run. They will work below freezing but do need to defrost. Put simply, heat pump is easier, more convenient and cheaper. Downside is the heat is more "stuffy" and as someone said even at the same temp it feels cooler. This isn't to say they won't keep you warm. They definitely do but it's a completely different type of heat.

As above, I'd say look at heat pump as your primary heat source with a pellet stove on those really cold days or when you just feel like some nice heat. Where I live people are replacing wood stoves with heat pumps. They are very popular here and have been for many years. Again, their main downside is the heat feels different.
 

Pelleting In NJ

Minister of Fire
Sep 26, 2011
598
Central NJ
The Mitsubishi line of "Hyper Heat" models provide significant heating capacity (76%) down to -13F, better than almost any other heatpump.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,460
Northern NH
Your cold weather question for heat pumps are valid. Yes both LG and Mitsubishi sell cold temp heat pumps optimized for very cold weather and yes they put out heat (at much lower efficiency). The problem is as the outdoor temps get colder these unit lose capacity while the demand increases substantially. Therefore to meet that demand only required for 10% of the year the system needs to be oversized. Few folks want to pay for that so they choose to have backup for the really cold temps. The other issue to consider is the average air temp out of the units is lower than from a conventional furnace, ducts need to be lot tighter and large to deal with the lower supply temps. All of that can be done for new construction but the cost and practicality on an existing house is expensive and difficult.

A friend of the family was one first dealers 40 years ago selling and servicing vented kerosene heaters. They were more efficient than the oil boilers of the past and were popular in Maine. He could have been retired 10 years ago but kept servicing the units he sold over the years. Of late the business is booming where folks who installed air source heat pumps need supplemental heat for those cold days when the heat pumps just do not cut it. The heat pump keeps the house above freezing but not comfortably warm and the kerosene heater works as a space heater similar to a wood or pellet stove. They are relatively cheap to buy and install and only are used on the coldest days of the year. Unlike the old style units that needed K-1 kerosene, the new units can run on low sulfur #1 fuel oil.He still keeps his hand in it but handed the business off to his daughter. Ken’s Monitor & Toyotomi Sales & Service | Maine K-1 Heating Systems (kensmonitor.com)

Some states do not allow vented kerosene heaters but they are an under looked option for that extreme cold weather heat. They also do not draw much power and can be run off a small generator. For 90% of the year the heat pump will cover the load.
 
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maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,789
Nova Scotia
Why would heat strips be needed if there was already electric baseboard installed? Lots of mixed talk here on heat pumps. They have come a long way in a few years and comparing to older ones is way apples and oranges. My only direct experience is with our 2 ductless mini-splits and they are golden.
 
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