Comparing Heat Pumps

Comparing Heat Pumps

Heat Pumps or Wood Heat?

Finding the most cost-effective way to heat your home – and a heating source that’s best for the environment – depends on the space.

Modern wood heat excels in colder winter climates, while air-source heat pumps are great for the shoulder season and homes with open concept layouts. However, both heating options can be complementary.

Compare different renewable heating options by considering your space, system costs, and climate impacts through emissions.

Compare the Options

Automated Wood Heat

Thermostat controlled and integrated with heating distribution systems, automated pellet boilers heat the entire home or business with locally sourced, environmentally friendly wood pellets. Like an oil or propane system, they work automatically and can run unattended for months between fuel deliveries.

Whole-home heating solutions compatible with existing hot air or hot water systems typically fueled by oil, propane, or natural gas.

Well suited for homes with less open floor plans and/or those that are less insulated and weatherized.

Replacing a residential steam heating system or baseboard electric with automated wood heat requires a (costly) new distribution system.

Best suited for houses located in cold winter climates

Maintain 80 to 90% efficiency despite outdoor temperatures, but do not have the same capability to cool spaces as do heat pumps

Higher upfront cost of installation but last twice as long as heat pumps, with an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years depending on proper maintenance.

Many are eligible for federal tax credits, covering 30% of the purchase and installation costs up to $2,000. State rebate programs vary.

Wood fuel prices remain constant over the day, have historically remained steady yearly, increasing only with inflation, and still among the cheapest heating fuels.

Wood pellet and chip costs are less volatile over a heating season than any other heat source, including electricity.

Systems partner well with heat pumps to offset electricity price jumps during efficiency drops in colder weather and during peak grid load.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54% compared to oil and 59% compared to natural gas.

Meets EPA, New England, and New York standards for particulate matter (below 0.1 lbs/MMBtu).

Pellet Stoves

Similar in size and design to traditional wood stoves, wood pellet stoves use renewable wood pellets and don’t require constant management – or hauling cordwood – to keep running.

A reliable secondary heating source that can be installed in many types of homes. 

Pellet stoves are fed with bagged pellets, easier to handle than cord wood but that still require handling.

Excellent complements to heat pumps as a secondary heat source when temperatures dip below 35 degrees.

Mitigate the drop in efficiency heat pumps experience during extremely cold periods, saving homeowners money.

Maintain 70-83% efficiency despite outdoor temperatures.

Affordable, entry-level wood pellet heating option costing about $3,000-$6,000 per stove, and have an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years depending on proper maintenance.

Many are eligible for federal tax credits, covering 30% of the purchase and installation costs up to $2,000. State rebate programs vary.

Wood pellets are less volatile over a heating season than any other heat source, including electricity.

Pellet stoves are an excellent complements to heat pumps as a secondary heat source when temperatures dip below 35 degrees, since they mitigate the drop in efficiency heat pumps experience during extremely cold period, saving homeowners money.

Meets EPA, New England, and New York standards for particulate matter (below 0.1 lbs/MMBtu).

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are an electric heating and cooling system that moves heat from one location to another. The process is like that of a refrigerator, except it can move heat into or out of an area. Our region uses cold-climate air source heat pumps, designed to maintain high efficiency when temperatures drop.

Resemble hot air space heaters and coolers, best suited for well-insulated new construction that prioritizes open concept designs. 

Many statewide incentive programs require updated weatherization before homeowners can qualify for a rebate or loan. 

Best suited for houses located in areas with mild or warm climates

Heat pumps can heat or cool a space at efficiencies as high as 300 or 400% depending on the system

Less suited for houses located in areas with extremely cold climates

Efficiency of heat pumps declines the colder the outside air, to around 200% efficient in the teens and 100% in the single and negative digits

At these low temperatures, heat pumps require 2-3x more electricity and cost to heat the same space

Lower upfront cost of installation but lasts half as long as wood pellet boilers, with an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years depending on proper maintenance.

Many are eligible for federal tax credits, covering 30% of the purchase and installation costs up to $2,000. State rebate programs vary.

Electric rates fluctuate over the course of a day depending on grid load and are more volatile than wood heat but less so than oil, propane, or natural gas.

Efficiency declines the colder the outside air. At its lowest efficiency of 100%, heat pumps cost more than any other heating fuel.

Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity depend on each state’s energy mix and vary at different times

During peak grid load, electricity is typically dirtiest and heat pumps can require twice as much electricity to keep up with high heating demands.

Not all electricity is renewable.

The New England ISO and New York ISO dashboard show the type of resources being used to meet consumer demand for grid electricity in real-time.

Electric heating options – like heat pumps – are not always fueled with renewable energy. While coal-fired power plants have been nearly phased out in the Northeast, natural gas – and oil at times – plays an important role in providing electricity on high demand days.

Heat pumps benefit from complementary heat sources to ensure electricity bills and greenhouse gas emissions don’t spike during extremely cold days. As the region builds the infrastructure for renewable electrification, modern wood heat is the bridge to the future, providing a way to boost heating reliability and reduce emissions.

This New England ISO dashboard shows the type of resources being used to meet consumer demand for grid electricity in real-time.

Small Business Shoutout

RS5697_Business Owner_Anni Mackay_Profile_From Woods to Warmth_1

How the Stable Inn Welcomes Visitors, Operates with Renewables, and Warms Its Rooms Using Wood Heat

Small business owner Anni appeared in our From Woods to Warmth series and expands on her decision to use wood heat in this profile.

“We considered this an energy-forward project. In our climate, heat is the first priority,” Anni said. “We wanted to move all of our buildings off of oil. Using a byproduct that we recycle through a pellet heating system with fuel sourced within 100-mile radius made sense.”

Ready to Make the Switch?

DECLARE INDEPENDENCE
FROM OIL