WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FURNACE AND A HEAT PUMP?

furnace or heat pump

When it comes to keeping your home warm in the winter months, central heating is the way to go! You may have heard of “furnaces” and “heat pumps”, and to many, the terms are interchangeable – but in truth they are two very different things.

So what is the difference between a furnace and a heat pump? Well, it all comes down to how they each work and heat the home, they each come with pros and cons, as I’ll explain below.

 

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Heat pump

How it works:
A heat pump works like your home air conditioner, but in reverse! It uses electricity and refrigerant to generate heat.

Instead of taking heat from the living space and moving it outside of the home as in the air conditioning mode, during the heating operation a heat pump takes heat from the air outside the home and moves it to the living space through heat transfer using refrigerant.

When it gets very cold outside, or if the system has been running for a long time, there are electric heating elements, similar to those in an electric oven or electric furnace that come on as a supplemental or “auxiliary” heat source. This is also known as backup heat.

Pros:

  • Heat pumps are 100% energy efficient – can combine with solar panels to great effect.
  • Does both heating and air conditioning – heat pumps heat and cool. Two for one!
  • Cost – generally heat pumps cost less than a comparable furnace of the same size.
  • Better air quality. Furnaces dry out the air much more than a heat pump. Also, no potential for carbon monoxide.

Cons:

  • Cooler “hot” air. The heat from a heat pump is not as warm as the air from a furnace.
  • Less heat during freezing conditions. Because they move heat from the outside to the inside, if there is less heat outside, not as much heat can be moved inside.
  • Running the electric heat strips is expensive..

 

Gas Furnace

How it works:
A gas furnace uses a combustible gas – either natural gas or propane as its fuel source. The gas is ignited in a burner assembly and heats up a metal cell called a heat exchanger.

The air from the home is blown across the heat exchanger where it picks up heat and moves it into the house.

Pros:

  • HOT heat. A gas furnace puts out warmer temperatures than a heat pump
  • Consistent heat. Unlike a heat pump, a gas furnace will always put out the same temperature of heat, regardless of the outdoor conditions.
  • Lifespan. A gas furnace generally lasts longer than a heat pump.
  • Dependable. Gas furnaces have fewer mechanical parts and are less likely to break.

Cons:

  • Requires either natural gas or propane. If you don’t have access to natural gas, propane can work, but is often far more expensive to buy.
  • A furnace only provides heat. You need a separate central cooling system for A/C.
  • Gas heat dries the air. Running a room or whole home humidifier can help.

 

What heating system should I buy? What is the right heating system for me?

If it’s time to replace your heating and cooling system for your home, you may be wondering what’s the best choice between a heat pump and a gas furnace? The easiest answer is to go back with what’s already there.
To try and convert from one to another can be difficult and costly.

Because furnaces and heat pumps run on two different voltages, new wiring and breakers will be needed. Other expenses, like running gas piping and flue venting can further add to the cost.

However, if you like it hot in the winter, don’t mind paying a little more for the installation and can get either natural gas or propane, a gas furnace is for you!

On the other hand, if you aren’t a fan of heat regardless of the season, or are going for an energy efficient or “green” home, a heat pump is the right HVAC system for you!

 

So whether you are replacing your existing heat pump with a new heat pump, changing things up and converting from one type to another, or you are building a new home and want a cutting edge system, we have systems to fit your home and budget.

 

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