Home Improvement Ideas

What is the Difference Between a Furnace and a Heat Pump?

Written by Shiyamala

If you are shopping for a new home or are thinking about upgrading your current heating system, you should know the difference between a furnace and a heat pump. A heating and cooling company can help you decide if a new furnace or heat pump installation is best for your home. Here are a few things to know before chatting with an expert. 

How does a furnace work?

There are many kinds of furnaces, and they are differentiated by their fuel source. The most common kinds of furnaces are natural gas, propane, oil, and electric. Gas-powered furnaces work by igniting fuel which generates heat. This heats up a part of the furnace called the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger transfers heat energy to air that is then pushed through the ventilation system of your home. 

How does a heat pump work?

Heat pumps are very different from furnaces. Did you know they can both heat and cool your home? Heat pumps work by using electricity to move heat from one area to another. You need two units for a heat pump, a condenser that stays outside (like your AC unit), and a wall-mounted unit inside your home that distributes the warm air.

They are powered by a super cold refrigerant that absorbs heat from the air outside. The heat pump uses electricity to condense this refrigerant, which turns it into hot, pressurized vapor. As the vapor moves through the system, it depressurizes, which releases heat into your home. 

Heat pumps move heat around using electricity, rather than generating heat with combustion. This means that they are a much more efficient way of heating your home. Some states even offer an energy efficiency rebate for homeowners that switch to heat pumps. 

Which one is right for your home?

Trying to decide if a furnace or heat pump is right for you can be confusing. There are several aspects to consider. Let’s take a look at the most important. 

What is the age of your current heating system?

Furnaces are appliances that are built to last. However, if your furnace is more than a few years old, it could be very inefficient. The laws in the United States have been changing recently, and new appliances are held to higher efficiency standards. You will save money on your heating bills by switching to a more efficient system.

A heat pump is more than 100 percent efficient, while a furnace is 95 percent efficient. Heat pumps also consume less fuel because they use electricity. 

What is the climate like where you live?

Maybe you’ve heard that heat pumps don’t work in the winter. This misconception comes from how heat pumps work, and the inefficiency of older models. Heat pumps used to not work as well in cold weather. Recent models have overcome this limitation and offer warmth and heating even in very cold temperatures. 

Whether you choose a furnace or a heat pump is still heavily influenced by the climate of the area you live in. For example, if you live in the Northeast, you may choose to use a gas-powered furnace because gas is affordable and efficient. And if you have lived in the Northeast long enough, you know that the power can go out frequently. In such cases, a gas furnace would work better than an electric heat pump.

A heating technician will know what type of fuel and what type of system will provide the best source of heat for your climate. 

What are your heating and cooling needs?

Heat pumps are a great replacement for your furnace, and they can also replace your air conditioning system. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, installing a heat pump is a great way to get a two-for-one deal. Just like furnaces, older air conditioning units suffer from being inefficient and are known for emitting HFCs and CFCs that are bad for the ozone layer. A heat pump will offer you a comfortable, temperate environment in both the winter and summer. 

How easy is installation?

Installation costs are heavily influenced by how difficult it is to install the heating system. For instance, if your home is not set up for the fuel the heating system needs, it would cost more to make adjustments to your home to ensure the heating system works. So, if you want to install a gas furnace, make sure your home is equipped to handle the fuel source. 

Work with your heating and cooling technician to determine whether your home is set up for a furnace or a heat pump. 

Find an Expert in Furnace and Heat Pump Installation

It’s best to leave the big important projects in your home to the experts. Changing your heating system can be intimidating and carries with it several safety concerns. This is especially true if you are working with natural gas. Contact a heating and cooling professional in your area to get the job done right and safely. 

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