If you're building a home or updating your existing HVAC system, you may be asking yourself questions like what's the difference between a furnace and a heat pump? And, how can you tell which one is right for you? Knowing the difference between a furnace and a heat pump can help you decide which type of unit to purchase.

What's the difference between a furnace and a heat pump?

Furnaces exist for the soul purpose of heating your home. Furnaces often rely on gas or oil for fuel. They operate by heating the air and forcing it through ducts of your home.

Heat pumps are electric, and they work by taking heat from one location and transferring that heat to another location. Like air conditioners, heat pumps can actually remove heat from your home when it's hot outside. When temperatures outside drop, heat pumps can be reversed to draw heat from air outside the home and transfer it into the home. In other words, a heat pump functions like an air conditioner and furnace all in one unit.

How can you tell which one is right for you?

The answer to this question depends on where you live. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat pumps can be an efficient way to maintain the temperature in your home in areas of the country where winters are very mild. Heat pumps can also be made ductless for use in older homes that have no air ducts.

Still, in areas of the country where winter temperatures reach extreme lows, furnaces are a go-to choice. This is because in temperatures less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, heat pumps don't work as well. When temperatures drop very low, the heat pump relies on a mini-furnace to heat the home. These units are less efficient than actual furnaces and are not an ideal choice.

In other words, you'll know if a furnace is right for you based on the average winter temperatures where you currently live. If your winters are well below 40 degrees most of the time, a furnace is probably your best choice. If your home has no ducts or if you live in a climate where the average temperature is at or above 40 degrees most of the time, a heat pump probably makes more sense.

Of course, the best way to tell would be to speak with an experienced HVAC contractor like one from Comfy Cave Heating and Air. He or she will be able to look at your property, inspect your current HVAC system (if you have one) and tell you which type of unit is right for you. 

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