Heat Pump or Furnace: What’s the Difference?

A heat pump or a furnace will both keep your home warm, sure. But there are some pretty fundamental differences between these two pieces of heating technology. Each one has unique advantages, but in many cases, installing a heat pump or a furnace comes down to whether you use gas or electricity to heat your home. How your home is configured, local utilities and other factors that came up when building your home have dictated what type of system you have. Your Johnny B Good HVAC professional will tell you exactly what you have. However, it’s important to know the difference so you can ask the right questions.

A furnace uses natural gas or propane to create a flame that burns. The small flames warm up metal tubes called heat exchangers. As the furnace fan pushes air over these hot tubes the air is then warmed up and enters the duct system to condition your home. It’s a classic system that works, producing an intense heat that feels noticeably warm coming up through your vents.

A heat pump uses electricity to heat and cool your home. Outside your home, your heat pump looks just like an air conditioner and during the summer it works like one. Inside your home is an air handler. This is connected to your heat pump with wires and copper tubing. Your air handler has two important parts a fan and coil. The fan runs like a furnace fan and pushes air throughout the home. The coil is what gets cold during the summer and warm during the winter. If you have a heat pump, most homes have air source heat pumps, but there are some high efficiency geothermal systems that use the ground temperature to heat and cool the home. This option is initially more expensive, but also more efficient.

Heat pumps are a great option in temperate climates, like what we’ve got here in Hamlet, NC. In fact, in this area many people with oil, propane or gas furnaces will use a heat pump to cool the home in the summer but then also heat the home until the temperature drops below 30 degrees. These are called hybrid systems just like in cars. They are designed to be more efficient and give the homeowner the choice based on energy costs and comfort. Most of the time, the heat pump will handle the heating duties, but every now and then when it’s really cold, the furnace kicks in. Some people think heat pumps aren’t as comfortable as gas systems but today’s heat pumps produce temperatures that are very comfortable. These systems are very different than the ones just 15 years ago.

If you still have questions about the differences or are looking to replace your furnace or heat pump, contact Johnny B Good LLC and we’ll answer all your questions and help you get the right heating system installed in your home.