Just from the names you can infer that both heat pumps and furnaces are used to heat your home. Each heats your home in a different manner. Choosing between the two will probably be based on that difference.
A furnace generates heat for your home by burning fuel to heat air and then blowing that warm air into your home. Although newer models are fairly efficient, using up to 98% of the air they heat, older models can be very inefficient utilizing only 55% of the heated air generated. Furnaces are generally powered by electricity, natural gas, oil or biodiesel. Newer homes rely mostly on electricity or natural gas. A furnace is used for heating but cannot cool your home. If you have a furnace you will also need to have an air conditioner for cooling.
A heat pump transfers heat by drawing in natural heat from the outside air or ground and compressing it. Then, with the use of refrigerants, the heat is converted into gas and transferred to a coil inside the house. The coil condenses the gas back into a liquid and distributes it around the house with blowers. A heat pump is powered with electricity and is used for both heating and cooling of a home. Although generally efficient, where outside winter temperatures are consistently below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, heat pumps have trouble finding warm air to transfer into the home and must utilize a furnace to generate heat.
Heat Pump vs. Furnace-Pros and Cons
Now that you understand the differences between how a furnace and heat pump warm you home, let’s look at the pros and cons of both systems.
- Efficiency- Because a heat pump transfers warm air rather than generating it, they are more efficient than furnaces. A furnace has an efficiency rating between 65-85% depending on age and type of fuel. A heat pump has an efficiency rating between 80-95%. Heat pumps are designed to run continuously eliminating the constant on/off cycling of a furnace making them more energy efficient.
- Cost– In most areas of the country, electricity, the power source for heat pumps is cheaper than gas or oil, used to power furnaces. Heat pumps can be more expensive to install and more costly to maintain.
- Safety-Because a furnace must burn fuel to generate heat, they are a source of fire hazard. This fuel burning also makes them a potential source of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the burning of natural gas or oil. If your home is not vented properly carbon monoxide can build up displacing oxygen and negatively impacting your health. Carbon monoxide poisoning generates flu like symptoms; headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to brain damage or even death.
- Life span-Heat pump vs. furnace A heat pump runs year round because it is used to both heat and cool your home. This constant operation means that a heat pump will probably reach life expectancy faster than a furnace with a separate air conditioner.
- Convenience-Furnaces are not capable of cooling your home. In order to have a cool home in the summer months you will need to have an air conditioner in addition to a heater. A heat pump performs both operations. Mother Nature will have an impact here. If you live in an area where outside winter temperatures are frequently below freezing, a heat pump will not warm your home as there is minimal warm air to transfer from the outside to inside. In this instance your home would also require a furnace to generate warmth.
In Central Kentucky your heating and cooling needs can be met by Kentucky’s #1 Dealer of the Year, ADA Heating and Air. We are a family owned firm that has been servicing Danville, Nicholasville, Versailles, Winchester, Harrodsburg, Stanford, Lexington and the surrounding Central Kentucky areas for over 20 years. Whether this is a new installation, or you are looking for maintenance on an existing system, we can help keep Mother Nature outside where she belongs and answer your questions about heat pump vs. furnace.