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Heat Pump vs. Furnace: What’s the difference?

When talking about your home heating, most people use the term furnace as a sort of generic term, kind of like we do with band-aids or Kleenex. Not everyone uses a furnace to heat their home. Some use a heat pump instead of a furnace to heat their homes. But what is the difference?

A furnace, by definition, is “an appliance fired by gas, oil or wood in which air or water is heated to be circulated throughout a building in a heating system.” (These days a furnace can also use electricity to power it as well.) The basic explanation of how a furnace works is that it uses forced air to heat your home.  The furnace heats the air and blower fans send this heated air through the ductwork of your house and out the vents into your conditioned spaces.

These days, a home usually has either a gas or electric furnace. In a gas furnace, a pilot light ignites burners inside a combustion chamber burners creating heat. This heat then enters the heat exchanger. Inside the heat exchanger, the heat transfers to the air, raising the air to the temperature you have previously preset your thermostat to. Next, the blowers send this heated air through your ductwork, out your vents and into your conditioned rooms.

An electric furnace doesn’t have a pilot light so instead, an electrical ignition is used to start the heating process. This electrical ignition activates heating elements. These heating elements contain conductive coils and as current passes through the coils, these coils heat the air. This heated air, whose temperature is again dictated by the preset temperature on your thermostat, is then sent to the ductwork via blowers. Again, the ductwork delivers your heated air to the conditioned spaces through the vents.

A heat pump works a little differently. It takes heat from the air or ground and transfers that heat into your house. And yes, even when it feels like only a polar bear could survive outside, there is still heat in the air and ground.  heat pump could be used to heat your home as a more efficient alternative. The heat pump works just like the air conditioner, but in reverse.  The refrigerant is pulling the heat from the outside to the inside by the process of the refrigerant running in reverse. You see, your heat pump and air conditioner use the same outdoor unit to condition your air depending on the weather. To get a little more in depth about a heat pump, read our blog here.

So which one is best for you? It depends. (Not the answer you were looking for, huh?) There are many factors you need to look at before considering which one is best for your family and your home. Some of these factors are where you live because of the climate, whether you live in a more rural area, and what type of heating you prefer.

For a free, in home, estimate call or text Godby. We will help you weigh all of the options and decide whether a furnace or a heat pump wins the battle in your home.  For a local company that you can trust, remember, “It’s Gotta be Godby!”



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