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

October 15, 2015

heat pumps

The changing of seasons here in Maryland means pumpkins, brightly colored leaves falling from the trees, hayrides, and cooler temperatures. Cold nights and crisp mornings will leave you needing a heat system for your home that is not only functional, but also energy efficient and cost effective. The two primary options for heating your home are a heat pump and a furnace. While the purpose of these two appliances is the same, they function very differently, which is something our Sykesville HVAC experts will be happy to help you understand.

How a Heat Pump Works

A heat pump serves as an air transporter, rather than an air heater. It constantly moves warm air where it’s needed or not needed, creating a comfortable indoor environment. A heat pump can be a part of a traditional HVAC system or it can be used to harvest geothermal energy from the depths of the earth. Heat pumps run on electricity and don’t require any additional fuel to be burned. And because it takes less energy to move the heat than to produce it, heat pumps are more energy-efficient than furnaces. Heat pumps are a popular alternative to furnaces, posing less risk to the homeowner because they do not produce a live flame or use any fuel.

How a Furnace Works

A furnace, unlike a heat pump, uses oil, natural gas, or propane to heat your home. A furnace actually burns gas or oil, creating a flame that heats the air. The burning oil or gas heats a coil in the unit, and then a fan pushes the warmed air throughout the home. Oil is the least efficient of these options, and is considered the least “clean” because it does produce some air pollution. A furnace can heat a home quicker and warmer than a heat pump, but oftentimes gas or oil bills far exceed electricity bills (depending on your location and average utility costs).

Which is most effective?

The answer to the question of which heating appliance is more effective and efficient isn’t a clean cut one. In moderate climates without extremely hot and cold temperatures, heat pumps can be the best option, although electric utility bills should be taken into account. In areas of the country where electric bills are reasonable, heat pumps are the way to go. If your area has extremely cold winters, a furnace will be a more efficient option for your home, because most heat pumps simply can’t keep up with temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

An Alternative

One good option for homeowners in a moderate climate, like ours here in Maryland, is a hybrid system. In this scenario, you would primarily use a heat pump for energy and cost efficiency, but on those really cold (below 30 degree) nights the furnace would kick in, warming your house more effectively than a heat pump ever could. The heat pump would be run the majority of the year, cooling your home in the summer, and heating it in the winter, until the temperatures necessitate the use of the furnace.

Whatever your heating needs, Cool Breeze is here to keep you warm throughout the upcoming winter, and cool in the summers ahead! Give us a call today to discuss your heating options.

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