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Heat Pump vs Furnace: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to HVAC the ultimate goal is to keep your house comfortable all year long. In the winter, you are much more aware of how your HVAC system is keeping up in the cold Iowa winter. A traditional furnace, whether it’s gas or electric, usually lasts around fifteen years. However, before you purchase another furnace take into account if a heat pump would better fit your needs. Heat pumps also have around a fifteen year lifespan. Check out these comparisons to see which option would be the best suited for you and your family’s needs.

Heat Pumps Transfer Heat- They Don’t Generate It

A heat pump has a different way of heating your home. It pulls heat from the outdoors, even if it’s freezing outside, and moves that heat inside your home. This is possible due to pressurized refrigerant lines that absorb the heat and release it inside. On the other hand, a gas furnace creates heat by burning fuel and an electric furnace generates heat by blowing air over a hot element.

Heat Pumps Can Cool and Heat Your Home

A furnace is designed to only heat your home, but a heat pump can heat your home in the winter and cool your home in the summer. During the summer months, a heat pump operates just like an air conditioner, by reversing the pressure and flow of refrigerant through the coils. This is a huge benefit to those that value both an air conditioner and furnace.

A furnace is better in colder climates

This is because heat pumps pull in warm air from the outside, so the warmer the outdoor temp the more heat they will provide. As the temperature keeps decreasing, heat pumps become less efficient. In this case, a furnace will be more efficient in colder climates. However, a geothermal heat pump can still be a good option in colder climates as they have buried refrigerant lines below the frost level. At this level the ground temperature stays between 40 and 50 degrees all winter despite the frigid above-ground temperature.

Heat Pumps Require Less Space 

Building codes usually require a certain square footage around a furnace for fire safety reasons. This results in the furnace taking up much more space than a heat pump. The compressor on a heat pump is located outdoors and requires a smaller clearance than a furnace. Because a heat pump’s indoor air handler does not create its own heat or use combustible fuel, there is no safety clearance necessary.

Both Need To Be Professionally Installed and Sized

When purchasing a new furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner It’s important to have an HVAC professional properly size your space and your needs to select the correct system for your home. An HVAC unit that is too big will cycle on and off frequently resulting in inconsistency in temperatures. An HVAC system that is too small forces the unit to work overtime to catch up, especially on the cold winter days. When a unit is constantly running it reduces the lifespan of the unit and increases the repairs needed. 

If you want to learn more about the differences between furnaces and heat pumps, fill out this form online and one of our HVAC professionals will be happy to chat with you. Make sure to like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest HVAC tips and tricks!