Heat Pump and Furnace 101

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Heat Pump and Furnace 101

To explain the difference between a furnace and a heat pump let’s start in the kitchen. That may not make sense to you, but just bear with us. Let’s say there’s a gas stove in the kitchen and you light one of the burners. When you hold your hand above the gas flame it’s warm, downright hot if your hand is too close to the flame. Now shut the stove off and walk over to the refrigerator. Can you feel the heat coming from the back of the fridge? It may not be hot, but you should be able to feel warm air.

What’s the point?

Of course, there’s heat from the stove because you are burning fuel. But why does the refrigerator produce warm air when it’s not burning any fuel? The refrigerator is squeezing the heat out of the air inside the fridge and transferring the heat to the room. In a very basic way this is the difference between a furnace and a heat pump.

Heat transfer

What a heat pump is really doing is transferring heat from one location to another. During the heating season it squeezes the heat out of the outside air and transfers it to the inside of your home. Even when the temperature drops below freezing, there is still heat in the air. While they are less efficient as the outside temperature drops, modern heat pumps are very common for heating homes in the south because of our moderate winters.

Efficient

Heat pumps are the most efficient form of electrical heat for your Auburn, Opelika, or Montgomery, AL home. This makes them an ideal choice if you don’t have access to natural gas or you don’t want to hassle with a propane tank.

Which is better?

So, should you choose a heat pump or a furnace? Part of the answer is personal preference and which kind of heat makes you comfortable. Heat pumps and furnaces are both forced-air systems. By burning fuel, a furnace heats the air to a much higher temperature and the air blowing around the house will feel warm on your skin. The heated air from a heat pump is generally lower than your body temperature. Even though it’s warming your home it may feel cool on the skin. If that’s a huge factor, you may want to opt for a traditional furnace.

Dual fuel systems

For complete comfort, some people will opt for installing a gas furnace as a form of supplemental heat. During our normal winter weather, the heat pump is capable of heating the home more efficiently than the furnace. If cold weather hits, the furnace kicks in to take over for the heat pump.

Count on Dixie

If you still have questions about heat pumps or any other HVAC systems, call Dixie Electric, Plumbing & Air. For more great information like this be sure to like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.