Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Which Is Right for Your Home?

A condenser heat pump and a furnace are two very common options for HVAC systems. As with other HVAC components, the core functionality of both units is to ensure that your home is at a comfortable temperature regardless of the weather outside. So if both, a condenser heat pump and a furnace have the same function, what is the distinction between these two types of systems and how do you determine which is suitable for your home? Let’s first take a look at how these two systems work and which environments each system is best suited for which will allow us to answer this question.

Condenser Heat Pumps

HeatPumpCondensercondenser heat pump is a device that transfers heat energy from one area to another. The main components of a heat pump are a heat exchanger, refrigerant, condenser, and pump.

The purpose of the heat exchanger is to absorb heat from the surrounding air and transfer it to the refrigerant liquid running through its coils. The refrigerant is then pumped to the condenser where it transfers its heat energy to the metal surface of the condenser. For high efficiency, air is blown through the fins of the condenser to decrease heat loss. Simply put, heat pumps don’t actually generate any heat at all; they just transfer heat from one area to another.

Furnaces

A furnace generates heat by consuming fuel. There are various types of furnaces including electric furnaces, wood furnaces, gas furnaces, coal furnaces, and oil furnaces. After examining how these two types of systems operate let us discuss their suitability and advantages.

Seasonal Efficiency

A condenser heat pump is only effective in areas with a mild climate all year round. This is because it only works well if the temperature difference between the exterior of the house and the interior of the house is only slightly different. In areas with hot summers, condenser heat pumps work very well because they transfer the excess heat from within the home to the exterior of the home. However, in locations with harsh winter climates condenser heat pumps cannot effectively transfer heat from outside because it is too cold to do so. The best alternative for these climates is a furnace because you need to actively generate enough heat to warm up your home which is something a heat pump cannot do. Remember, that while a heat pump can both heat and cool your home, a furnace can only generate heat so if you have a furnace you still need an air conditioner in hot weather when you require a cooler temperature in your house.

Energy Efficiency

A condenser heat pump is definitely more efficient in terms of energy because all that is involved in transferring already existing energy from one place to the next. This process uses far less energy than a furnace where the fuel is actually consumed.

Indoor Air Quality

A condenser heat pump does not produce any by-product gases from combustion and therefore cannot contaminate the air within your home. Additionally, condenser heat pumps are equipped with filters and humidifiers that keep the humidity levels in the home as natural and healthy as possible. Furnaces, on the other hand, consume oxygen within the home and produce carbon monoxide and other flue gases as a by-product of the combustion.

Running Cost

The cost of running each system depends on the price of fuel in your area. In some areas, natural gas is less expensive than electricity, and therefore it makes more sense to have a gas furnace than a heat pump. In other areas, utility companies do not provide infrastructure for natural gas pipelines, making it more sensible to have an HVAC system that runs on electricity such as a condenser heat pump.

Maintenance

Both of these systems require maintenance to operate properly. Furnaces typically require annual maintenance while condenser heat pumps required two maintenance visits, one for the heating component and one for the cooling component. In conclusion, a condenser heat pump is ideal for climates that don't have extreme swings in weather. In very cold climates, furnaces are a necessity to generate the amount of heat needed to warm your home.  
February 8, 2019
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