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Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Heat Pump vs. Furnace

It’s cold outside.  Hopefully your furnace is keeping you toasty warm.  While you’re (hopefully) staying cozy, here’s food for thought.  What’s the difference between a heat pump and a furnace?  One key thing really differentiates them, but here’s an explanation.

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is usually part of a central heating & cooling system.  It acts as an air conditioner in the warmer months, and a heater in cooler weather.  In simple terms, it is a pump which constantly moves warm air in either heating or cooling mode.  When it’s cooling, a heat pump moves warm air out of the conditioned space.  In heat mode, it replaces cool air indoors with warmth extracted from the outdoor air or ground.  

What is a Furnace?

A furnace is, as you may have suspected, equipment which turns fuel (generally gas, oil or electricity) into heat and then distributes it through an indoor space.  All furnaces are made up of four main parts: burners which convert the fuel to heat, heat exchangers, a blower to move the warmed air, and a flue to emit the exhaust created by the burners. 

Which One is Best?

That entirely depends on your region, climate and energy needs.  Firstly, if your area experiences long periods of temperatures under freezing, a heat pump should probably not be your only heat source. Second, the larger your conditioned space, the more energy it will take to heat it.  This might give you an option to combine sources though.  Finally, consider your layout.  For example, if you have a semi-conditioned space like a vestibule or an addition, a heat pump could be selected to help maintain an even temperature.

Basically, what we’re saying here is that Nebraska probably isn’t the place for relying solely on a heat pump for the winter months.  However, it can definitely help through the in-between months of spring and fall (if we actually get any of that mild weather).  A furnace generates more heat while a heat pump relies on the heat and energy it can extract from the outdoor environment via refrigerant.  Below about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it will not maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. 

A furnace simply needs to run longer and blow more heated air to combat lower temperatures.  That is why most structures in the Midwest are equipped with a furnace.  

So…Where are Heat Pumps Used?

You might be wondering if any heat pumps actually exist around here.  Yep, they sure do.  Mini-splits are prime examples of heat pumps.  They’re a great supplement for less central areas of a building — like an addition, a sunroom or a location vulnerable to outdoor drafts.  They could even help you reduce an energy bill during the milder weather when you just need a little bit of heating or cooling.  

Actually, geothermal systems usually use some form of a heat pump too.  And it’s a great way to understand how they work. Because the deep underground temperature is somewhere around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, there is enough heat left in the refrigerant to transfer heat into the conditioned space.  Heat pumps begin to lose their efficiency somewhere around 40 degrees, therefore the geothermal temp is perfect.

Heat Pump Vs. Furnace: Winner for NE

Now tell us.  What do you think wins for Nebraska?  As you may have guessed, a furnace is your only sure bet unless you want to invest in geothermal equipment.  If you have a heat pump, be mindful of the outdoor temperature when using it.  Just remember that below about 25 degrees, heat pumps will essentially waste energy.  

While you’re thinking furnaces, let us know if you’re feeling chilly at work.  There might be something we can do to help, like initiating a Sync365 plan for your workplace!

Stay warm. 🙂

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