What’s the Difference Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace?

From the point-of-view of a person standing in a room where a vent is sending out warm air, there seems to be little difference between a heat pump and a furnace. The end result is the same: heated air. The two units, wherever they are housed, may make different sounds, but otherwise nothing else is.

This is an illusion however. In almost all important ways, furnaces and heat pumps are vastly different devices that operate on separate principles. We’ll go into a bit more details about the differences between the two comfort systems. We hope this will help you if you’re trying to make a choice between the two for your home. But to make a final decision, you should have expert guidance: Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning. Our many decades of experience will help you decide if a furnace or a heat pump in Scottsdale, AZ is right for you.

Furnaces and heat pumps

Furnaces create heat and then transfer it to the air. In a general sense, they are similar to ovens (from which they originally developed): they heat up the air using their fuel source. Most furnaces either use electricity or natural gas (again, similar to ovens) to create this heat. The heat is transferred to the air, and then fans blow that air into the ducts that send it through your home. Natural gas furnaces have to vent away the exhaust from combustion. All this occurs inside a single indoor cabinet.

Heat pumps do not create heat at all, however. They move heat from one place to another, using separate units: one indoors and one outdoors. The outdoor unit draws heat from the air, then transfers it indoors using refrigerant. The inside unit then releases the heat to the indoors, which blowers send through vents. (There are ductless versions, however, called ductless mini splits.) Heat pumps use electrical power to run and do not create any emissions from burning fuel.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that the heat pump can also serve as an air conditioner: if it reverses the direction of heat exchange, drawing heat from indoors and putting it outdoors, it will cool down the inside of a home. Furnaces will only heat; heat pumps can heat and cool.

So why doesn’t everyone install a heat pump?

They sound a bit too good to be true, don’t they? But heat pumps are not ideal for every home or every climate; sometimes they have trouble providing enough heat, something at which furnaces excel. However, the easiest way to know which system will work the best for you is to consult with experts, such as those at Goettl Good Guys Air Conditioning. Our specialists are devoted to bringing you the best comfort they can, and they’ll help you decide in your debate of furnace vs. heat pump in Scottsdale, AZ.