Heaters in our area don’t get a ton of usage. But there’s one system that combines a heater with the system you do use throughout much of the year: your central air conditioner. That system is a heat pump, and it uses electricity to pump refrigerant throughout the indoor and outdoor components of the split-system to move heat from place to place.
Furnaces in our area run on electricity, too. So why would you choose one over the other? We go over this and other questions about furnaces and heat pumps in today’s guide. For more information, contact our friendly team!
How a Furnace Works
A furnace works by generating, or producing, heat. Heat is created as elements within the furnace are charged with electricity. This is called electrical resistance heating. The coils within the furnace heat up just as they would in a standard hair dryer, and a blower fan within the HVAC system moves the heated air through the ducts and into your home.
How a Heat Pump Works
A heat pump works by moving heat, not generating it—a key distinction that will help you understand why you might choose one over the other. For now, it’s important to know that a heat pump uses refrigerant to accomplish this.
You might think, “But isn’t refrigerant used for cooling?” And it is—but the fact of the matter is that refrigerant is used for heat transfer. Most of the year, a heat pump uses refrigerant to absorb heat from the air in a home and move it outdoors. It looks and acts just like a central air conditioner, with an outdoor unit and indoor blower.
But in cool weather, a heat pump can change the direction of its refrigerant. The reversing valve is a component found only in heat pumps and ductless systems to change flow and allow refrigerant to transfer heat from the air outdoors and move it inside, even when it’s quite cold out.
Energy Efficiency Comparisons
Both heat pumps and electric furnaces in our area have gotten a lot of upgrades by manufacturers in recent years. Either system is likely to be far more efficient than one that is older than 10 years. However, the most efficient electric furnace you can find likely still won’t save as much energy as an efficient heat pump.
The process of moving heat is simply more efficient than the process of generating heat. An electric furnace with a 99% AFUE rating makes efficient use of all energy taken in, but that’s still a lot of energy. A heat pump with a SEER higher than 15 is likely to save you more because less heat is required to pump refrigerant.
Considerations for Your Home
We believe energy efficiency should be a main consideration when selecting a new heating or air conditioning system—or both in the case of a heat pump! However, we understand that budget, a home’s setup, and whether or not you need a new air conditioner will factor into your decision.
What’s truly important is that you call a company with the right expertise for the job. That means only calling on HVAC professionals, like the experienced team at Air On Demand.