Heat Pump or Furnace – What are the Differences?

man and woman talking

Typically, there are two types of heating systems you can choose from: a furnace or a heat pump. We often get asked the questions, “What’s the difference between a furnace and a heat pump?” and “Which should I choose?” Today we’re here to tell you!

A furnace uses fuel to create a source of heat and then circulates that heat around your home. Furnaces can be powered by electricity, natural gas, or oil. Newer homes rely mostly on electricity or natural gas. A furnace is used for heating, but it cannot cool your home. If you have a furnace, you will also need an air conditioner for cooling during the warmer months.

On the other hand, a heat pump transfers heat by drawing in natural heat from the outside air or the ground. Then, with the help of refrigerants, the heat is transferred into gas and moved to a coil inside the house. A heat pump is powered with electricity and can be used for both heating and cooling a home.

So, which should you choose: a heat pump or a furnace? The biggest factor in deciding this is your geographic location. Heat pumps typically work best in areas with mild winters, like Northern Virginia. Unless you live in an area where the temperature is consistently below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump will efficiently be able to find warm air to transfer into your home.

Now that you understand the difference between the two, let’s compare pros and cons:

  • Cost – Heat pumps can sometimes be more expensive to install than furnaces. Having said that, in most areas the power source for heat pumps (electricity) is less expensive than for furnaces (gas or oil). This will save you money in the long-run.
  • Life span – Since a heat pump is used all year round as a heating and cooling system, it may reach life expectancy faster than a furnace will. However, if you protect a heat pump from damage and have it serviced by a qualified contractor before the winter months, it will maintain its efficiency and continue to run for years.
  • Efficiency – Heat pumps are more efficient than furnaces because they transfer warm air rather than generating it. Also, heat pumps are designed to run continually which eliminates the constant on/off cycling that occurs with a furnace.

Before you install either a heat pump or a furnace, consider how often you’re going to be using your heating system. If you are looking for more information on heat pumps and furnaces, for your Northern Virginia home contact M.E. Flow today to discuss. M.E. Flow has office locations in Alexandria, Leesburg and Winchester and are the area’s heat pump specialist.

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