What Is The Difference Between A Furnace & A Heat Pump?

Schedule service with one of our expert heating & cooling technicians.

When temperatures drop in Phoenix, your home needs a reliable heating system to ensure your comfort. Whether you are looking to replace or install a new heating system, we suggest considering a furnace or heat pump. Both units can keep your home at a comfortable temperature, while providing several benefits. In this blog, we discuss everything you need to know about furnaces and heat pump systems in Gilbert, Arizona and surrounding areas.

Furnaces vs. Heat Pumps

We don’t expect you to be the heating unit experts, that is what we are here for! If you are looking to replace your heating system with a furnace or heat pump, it is important to understand the operational process of both systems and how they differ. The main difference between heat pumps and furnaces is how each unit produces heat for your home. Below we will explain how furnaces and heat pumps operate.

How Do Furnaces Work?

Furnaces are complex systems with many components. The main components of a furnace unit include the burner, heat exchanger, blower, pilot light, and thermostat. Much like a puzzle, you must have all the pieces for the final product. Each component is required to effectively and efficiently heat your home. Pilot lights are always lit and should remain blue. This flame ignites the burner and begins the heating process. Depending on the fuel source, the furnace burns the fuel source inside the burner and generates heat. Heat is then passed onto the heat exchanger, where cold air is heated. The blower pushes the warm air in the heat exchanger into the ducts to be distributed throughout your home. This process is repeated until the thermostat setting is met.

There are four main types of furnaces: natural gas, electric, oil, and propane. All have similar operational processes, but use different fuel sources.

Natural Gas Furnace: Gas furnaces are the most common type of furnace, because of the affordability and fast heating.

Electric Furnace: Electric furnaces can provide quality home heating without producing harmful greenhouse gasses. However, electric furnaces can raise heating bills for some homes.

Oil Furnace: Oil furnaces are beneficial, because the unit can produce more heat while consuming less energy. Oil furnaces are less common due to the cost of oil.

Propane Furnace: Propane furnaces burn clean and non toxic, but produce fewer British Thermal Units (BTUs) per gallon when compared to oil heating.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

While furnaces generate heat, heat pumps simply transfer heat from one location to another. The main components of a heat pump include refrigerant, compressor, reversing valve, expansion valve, indoor air handler, and an outdoor unit. If one of these components is obstructed, the whole heating system can suffer. The compressor circulates refrigerant for it to absorb and release heat between the indoor and outdoor units. The expansion valve controls the amount of refrigerant released. Depending on the type of heat pump, the unit draws heat energy from the outside source and transfers it into the system. From there, refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air. The heat is sent into the air ducts and distributed throughout your home. This cycle continues until the thermostat setting is met.

Contrary to its misleading name, heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling. The term “heat” in the name refers to the process of transferring heat, which is done in both summer and winter months. In the summer the operational process is simply flipped using the reversing valve. Heat pumps draw heat energy from inside your home and transfer it to the outdoor source.

There are three types of heat pumps: air source, water source, and ground source. All types have similar operational processes and components, but vary in slight ways such as the heat energy source.

Air Source Heat Pump: Air source heat pumps draw heat energy from the air and relocate it outside or inside depending on the season. Air source heat pumps are the most common type, because of the easy installation process.

Water Source: Water source heat pumps draw heat from a nearby lake or pond. Heat is moved through an interconnected water loop and either rejected or absorbed depending on the season.

Ground Source: Ground source heat pumps absorb heat from the ground and can be highly efficient for both summer and winter. Ground temperatures in the winter are warmer than the air and vice versa in the summer, which enhances efficiency when transferring heat.

Benefits Of Furnaces

Furnace systems can provide many advantages to your home. Below we have listed 4 benefits of installing a furnace in Phoenix.

  • Fast Heating. Furnaces can quickly heat your home and restore comfort quickly after adjusting the thermostat.
  • Affordable. When compared to other heating systems, furnaces can be an affordable up front purchase and have low maintenance costs.
  • Reliable. If properly maintained, furnaces are a reliable option to smoothly get you through the winter season.
  • Long Lifespan. A new furnace is an investment, but the unit will have a long lifespan between 15-20 years if proper care is given.

Benefits Of Heat Pumps

Similar to furnaces, heat pump systems can present many different advantages. Below are 4 of the many benefits to heat pumps in Gilbert, Arizona and surrounding areas.

  • Environmentally Friendly. Heat pumps do not burn fossil fuels to produce heat or release harmful gasses into the environment. Installing a heat pump can benefit the environment and lower your carbon footprint.
  • Energy Efficient. Due to the process of transferring heat rather than generating it, heat pumps use less energy to heat your home.
  • Provides Both Heating And Cooling. Heat pumps can keep your home comfortable year round by providing both heating and cooling. This allows a flexible option for weather fluctuations in Arizona.
  • Less Maintenance. Heat pumps use the same components for both summer and winter months, which can cut down on maintenance and repairs.

Both heat pumps and furnaces are a great heating option for your home. If you are interested in installing a heat pump or furnace in Phoenix and surrounding areas, give us a call! Our expert technicians specialize in heating unit replacement and installations and can help keep your home comfortable this season.