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Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces

January 4th, 2022 | Cooling & Heating

Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces

Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces: What’s the Difference? 

Your home is supposed to be a place that provides you comfort year-round, including maintaining a comfortable temperature. This requirement means your heating system needs to be performing at its best during the winter months in Charleston, SC, and it’s very easy to notice when it is malfunctioning. 

A traditional gas or electric furnace has a lifespan of around 15 years, so if yours is older, it could be time for you to purchase a replacement. 

Before you commit to a heating system, you should consider whether a heat pump is more suitable for your home. Heat pumps have been around for more than a century and also last about 15 years. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that they gained popularity and became a top furnace alternative.  

Continue reading to learn the difference between heat pumps vs. furnaces and decide which one may be the best option for your home heating needs in Charleston, SC. 


What Is a Heat Pump?

Rather than burning fuel like a gas furnace, a heat pump extracts heat from the air outside to heat your home (or cool it in the summer months). A heat pump is constantly moving warmth from place to place, using condensed refrigerant. 

Heat pumps do not generate heat on their own but instead absorb it into its lines and release it into your home. They are extremely versatile and energy-efficient.  


What Is a Furnace? 

A furnace is part of a central heating and cooling system. Fuel is converted into heat that is dispersed throughout your home. Every furnace has four main parts:

  • A burner to deliver and burn fuel (or electricity)
  • A heat exchanger
  • A blowers
  • A flue to act as an exhaust for by-products 

Because we all live in different climates and have different needs, you can choose a system that runs on either gas or oil. You can also opt for one that operates using electricity as its “fuel.” 


Space Required 

Furnace installation typically occurs indoors and uses a lot of square footage. Most manufacturers and building codes require at least a 30-inch clearance around each side to prevent a fire hazard.

Heat pumps rely on a compressor that’s located outside. These generally require at least a 24-inch clearance around its unit. Since the indoor component of a heat pump doesn’t use fuel or generate heat, there are no additional safety clearance requirements. 

Depending on the type of indoor components that come with your heat pump, it’s possible to mount it high on a wall, so it doesn’t take up any floor space. 


Maintenance Requirements 

No heating system should go without some form of recurring maintenance. Each type of heating system should be inspected and cleaned annually to keep it operating at peak performance. These inspections will also help identify any potential problems before they become a larger issue. 

The repair requirements for a furnace are significantly greater than those for a heat pump. As a result, a heat pump will cost less to maintain over the years than a furnace. 


What Is a Dual Fuel System? 

When you want the best of both worlds, you can choose a dual fuel system. It combines the top features of a gas furnace with an energy-efficient heat pump. During mild temperatures, the heat pump will operate, and as cool temperatures in Charleston, SC set in, it will automatically switch to the gas furnace.  

Not only does this create the most comfortable atmosphere for homeowners, but using a dual fuel system will save you money because it switches between the two depending on which is the most efficient. 


Cost of Installation 

The cost of a dual fuel system, heat pump, or furnace installation depends on your current setup and the compatibility of your home. For example, some homes cannot access natural gas lines. This setup makes furnace installation a costly alternative to a heat pump system. 

On the other hand, if your home isn’t wired for the heating draw associated with a heat pump, you could face additional electrical installation costs. Working with your local HVAC professional is the best way to determine which system is the best for your home.   


Energy Efficiency 

Heat pumps are considered one of the most energy-efficient ways to heat and cool a home. In the perfect situation, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it uses. The most efficient gas furnace is about 95 percent efficient. A heat pump uses electricity, so you’ll save on fuel consumption.  


Effectiveness in Cold Weather 

A gas furnace generates heat by burning fuel and should consistently heat your Charleston, SC, home. Because a heat pump utilizes the outside air, it may have difficulty transferring enough heat to keep your home comfortable when temperatures are very frigid.

There are supplemental systems available that work together with your heat pump and automatically operate on the coldest days. Unfortunately, they require a lot of energy, negating any energy-efficiency benefits when they’re used too often. 

A dual fuel system is equipped to work in mild and freezing temperatures, alternating the two heat sources as the temperature and your home heating needs change. 


Heat Pumps Are More Cost-Effective in Milder Climates 

Because a heat pump uses the outdoor air, it may have trouble heating effectively when the temperature drops below freezing. There is very little warm air to transfer indoors. 

In a warmer climate with mild winter temperatures, such as Charleston, SC, a heat pump can heat and cool efficiently. It is also more economical during the winter and summer months. 


Let the HVAC Professionals Near Charleston Help 

Whether you choose to have a furnace or a heat pump installed, it is best to leave the installation process to a professional heating and air conditioning technician. They are trained to take the right measurements and will help you choose the right size furnace or heat pump for your home. 

A unit that is too small will have to work overtime, reducing its lifespan and increasing the number of repairs it will need. On the other hand, a unit that is too big will cycle frequently and make your indoor temperatures variable and uncomfortable. 

Contact the HVAC professionals at AirMax Heating & Air in Charleston, SC, today to discuss your options for a new heating system in your home.

Call Today!843.614.3276

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