Hansberger Refrigeration Blog: Your AC Repair Resource

Know the Difference Between a Furnace and a Heat Pump

Is a heat pump simply another term for a furnace? Both components can take on the heavy load of keeping your home warm during winter.  However, there’s an additional dimension to versatile heat pumps that provides comfort year-round.

Heat Pump Primer

A standard central AC extracts indoor heat and releases it outside to keep the home cool. A heat pump, however, handles both cooling and heating. In many climates, a single heat pump can effectively perform both functions year-round without the need for separate AC and furnace units. Here’s how it happens:

  • In summer, a heat pump operates exactly like a conventional central air conditioner: The indoor evaporator coil extracts heat from indoor air and then the refrigerant flow carries absorbed heat to the outdoor condenser coil, where it’s released into the outdoor air.
  • Heat pump components switch roles during winter. In heating mode, the outdoor coil extracts latent heat present in cold winter air. Heat is compressed in refrigerant that flows to the indoor coil in the air handler, where warmth is released into airflow and then circulated throughout the house.

Benefits of a Heat Pump

  • Consolidating both cooling and heating functions makes maintenance and service simpler.  A single heat pump takes up less space than installing both a central AC unit and an indoor furnace component.  
  • Heat loss is less in winter. The combustion process utilized in standard gas furnaces inevitably loses heat at the heat exchanger and up the vent pipe.
  • Fossil fuel emissions are reduced. While every gas furnace releases some emissions at each home, a heat pump utilizes only emission-free electricity. Utilizing electricity sourced from the local utility’s centralized power system is environmentally cleaner.
  • Energy efficiency is maximized. Recent research by Oxford University shows that in heating mode at typical winter temperatures, a heat pump is substantially more efficient than typical fossil fuel heating components.  

For more information about the benefits and savings from utilizing a heat pump, contact the experts at Hansberger Refrigeration and Electric Company.