While much of the year, heating is not considered a major problem for those of us in the south, when winter rolls around and temperature starts to drop, the question of how to heat your home becomes an important one. In the modern world, efficiency and keeping costs down is something that every home owner seeks in their home utilities, and heating should be no exception. There are two major categories of heating systems out there: furnaces and heat pumps, and knowing which is right for your home is an important factor.
How They Operate:
The difference in efficiency between heat pumps and furnaces comes down to how they operate. A furnace works by simply burning fuel in order to produce heat, and then using fans to blow the hot air into the ductwork and provide additional heat for one's home in the cold winter months. Heat pumps on the other hand, rather than burning fuel, operate on the same principle of a home AC unit. A heat pump will extract the heat from the outside, or from the ground, and pump this heat into the home. This system can work in any temperature, because even when temperatures dip below freezing there is always heat energy to extract, and it depends only on the availability of electricity and not an additional fuel source such as biodiesel.
Differences in Efficiency:
In efficiency comparisons, traditional gas furnaces tend to operate in around the 60% range of efficiency. What this means you're only getting 60% of the heat generated by the fuel you burn! A heat pump on the other hand is purely electric, so no need to worry about fuel for these systems - just have a steady power source. Now, it may be true that in certain colder climates, furnaces may appear to be a better system, and it is true that below freezing a heat pump system loses efficiency, which would be a concern in northern climates such as Canada. However, for a Florida resident who doesn't have to worry about blizzards and rarely faces temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump can provide a much better alternative as there is more heat for it to extract from the air, thus it doesn't have to work as hard to heat the home.
How to Decide What Works best for you:
Ultimately, the decision on which system to invest in depends on a simple cost vs. benefits analysis. As with any system there are costs associated with the initial installation, especially if you are replacing or supplementing an existing HVAC system. Furthermore, a heat pump system adds to your electric bill, while a furnace adds to your gas bill. The choice between these systems comes down to which is easier and cheaper for you to acquire: more power or more gas? For many residents this is electricity, and in such a case a heat pump becomes the obvious choice. However, when in doubt, as with all things, the best option would be to consult with an industry professional and local technicians to find out which system works best for your home and your needs.
This article was written by Brennen Kliffmueller from Facemyer AC. Brennen attended Florida State University and currently lives in Orlando, Florida. He has been writing professionally for the last two years. Visit him on Google+ to learn more.