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Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces

December 16, 2022
heat pump

Being knowledgeable about your home’s heating system can be useful for reasons such as identifying issues early and choosing the right unit. If you feel clueless when it comes to your heating system, we promise you aren’t alone! We don’t expect you to be the experts, that is what we are here for. In this blog, we will explain the difference between heat pumps and furnaces and how each can benefit your home.

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

Two common heating systems for homes in Charleston are heat pumps and furnaces. Both can keep your home warm and cozy this winter, but also have different advantages. When evaluating which is the best choice for your home, it is important to consider how the system operates, maintenance requirements, efficiency, and size. Below we will explain the difference between heat pumps and furnaces.

What Is A Heat Pump?

Contrary to its name, heat pumps provide heating and cooling for homes. Heat pumps are energy efficient devices due to transferring heat rather than creating it. In the winter, heat pumps take heat from outdoor air or the ground and relocate it inside your home. The process is reversed for the summer, transferring heat from inside your home outdoors. Heat pumps operate with both an inside and outside unit connected by refrigerant lines. Major sub components of the system are the compressor, reversing valve, expansion valve, and refrigerant. The three main types of heat pumps connected by ducts are air-to-air, water source, and geothermal.

Benefits Of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are quality heating choices in many areas, but especially climates like West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, and surrounding areas where temperatures rarely dip below freezing. On average, heat pumps need about 24 inches of clearance on all sides. Below we listed four benefits of heat pumps.

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Versatile
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Improve Air Quality

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are highly energy efficient, because they move heat rather than generate it. According to the U.S. Department Of Energy, ducted air source heat pumps can reduce electricity use by approximately 50% compared to furnaces. Similarly, geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy use by 30-60%.


Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling from one device. The two-in-one system saves the trouble and money of purchasing both an air conditioner and heating unit. Additionally, the flexible system can save on maintenance costs rather than repairing two systems.

Environmentally Friendly

Heat pumps do not burn fossil fuels or release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Homeowners can reduce their carbon footprint by utilizing a heat pump in their home. Additionally, heat pumps reduce energy consumption and can provide sustainable comfort.

Improve Air Quality

Heat pumps filter fresh air before distributing it throughout your home, which removes any mold spores, dust, and other allergens. Due to the device not generating heat, it does not produce fumes or harmful gasses that can affect your health.

What Is A Furnace?

A furnace is a reliable heating unit that generates and distributes heat around your home. The four main types of furnaces are natural gas, oil, electric, and propane. When prompted by the thermostat, a fan switches on and circulates warm air through your home. However, the type of furnace your home utilizes determines how the heat is transferred.

Natural gas furnaces are the most common type due to efficiency levels.

Oil furnaces are more common in the northeast and typically have a lower upfront cost.

Electric furnaces are budget friendly and can last for many years, but typically cause higher utility bills.

Propane furnaces are a quality choice if gas and oil are not easily accessible in your area.

Benefits Of Furnaces

Furnaces can heat homes in all climates. On average, furnaces take up about 30 inches of space and are generally stored in basements, garages, or closets. Furnaces can provide many benefits to your Charleston home, such as:

  • Long Lifespan
  • Effective Heating
  • Flexibility

Long Lifespan

Compared to most heating options, furnaces can last the longest before needing to be replaced. With routine maintenance, furnaces can provide quality heating to your home for 20 years. A furnace could be a good option for your home in Sullivan’s Island or surrounding areas if you plan on staying long term.

Effective Heating

Furnace systems can heat your home quickly and efficiently whenever needed. Furnaces have a higher heat output than other heating choices and can effectively heat homes in extremely cold temperatures. Additionally, furnaces provide consistent heating and avoid cold spots throughout your home.


Furnaces are a flexible heating option due to the many types of systems. Natural gas is the most common furnace choice, but there are other options available depending on preference and availability. Furnaces come in a variety of sizes and can accommodate your home’s energy needs.

Both heat pumps and furnaces can keep you cozy all winter long and provide many advantages to your home. If you are interested in furnace or heat pump installation or replacement in Charleston or surrounding areas, give us a call!

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Written By Stephanie Postell

Stephanie is the Co-Owner and COO of Anchor Heating and Air and is a lifelong resident of Charleston, South Carolina. Stephanie and her husband David have over 30 years experience in heating and air conditioning.

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