Forced Air vs. Heat Pump: What’s the Difference?

Heat pump outside of Marietta, GA, home.

Before you can upgrade, you need to know what kind of heating system you currently have. 

Forced air and heat pumps are the two major types of heating systems you’ll find in Irving, TX. Although they both serve to keep your home warm and cozy through the winter months, they work in different ways. Each system also comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. 

So, what’s the difference between a heat pump and forced air heating? Which one is best suited for your comfort needs? Read on to find out. 

What Is a Forced Air System?

Forced air is any heating system that relies on ductwork to circulate air throughout a home.

Often, you’ll hear the terms forced air and central air used interchangeably. Forced air refers to how air is distributed, whereas central air refers to where the air is produced. 

For example, a furnace is a prime example of a forced-air central heating system. It produces heat in a central location then forces the air through the house via air ducts. 

How to Know if I Have a Forced Air System?

According to a recent study published by the National Association of Home Builders, forced air can be found in 99% of homes throughout the United States. It’s the most common type of heating system because it’s convenient, affordable, and able to quickly heat your home. 

Take a look around the room right now. Do you have vents that blow warm air? Then, you have a forced air system—it’s that simple. 

Natural gas furnaces are the most popular type of forced air system, but not the only ones. Oil furnaces and boilers are commonly used in cold climates because they deliver effective heating in below-freezing temperatures. Here, we rely mostly on gas furnaces and heat pumps. 

Yes, you read that correctly. A heat pump can also be considered a forced-air heating system as long as it utilizes ductwork as the main means of air distribution. 

What Is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a split system that transfers heat from one location to another. Much like a traditional air conditioner, a heat pump utilizes an outdoor condenser and an indoor air handler. It uses refrigerant to absorb and relocate heat. 

What makes heat pumps unique is the fact that they can be used as a dual heating and cooling system. In the winter, heat pumps extract heat from outdoors and bring it indoors. In the summer, this process is reversed. 

Efficiency is the name of the game when you choose a heat pump vs. a forced air system. Heat pumps have some of the highest Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER). Since they do not generate heat but instead transfer it, heat pumps can actually be more than 100% efficient. 

How to Know if I Have a Heat Pump?

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between a heat pump and a forced air system, which is why our team is happy to help!

Determine if you own a heat pump by following these three simple steps.

  1. Set your thermostat to “Heat.”
  2. Wait until warm air comes out of your vents.
  3. Check to see if your outdoor unit is running. 

A central air conditioning system will only run when the thermostat is set to “Cool.” If your condenser is still hard at work even while the heat is on, you most likely have a heat pump. 

To double-check, you can also check the manufacturer label found on the condenser. If the label doesn’t clearly state that the unit is a heat pump, look to see if the serial number starts with the letters “HP.”

What Is the Difference Between a Heat Pump and Forced Air System?

If you’re comparing a heat pump vs. forced air system, you’re actually comparing apples to oranges. A heat pump is a type of heating system, whereas forced air refers to air distribution. Nonetheless, many consider the term forced air to be synonymous with a furnace. 

The main difference between a heat pump and a forced air furnace is how they produce air. A heat pump works by transferring heat from one location to another while a furnace burns fuel to generate heat. It’s also worth noting that heat pumps are best suited for moderate climates, where the temperatures don’t regularly drop below freezing. On the other hand, heat pumps are more efficient and can save tons in energy costs. 

Choose a Heat Pump vs. Forced Air Heating With Our Help!

Not sure how to choose between a heat pump vs. a forced air system? Tempo Air is here to help. 

We are an employee-owned HVAC company dedicated to providing the leading heating installation services in Irving, TX, and beyond. Our team of experienced professionals can break down the difference, price points, and advantages/disadvantages of heat pumps and furnaces to help you choose the best heating system for your home! 

If you’d like to stick with the same type of heating system you currently have, we also offer furnace and heat pump replacements. All you have to do is call, and one of our team members will be happy to help.

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