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Heating & Cooling in Florida: Heat Pump vs. Furnace & AC

When it comes to central heating and cooling systems, most people are familiar with furnaces and central air conditioners. However, in regions with relatively mild winters, heat pumps are also quite common. Here in Central Florida, you’ll find an abundance of both these systems, due to our humid subtropical climate.

This begs the question: which of these two HVAC systems is best for a Florida home? Below, we’ll go into more detail about the pros and cons of selecting a heat pump versus a furnace and air conditioner.

A Heat Pump vs. A Central AC & Furnace: Main Differences

Though a heat pump performs the same function as a furnace and air conditioner, these systems accomplish their jobs in different ways. A furnace uses fuel (natural gas, electricity, heating oil, or propane) to heat air. Central air conditioners use refrigerant to remove heat and humidity from air, “cooling” it. The air that this equipment heat or cools gets distributed through your home by a blower via ductwork.

A heat pump acts as both your air conditioner and your furnace because of its ability to extract heat from the air surrounding it. When acting as an air conditioner, the heat pump pulls heat from inside your home and pumps it outside. When acting as a heater, the heat pump pulls heat from the outdoor air and pumps it inside your home.

While some heat pumps rely on geothermal energy, many others are powered by electricity, so if you already own an electric furnace, it’s relatively easy for you to switch to a heat pump. Electric heating systems are already quite common in Florida. In fact, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows us that approximately 81% of Florida households already use heat pumps or electric furnaces.

Heat Pump Advantages

1. Heat pumps are more energy-efficient than furnaces.

If you own an electric furnace that is 100 percent efficient, you might be wondering how a heat pump can top that. It can! According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to your home than the electrical energy it uses. In other words, a heat pump can be 150 to 300 percent efficient.

2. Heat pumps are more effective at reducing humidity than air conditioners.

As mentioned earlier, your heat pump has the double-duty of being your heater and your air conditioner. A standard central air conditioner not only cools the air in your home but also dehumidifies it. A high-efficiency heat pump, acting as your air conditioner, is even more effective at removing moisture from the air than central AC, which means that your home will cool off faster and stay comfortable longer.

3. Heat pumps pose less of a safety risk than gas furnaces.

Unlike gas furnaces, heat pumps do not rely on combustion to produce heat. Thus, with heat pumps, you don’t run into combustion-related issues from lack of maintenance, such as a potentially dangerous buildup of natural gas or a carbon monoxide leak.

Heat Pump Disadvantages

1. Sometimes heat pumps need help during cold snaps.

A heat pump should be able to handle pretty much any day during a Florida winter. However, some homeowners prefer to equip their heat pumps with a heat strip for days with unusually cold temperatures. The thermostat will activate the heat strip when it detects that the heat pump needs “backup.”

2. Electric furnaces usually have longer lifespans than heat pumps.

Electric furnaces last an average of 20 to 30 years. An electric heat pump’s lifespan is comparable to a central air conditioner’s: approximately 15 years. That being said, with regular maintenance, plenty of heat pumps reach the 20-year mark before needing a replacement.

Bottom Line

Depending on how you use your central heating and cooling system, a heat pump can be an energy-efficient, “two-in-one” alternative to consider for your Florida home. You can enjoy lower heating bills during winter and less humid, conditioned air for the rest of the year.

For more information about heat pumps, call our team at ServiceOne Air Conditioning & Plumbing: (407) 499-8333. We serve clients throughout Orlando, Longwood, and the surrounding areas.

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