A Furnace, Heat Pump, Or Central Air Conditioning – Which is Better in Colder Climates

HVAC systems may seem like technology from another world in that most individuals do not have a halfway decent understanding of how these systems work.  For the most part, the principles behind a heat pump are the same with a central air conditioner.  Furnaces work a little differently.

One common setup is to have a heat pump. Depending upon the region and climate, a home may have a separate furnace and air conditioner instead.  Having separate dedicated heating and cooling units are common in harsher colder climates such as Minnesota. Having just a traditional heat pump system would likely allow you to freeze while the heat pump continues to waste electricity trying achieve a warmer interior temperature.

Heat pumps are simply an exchanger or transferer of warm air.  In summer time, the refrigerant in the interior coils absorb warm air from inside the home and transfers it to the coils in the outside condenser unit. After the heat dissipates from the warmed refrigerant, the now cooled refrigerant travels back to the interior coils to absorb more interior heat. What is left inside the home is cooler air.  The advantage of a heat pump is that it is able to reverse this process without burning fuel, translating to fewer energy costs.  A heat pump works best in moderate temperature climates.  In a little harsher climate and region, some heat pumps are outfitted with auxiliary heating which is in essence a screen of wires in which current passes through thereby generating heat much like a kitchen toaster. A fan then blows this additional warmer air into the home’s interior.

There are newer heat pumps on the market that are designed for heating in near zero temperatures, but are not as common and are more costly. These newer heat pumps called Cold Climate heat pumps and All Climate heat pumps perform better in colder climates than traditional heat pumps, but can lack sufficient ability to comfortably cool a home’s interior in summer time.

In colder regions such as Minnesota, furnaces are still a necessity and are one of the more affordably efficient means to heat a home in the winter months. A traditional furnace coupled with a traditional heat pump would be much more efficient combination than that of having a central air conditioning system.