Is forced air heating the same as a heat pump?

Forced air heating is a system of heating that uses air as a medium of heat transfer. The system uses vents, plenums and ductworks in the distribution of hot air to retain an exact temperature within a room. There are several types of forced air heating systems and the major difference between them is the type of equipment used in heating the air and, when combined with a blower, fan or an air handler they are all capable of heating air.

There are four types of forced air heating system and a heat pump is one of them, the others are: gas furnace, electric furnace and hyrdronic coils.

  1. Heat Pump

A heat pump is a heating system that works by extracting the hot air that occurs naturally outside and transfers it inside or to an area that is referred to as the “heat sink”. There are two types of heat pumps, namely “ground source heat pump”, where the hot air is generated from the ground, and “air source heat pump” where the hot air is generated from the air outside.

A heat pump’s efficiency level can reach an average of 350%, it does not require regular maintenance and an air source heat pump does not occupy as much as space as a ground source heat pump. It can also be used for cooling during summertime.

  1. Gas Furnace

This type of forced air heating system provides hot air by burning fuel; a high-efficiency furnace has extra heat exchangers that block the by-product of the fuel combustion from entering the air stream.It has an electronic spark ignition system and a safety device that makes sure there is no accumulation of unburned fuel.

A gas furnace is cheaper to maintain, works faster than an electric furnace and is better at reaching high temperatures in extremely cold weather.

  1. Electric Furnace

This is a form of forced air heating system that uses an electrical heating element in place of fuel to generate hot air. It has a thermostat that controls it and keeps its temperature at the desired level, when the temperature is reached, the thermostat turns off the blower and the element. An electric furnace has a lower initial cost compared to a gas furnace but the cost of maintenance in the long run is higher.

An electric furnace poses less risk compared to a gas furnace, which emits a low level of carbon monoxide, which, if not checked, can cause poisoning. Electric furnaces also tend to last longer than gas furnaces.

  1. Hydronic Coil

This system of heating combines hot water with forced air delivery. Heat is requested by the thermostat, the boiler ignites the system, and the water flow is initiated by the circulator to the hydronic coil which serves as the heat exchanger. Once it is warmed up, the main blower is activated, and when the thermostat is satisfied, the boiler and circulator are turned off, the blower shuts down after a while and heated water is pumped through the exchanger and back to the boiler to be reheated.