Most residential furnaces today carry labels that detail how efficient they are at turning fuel or electricity into heat. It might be supposed that converting one form of energy into the thermal kind could be the only way to warm up a home.
In fact, there is another option that can be significantly more efficient, although it does come with some inherent limitations. Heat Pumps that simply move thermal energy from one place to another can be used to keep homes cooler as well.
The Basics of Heat and Heating
Thermal energy stems from the essentially random movement of molecules and free atoms in any sort of material. Warmer air is more active in the sense that the molecules of gas within it are vibrating and bouncing around more freely than they would if it were cooler.
One way to increase the temperature of a gas like air or any other substance is to convert another type of energy into heat. Given that heat is produced as a byproduct of any process that transforms energy, this is generally quite easy to do. In fact, some types of furnaces can convert 97 percent or more of the energy contained in the fuel they consume into useful, welcome heat.
Transferring Heat Instead of Creating It
That might seem to be the best possible solution, but there is another option that can sometimes be even more suitable for particular situations. Heat Pumps do not create any heat on their own, except incidentally as a result of the aforementioned process.
Instead, these devices move heat from one area to another, most often by transporting it with the aid of a specially formulated substance that can be easily transformed from a gas into a liquid and back. While the figures are not directly comparable, the amount of heat that a pump can move when supplied with a given quantity of energy will often dwarf the efficiency figures of a conventional furnace.
In practice, this approach can just as well be used to cool a structure as to warm it up, with many such systems being reversible as desired.