What Is The Difference Between HVAC And Furnace?

Out of the many available heating and air conditioning options, HVAC systems, heat pumps, and furnaces are the most common. Heating, cooling, air conditioning, and ventilating devices are large systems of several components working together. They are different from furnaces because furnaces are simple heating devices for indoor use.

Furnaces are used to provide supplemental heat in indoor spaces.  When choosing between these two, you should consider their installation costs, maintenance requirements, and functionality.

What is HVAC?

An HVAC system is a complex combination of the following components: air conditioners, heat pumps, filters, ventilation lines, and ductworks. These components work in a highly coordinated manner to produce heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and cooling processes in residential and commercial properties.

Once you successfully install an HVAC system on your premises, you will not bother to install an additional source of heat or cooling system.

The HVAC system provides sufficient heat and cools down the temperature when it gets freezing. The system comes with a thermostat. The thermostat detects changes in the ambient temperature in the house and sends signals to the specific components of the HVAC system for the most appropriate action.

How does an HVAC Work?

You can best understand how an HVAC system functions by considering the role of every one of its components. For example, the heating component of the HVAC system is made up of a heater and a blower.  The heater produces heat energy by burning natural fuel. 

The heated air or oil is then spread around the building through the ductwork.  Therefore, the heat circulates throughout the building and increases the home’s ambient temperature. Once more, the heating components of the HVAC system depend on signals from the thermostat. 

The thermostat measures the temperature in the house and sends signals to the heating element if the temperature falls below the required standards. The ventilation function of your HVAC system comprises all the systems that help to process and circulate the air around the house. Many components make up the ventilation system in your home. 

Some essential ventilation system components include the ventilation ducts, ceiling vents, and ventilation shafts. Your HVAC system ventilates the entire building by opening up things to release excess hot air when the temperature in the indoor environment is excessively high.  The release of air to the outside allows fresh air to be moved into the house and reduces temperature.

The HVAC system depends on the refrigerant to hold the air in your home. The refrigerant changes between the gaseous and liquid state depending on the pressure subjected to.  The refrigerant can absorb a lot of heat from the indoor environment and, through the ventilation system, lead the hot air to the outside.  This allows cool air to flow into the house and condition the indoor environment.

What is a furnace?

A furnace is a heating device that comprises the following components:  a blower motor, heat exchanger, filter, and combustion chamber.  Heating furnace provides heat energy by burning fuel to produce the heat and other by-products.  It is one of the most common devices used to provide either primary or secondary heat in small or large indoor environments.

Heating furnaces vary in terms of size and efficiency. The most efficient furnaces are blower motors that operate at about 70% and come with variable speeds.

How does a furnace work?

All the components of a furnace work in unison to ensure that their internal temperature is maintained within acceptable levels. Here is a breakdown of how a typical heating furnace functions. 

First, the thermostat detects a significant fall in temperature. The programmable thermostat then sends a signal to the other components of the furnace. Finally, the thermostat and the entire system produce a sharp clicking sound when this happens.

Next, the burners begin to burn down the fuel that comes into them from the reservoirs.  The burners have special senses that ensure they are lit and that the claim is uniform.  Having a uniform flame in the burners helps to ensure even and complete combustion of the fuel and steady production of the heat.

Next, the heat exchanger begins to warm the air around the burner.  The heat exchanger is more effective than the burner heating the air around it. That is why it ensures rapid production of heat energy inside the furnace. 

When the heat exchanger reaches its operating temperature, the hot air begins to circulate through the ductwork by the action of the blower. The circulation of the hot air throughout the ductwork raises the home’s ambient temperature.

What is the difference between HVAC vs. furnace?

An HVAC system is a complex combination of three or four components that heat ventilate air condition or cool an indoor environment.  All the system components work together based on the signals that they receive from the thermostat. 

On the other hand, our furnace is a simple heating device used to produce primary or secondary heat in indoor environments.

 Nevertheless, just like the system, a furnace depends on the signals from the thermostat.

 Is an AC unit and the furnace the same thing?

An AC unit is different from the furnace, even if they are part of the entire HVAC system.  An AC unit is the air conditioning part of the system, while a furnace is a part that produces heat and distributes it across the house.   In other cases, a furnace may be a stand-alone heating device that produces and circulates heat in a home. 

Is HVAC the same as the heater?

An HVAC system may comprise a heater and many other components used to heat the lights and air condition at home.  Therefore, our heater may be part of an HVAC system. However, on some occasions, a heater may be a stand-alone device used to produce heat in an indoor environment.

Types of HVAC

1. Heating and the cooling split system

The heating and cooling split system comprises two separate units for heating and cooling the air in the home.  These units are distinctive because the two units are placed in different positions. 

A heating unit is placed in the house’s basement while the cooling unit is positioned outside the house.  The cooling unit of split systems has a system of refrigerants and fans that are used to move warm air outside and allow cool and fresh air to move into the house.  The heating unit in the basement also has a blower and a system of that work used to circulate the heated air in the house.

2. Hybrid split system

The hybrid split system is quite similar to the heating and cooling split system, only that it has a feature that allows the user to switch between two or more types of fuel.  The hybrid split system allows the user to alternate between gas and electric power.  Therefore, the user can effectively utilize energy to produce heat or cool the home. 

3. Mini-splits

The mini-splits are a particular type of HVAC system with no ducts. Instead, it is made up of small units mounted on the wall in every room in the home.  The units are connected to an external compressor.  This allows for an excellent level of control for all people in the home.

Types of furnaces

  1. Modulating furnace.  This type of furnace automatically adjusts its heating performance according to the environment’s needs. For example, it may increase the temperature in intervals of one degree depending on the heating requirements of the room. 
  2.  Single-stage furnace.  In this type of furnace, the user does not have control over the rate of flow of fuel to the burner of the furnace. 
  3.  Two-stage furnace.  In this type of panel, the user can control the flow of fuel to the burners of the furnace. This means that when you have a two-stage furnace, you can limit the rate at which it consumes the fuel to produce heat energy.
  4.  Electric furnace.  An electric furnace uses electric energy to produce heat energy.  Electric furnaces come with various controls to enable the user to adjust their performance to individual preferences.
  5.  Oil furnace. Although oil furnaces are relatively cheaper than electric furnaces, they produce a lot of soot and other contaminants when they operate.  Also, all furnaces have relatively higher maintenance requirements than their electric counterparts.  Nevertheless, one can prefer oil furnaces to electric furnaces if one is conscious of the cost of operating their furnaces.  Also, all furnaces have similar controls to those found on electric furnaces.

An in-depth comparison between HVAC and furnace

Choosing between an HVAC and a furnace may not be a walk in the park for some. However, one may experience these difficulties when choosing between these two heating systems because of their nature.

Whereas an HVAC system comprises three distinct units for heating, ventilating, and cooling, a furnace comprises a series of tubes that transport the heat around the building. Therefore, these two systems vary from one another in terms of their functionality, cost of installation, maintenance requirements, and installation procedures.


Although the HVAC and furnace have thermostats, these two systems vary considerably in terms of how they function. The thermostat, which is usually mounted on the building wall, detects temperature changes for an HVAC system. When there is a significant drop in the ambient temperature in the house, the thermostat sends signals to the heating unit.

The heating unit instantly begins to produce supplemental heat from warming the fuel. The supplemental heat that the heater produces then begins to circulate throughout the home through the pipes. This heating process rapidly raises the ambient temperature in the entire building.

If the temperature in the house falls above the recommended levels, the thermostat sends a signal to the coils of the HVAC system. The coils then begin to rotate rapidly and suck the hot air from the blower. The coils then redirect the hot air from the house to the outside.

At the same time, the ventilator of the HVAC system begins to suck in cool and fresh air from the outside. As a result, the calm and fresh air flows throughout the house, thus cooling the temperature. Your furnace does not work using this complex process.

Instead, it has a thermostat that detects temperature changes. When there is a fall in the ambient temperature, the thermostat detects this and triggers the furnace to produce more heat. The furnace produces more heat by burning fuel. The heat then circulates throughout the house, leading to a significant increase in the ambient temperature.


There are fundamental differences in the cost of an HVAC system and a furnace. Generally, an HVAC system is far much costlier than a furnace system. Typically, the price of an HVAC system ranges from $4,000 to $7,000.

This price range depends on many factors, including the specific type of HVAC system that one chooses, the size, and other technical specifications of the HVAC system that one chooses.

On the contrary, a furnace is cheap because it comprises one piece of equipment and not a complex system of separate units as an HVAC. However, bear in mind that the actual price varies according to multiple factors.

One of the critical factors that determine the price of a furnace is its heating capacity. The higher the heating capacity of a furnace, the more expensive it will be. Another critical factor that determines the price of a furnace is its brand.

Different manufacturers of furnaces give the prices of their products that they believe match the products’ functionality, features, and durability. Therefore, if your only consideration when choosing between an HVAC and a furnace were price, it would be a good idea to go for a furnace because it costs much less than an HVAC system.


The cost, nature, and time of installation are essential considerations when choosing between an HVAC system and a furnace. Primarily, installing an HVAC system is a highly technical and lengthy process. It may be a good idea to get a certified technician to complete this process for you.

Any small mistake in configuring any of the system’s three or four separate components may have catastrophic consequences. Thus, the technician must be keen enough to complete every step of the process according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. More so, configuring and installing the HVAC system components usually takes a long time.

This usually translates into high labor costs for the technicians who charge their clients hourly.  The cost of installing a furnace is much lower than an HVAC system. Once you have purchased your furnace, you do not have to think about the costs of installing it.

A furnace is a simple heating device that is easy to get up and running. Nevertheless, it would help if you considered the additional benefits of having an HVAC system before basing your choice entirely on the cost of installing any of these two devices.


Maintenance is an essential factor to consider when choosing between these two objects. This is the case because devices that need high maintenance levels cost much more in the end than those with relatively low maintenance needs.

In the case of a furnace, you will end up spending a minimal amount of money on maintenance. Your furnace will not need constant checks and repairs.

However, things are markedly different for an HVAC system. You may repeatedly have to recheck, service, and repair the various components of your HVAC system. The high maintenance requirements of your HVAC system ultimately translate into expensive maintenance and servicing costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the furnace part of the HVAC?

Yes, a furnace is part of an HVAC system.  An HVAC system comprises various components, including heaters,  filters, heat exchangers, compressors, etc.  Alternatively, one can purchase a stand-alone furnace as a heating device for indoor space.

However, if you use stand-alone furnaces as a heating device for your home, you will not have the chance to either ventilate or cool the home without purchasing additional devices.

Does HVAC include a furnace?

Yes, an HVAC system comprises a furnace and many other components that work together to air the heat cool air vent lights off air-conditioning your home.  However, one can purchase a stand-alone furnace as a heat source for the premises without using a comprehensive HVAC system.


There are fundamental differences between a heating furnace and a comprehensive HVAC system.  When a heating furnace is may be a stand-alone device that provides secondary heat for indoor spaces, an HVAC system is a complex combination of devices that can provide additional heat, call the air, and remove excess heat from man into space to create a very comfortable environment. 

The complexity of an HVAC system translates into high installation costs, a massive need for constant servicing and repair, and ensuring that the system is functioning ideally. 

However, an HVAC system provides additional functions that a simple furnace may not.