What Is The Difference Between Forced Air And Central Heat?

HVAC systems can be confusing. If you are considering installing them, you may be struck by the many different terms used in the catalogs and from the contractors.

One of the biggest confusions around HVAC installation is the difference between forced area and central heat systems.

The main difference between forced air and central heat HVAC systems is that forced air is the system of ductwork and ventilation that delivers heated air around the rooms of your home, and central heat is the central heating appliance that uses the air in the home, heats it, and blows it out.

The difference between forced air and central heat HVAC installation is substantial. Each can be used together and usually are.

Understanding each will help you to make a better decision for your HVAC installation.

Our guide will highlight the differences between each and how each works together to give you a comfortably regulated temperature in your home. 

The Difference Between Forced Air and Central Heat

In the world of HVAC understanding, the difference between forced air and central heat is critical because installing one may require additional ductwork and ventilation.

You may be surprised to find out that both forced air and central heat are systems that depend on each other to heat your home properly.

HVAC’s abbreviation stands for heating, ventilation, and air condition, and you need a forced-air system alongside the central heating and air conditioning system working together to get all three.

Image Credit: servicechampions.net

Forced air is the ventilation system working with the blower of your furnace, and the central heat refers to the furnace appliance creating and blowing out that heat into ducts.

Detailed below the functions of each of these systems with more detail about how they each work independently and together to help keep the climate of your home reasonably cool or hot. 

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(Source: Ernst Heating and Cooling)

Forced Air

Forced air requires ductwork to circulate heated or conditioned air throughout your home. 

The other part of a forced-air system is the furnace that produces the heat, which is composed of a combustion heater, heat exchanger coils, and a blower.

Forced air systems typically have both heating and cooling components.

The blower that is attached to the ventilation ducts is how the forced air system and the central heating and air conditioning appliance are connected. 

The function of forced air is to work with the heating and air conditioning appliance to spread the hot or cold air into the home.

A forced-air system uses the air in the home, heats it over the hot coils or foils that are in contact with the combustion heater, and is then blown out to the rest of the house by the blower through the duct ventilation to all rooms of the home.

(Source: Masters Heat Cool)

Central Heat

Central heat is the term that defines the type of heating in a home where a central appliance produces heat through fuel combustion.

The centrally located appliance is usually located in the garage or the basement and burns either oil or gas.

Some systems have a hybrid model that burns both oil and gas interchangeably.

The function of the central heat appliance is rather simple.

The appliance is known as a furnace, which functions to heat the air of the home, pass that air over a heat exchange, and then the heated air is dispersed out of the appliance by a blower.

This form of combustion is a typical form of heating in North American homes.

Usually, central heating appliances have their blowers hooked up to ductwork that ventilates and runs throughout the home to each room.

By delivering the heated air to each part of the home, the whole home is heated simultaneously.

There is usually only one thermostat in the home where the temperature can be adjusted.

When the blower of the furnace in central heating is hooked up to the forced air system’s ventilation ductwork, the two work together to deliver the heat of the furnace to the entire home through the many vents that can be opened.

(Source: Trane)

Are Forced Air and Central Heat Safe? 

Since the process of forced air works with the blower of the central heating appliance, which uses combustion of fuels such as oil or gas to create heat, the system can be seen as dangerous.

The design of forced air has safety measures built into the system to keep you safe while keeping you warm.

Even though there is only one thermostat in most of the forced air systems in homes where you can adjust the temperature up or down, there are usually several overheating sensors that protect the system from overheating, burning, melting, or causing fires in the ductwork or appliance. 

Even without the heating and burning risk of forced air, some might worry about the forced air’s cleanliness going through dirty ducts.

Allergens and irritants can be released into your home with a forced-air system, even if you are using an air filter.

However, cleaning the forced air system of ducts can be done periodically with the right tools or by hiring a team of professionals.

(Sources: Pick HVAC, Smarter House)

The Efficiency of Forced Air Heating

There are many benefits to circulating the heat from a central heating appliance with a forced-air ventilation system.

Some of the most important pros and cons for you to consider before installing a forced-air ventilation system are listed below:


  • Will heat your home quickly
  • Easy and efficient installation process
  • Relatively cost-effective compared to other ways of dispersing heat throughout your home
  • Incredibly reliable design of ductwork that will last for decades


(Source: Masters Heat Cool)

Is a Central Heat Furnace Better than Space Heaters? 

The debate of using your natural gas or oil central heat furnace versus other space heaters is based on wanting to save money.

If you are the type of person who lives in one room of the house and is not worried about other rooms getting cold, a space heater may work for you and save you money on your utility bill.

In any other scenario, the central heat system’s efficiency coupled with forced air ventilation is a much better option for heating your home quickly and effectively.

Even without the forced air ventilation system, a furnace’s efficiency to heat more than just one room is better and more comfortable with an option than simply using an electric space heater.

(Source: Team Electric Inc.)

In Conclusion

Forced air and central heat work together in your home as a way to create warmth from a combustion appliance in a centrally located place in your home that is then blown out through the forced air duct working through vents and into the rooms and halls of your home. 

Some homes have furnaces without the ductwork of forced air systems.

In this case, the blower simply blows the warmed air straight out of the appliance and into the room where it is standing.

However, the disbursement of the warm air through forced air ventilation is far superior. It is a great upgrade to any home with central heat.

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