Heating Options Compared: Heat Pump Vs. Electric Heater

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By Debarghya Roy

Are you considering installing a heater in your home, but unsure of the differences between a heat pump and an electric heater? Heat pumps and electric furnaces are both viable options for heating up your space.

In this blog post, we will know the key differences when it comes to operating efficiency, cost, environmental impact as well as performance in different climates, that need consideration before making a decision.

Key Takeaways

  • Heat pumps are more efficient than electric heaters, resulting in higher energy savings and lower operating costs.
  • Heat pumps have a lower environmental impact compared to electric heaters, as they can be powered by renewable energy sources.
  • The initial installation cost of heat pumps is higher than that of electric heaters; however, they can offer long-term savings due to their increased efficiency and longer lifespans.
  • Maintenance costs for heat pump systems tend to be more expensive due to their complexity; however regular upkeep can prolong its lifespan and allow you greater control over fuel/energy costs.

Working Of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps work differently compared to electric heaters. Instead of converting electricity directly into heat, they move already existing air from the outside and use it to warm the interior of your home.

heat pump vs electric heater

Heat pumps often rely on a compressor unit in order to transfer the heat energy from one location to another, making them more complex than electric heating systems.

Working Of Electric Heater

On the other hand, electric heaters are much simpler than their counterparts; they don’t need any compressors or tubing for operation. 

All they do is convert an electrical current into sufficient amounts of direct-acting radiant or convective enough thermal energy so as to raise temperatures within enclosed spaces like a living room or bedroom quickly enough.

Efficiency Rating And Energy Savings: Heat Pump Vs. Electric Heater

When it comes to heating systems, efficiency plays a significant role in determining the cost, energy consumption, and overall performance. 

The following table provides a clear comparison of the efficiency ratings and energy savings of heat pumps and electric heaters.

Heating SystemHeat PumpsElectric Heaters
Efficiency RatingSEER: 14-25HSPF: 8-13AFUE: 95-100%
Energy SavingsHighLow to Moderate
ExplanationHeat pumps are more energy-efficient, especially in moderate climates. Electric heaters are less efficient than heat pumps, but their AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) is relatively high. 
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures cooling efficiency.HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures heating efficiency.This rating measures how efficiently a furnace converts electricity into heat.
Higher SEER and HSPF ratings indicate greater energy savings and efficiency.A higher AFUE rating means the electric heater is more energy-efficient, but they still consume more power than heat pumps.

Environmental Impact: Heat Pump Vs. Electric Heater

When it comes to the environmental impact of heat pumps and electric heaters, heat pumps are considered better for the environment due to their superior energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions

Let’s dive into a comparative analysis of the environmental impact of these two heating systems.

Heat PumpsElectric Heaters
Carbon EmissionsHeat pumps produce fewer carbon emissions due to their high energy efficiency, using about a third as much electricity as electric heaters.Electric heaters emit more carbon emissions due to their lower energy efficiency, contributing to greater greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy EfficiencyHeat pumps can reduce electricity usage by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating systems like baseboard heaters and furnaces.Electric heaters are less energy efficient compared to heat pumps, resulting in higher overall energy consumption.
SustainabilityHeat pumps have a lower environmental impact, as they can be powered by renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.Electric heaters are less sustainable, as they rely on electricity generated from fossil fuels, leading to higher carbon emissions and dependence on nonrenewable resources.
Actionable TipsOpt for a heat pump system to minimize your environmental footprint.If using electric heaters, minimize environmental impact by choosing 
Ensure proper maintenance of your heat pump for optimal efficiency.Energy Star-rated models.Implement energy-saving measures, like sealing air leaks and insulating your home.
Consider supplementing your heat pump with renewable energy sources, like solar panels.Consider upgrading to a more eco-friendly heating system, such as a heat pump, in the future.

Cost Comparison: Heat Pumps Vs Electric Heaters

Comparison of initial installation costs, energy efficiency factors and operating costs should be considered in order to determine which heating option is better for your home.

Initial Installation Costs

The following table illustrates the key differences in initial installation costs between heat pumps and electric heaters:

Heating SystemHeat PumpElectric Heater
Unit Cost$3,500 – $7,500$600 – $2,000
Installation Cost$1,000 – $3,000$300 – $800
Additional Equipment/ModificationsDuctwork, electrical upgrades, and outdoor unit placement may be necessaryElectrical upgrades and circuit breakers may be required

Operating Costs

When it comes to operating costs, heat pumps can offer a much lower price tag than electric heaters or furnaces. 

Not only do they use much less energy to operate, but the cost of electricity is generally more affordable compared to other types of fuel like oil and gas. 

This makes them an excellent heating option in terms of monthly bills since they can save you up to $520.18 in heating expenses per month compared to electric space heaters.

Heat pumps are also very efficient when it comes to producing the same amount of heat with less energy consumption up to 70% savings when heated with electricity as opposed to baseboard heating or natural gas furnaces.

Maintenance Costs

When choosing between a heat pump and an electric heater, maintenance costs should be taken into consideration. 

Generally speaking, heat pumps tend to require more regular maintenance than electric heaters since they are complex systems with high-powered components. 

It is important to have a professional inspect your system annually for signs of damage or decreased efficiency which could result in costly repairs down the line. 

Heat Pumps

Regular upkeep can also help ensure that the unit runs at maximum efficiency and prolong its lifespan.

High-efficiency size Heat Pumps installed by professionals proved significantly lower annual operating costs compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters about 50% less.

Electric Heaters

This means that despite the upfront cost being higher in many cases, homeowners may still come out ahead when using Heat Pumps due to low long-term feature savings compared to Electric Heaters without compromising quality or comfort levels

Lifespan And Long-Term Savings

When it comes to choosing between heat pumps and electric heaters, one major difference is the lifespan of each system. 

Heat pumps typically have a life expectancy of 15 years or more with regular maintenance while an electric heater’s lifespan is shorter at about 10 to 13 years. 

This means that homeowners looking for long-term budget solutions should consider investing in a heat pump as they will likely save money in the long run due to lower repair costs and energy savings associated with increased efficiency over time. 

Heat pumps offer greater energy savings over their entire life cycle compared to electric heaters due to their solar refrigeration cycle for efficient air conditioning and low-cost seasonal backup electricity.

Compared against traditional furnace systems using natural gas, oil, or propane fuels, air-source heat pumps use 30% less electricity than baseboard hot water systems

Performance In Different Climates: Heat Pump Vs Electric Heater

Having an understanding of the performance differences between heat pumps and electric heaters in various climates is key to selecting the most suitable heating system for your home.

Heat Pump Performance In Cold Climates

Heat pumps are a great alternative to traditional heating systems in many locations and climates but their performance can be affected by cold weather. 

Heat pumps draw heat from the outside air and transfer it into your home during the winter months.

In mild temperatures this works well even producing temperatures above outdoor ambient levels but when that temperature drops some of these heat sources can become too cold for an outdoor thermometer and less efficient overall.

The efficiency of air-source heat pumps decreases as outside temperatures decline below 45°F (7°C). This means more energy is required to achieve satisfactory interior comfort levels in colder climates, which then raises utility bills.

Electric Heater Performance In Cold Climates

In cold climates, electric heaters may or may not be sufficient for providing enough warmth inside a home. 

While electric space heaters can provide localized comfort, they don’t always have the power to adequately warm an entire room or house.

If temperatures outside dip too low, the efficiency of an electric heater will significantly decrease and struggle to maintain a comfortable temperature within the house.

Conversely, if it is only barely chilly outside, then an electric heater might be great for providing warmth with minimal effort and cost.

Installation Considerations For Heat Pumps And Electric Heaters

Before installing either a heat pump or electric heater, it is important to consider the space requirements, electrical demand, and ventilation needs of the home.

Space Requirements

Heat pumps and electric heaters require a certain amount of space for installation. 

  • For heat pump systems, 24 inches of clearance on all sides is typically needed to allow traffic flow around the system and for access to electrical connections. 
  • This is generally about 6 inches less than what’s normally required for a standard furnace, which requires 30 inches of clearance. 
  • Heat pump water heaters, on the other hand, may need different considerations in terms of room placement such as ensuring adequate air flow and distance from walls or furniture.
  • Most people don’t pay much attention to their indoor heating systems but it can be an unsightly part of your home if not properly considered. 
  • Be sure you plan enough room for your chosen heating system so it doesn’t become intrusive to the aesthetic charm of your home.

Electrical Requirements

  • Heat Pumps require a dedicated circuit with a minimum voltage of 230V and amperage of 16-20A for air source models. 
  • The energy consumption for air source heat pumps is typically 2-3x higher than traditional heating systems such as electric furnaces or gas-powered units.
  • Electric Heaters are generally energized by 110V, 15A circuits, with typical power consumption at 1kWh. 
  • Power requirements can go up to 3kW depending on the size of the heater and the room it is intended to heat.
  • It is important to carefully consider how much current each device may draw when installing either a heat pump or electric heater, as too much current can cause problems with tripped breakers, as well as over burdensome electrical bills.
  • Check for local codes in your area before attempting to install a system on your own.

Ventilation Requirements

Ventilation is an important requirement for the safe and efficient operation of both heat pumps and electric heaters. 

There are several types of ventilation systems available for use with both heating systems:

Unit Ventilators

  • These are small fans mounted in each room, usually near a window or door to an outside area. They draw fresh air into the room from outdoors while expelling stale indoor air back outside. 
  • This type of ventilation system does not recirculate air between rooms making them ideal for spaces with multiple bedrooms or when trying to isolate one bedroom from another.

Central Exhaust Systems

  • With central exhaust systems, all of the vents are connected together via ducts, allowing them to be powered by a single fan located centrally in the basement or on the top floor (depending on your home’s layout). 
  • Because these exhaust fans have large capacity motors they can pull excess moisture out of your home efficiently when compared to individual unit ventilators in every room.This pays off especially during humid summers.

Noise Levels: Heat Pump Vs Electric Heater

Comparing the noise levels of heat pumps and electric heaters, electric heaters tend to be louder, while modern heat pumps are often designed with noise reduction technology for quieter operation.

Heat Pump Noise LevelsElectric Heater Noise Levels
Heat pumps are known for being quieter than fossil fuel boilers and can even be quieter than regular air conditioners.Electric heaters, also known as electric resistant heating systems, can be quite noisy when in use. 
Indoor heat pump units typically have sound level ratings between 18 and 30 decibels.These types of systems typically include furnaces and baseboard heaters which tend to emit sound levels ranging from 60 to 80 decibels.
The exact noise level of a system depends on many factors such as the number of indoor units installed, their distance from each other, insulation levels in a room, age of the system components, fan speed settings and more.For comparison, the noise from a dishwasher in use is usually around 70 dB, while light rain registers around 50 dB.
The outdoor unit is likely to produce anywhere from 60-80 decibels (dB) depending on its size but some new models can run at as low as 55 dBs.Long-term exposure to high indoor noise levels can become bothersome for some people and can even have negative effects on their mental health.
On average newer models will generate around 70-75 dB’s with certain compressors hitting up to 90 dB’s when they’re running at full capacity .Fortunately, there are several ways homeowners can reduce the noise created by electric heater units within their homes.
Hybrid or heat pump hot water heaters may also make noise equal to 80+ dBsOne option is to replace old model units with newer models that have been optimized for low-noise operation and performance.
Homeowners wanting lower operating noises often turn towards ground source heat pumps over air source types; typical noise levels for ground source systems range between 42–45 db.Homeowners should consider replacing any worn fan belts or bearings which often contribute to excessive rumbling sounds coming from indoor furnace motors or outdoor condenser fans.

Government Incentives For Heat Pumps And Electric Heaters

Many state and local governments offer tax credits and rebates to encourage the use of more energy efficient heat pumps and electric furnaces, making them more affordable for homeowners.

Tax Credits And Rebates

Tax credits and rebates can make a big difference in the total cost of upgrading to an electric heater or heat pump. 

  • At the federal level, homeowners are eligible to receive a tax credit for 30% of their installation costs up to $2,000 starting in 2023. 
  • For heat pumps installed before then, a 10% tax credit is available up to $500 with some versions offering additional amounts from $50-$300. 

At the state and local levels there are also incentives for homeowners looking into installing heat pumps or electric heating systems:

State/Regional Economic Development Funds Alternatively, Electric Companies provide incentive payments depending upon your geographic location when customers opt onto select renewable power plans such as solar panel installations which could save money over time.
Rebates & Tax CreditsSome states offer direct monetary rebates based on upgrade efficiency that keep homeowner’s upfront costs lower while decreasing energy consumption year round.
Alternatively Electric CompaniesSome states offer direct monetary rebates based on upgrade efficiency that keep homeowner’s upfront costs lower while decreasing energy consumption year-round.

State And Local Incentives

  • State and local incentives can provide homeowners with the additional resources needed to make the switch to a heat pump or electric heater. 
  • One of these incentives is the Inflation Reduction Act, which offers tax credits, rebates, and other financial assistance for certain energy-efficient heating systems. 
  • Heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and biomass stoves/boilers are all eligible for up to $2,000 in tax credit that may be taken annually. 
  • For heat pumps specifically installed in 2022 there is a 10% tax credit or specific amount from $50-$300 depending on requirements met.
  • State programs offered across multiple states also provide low-income households with rebates at the point of sale offering substantial price reductions when purchasing a new system.

Choosing The Right Heating System For Your Home

Before deciding to install either an electric furnace or a heat pump system, homeowners should consider their specific energy needs, climate zone, and home size as well as evaluate energy costs and budget in order to make the best decision.

Consider Your Specific Needs

When selecting a heating system, it is important to consider your specific needs. 

For example, if energy efficiency is a key factor, then investing in an air source heat pump can be the way to go as they are up to 300% more efficient than electric furnaces and baseboard heating systems.

If you need constant temperature control during winter months or live in cold climates with variable outdoor temperatures, then an electric heater could be the better choice due its constant supply of hot air regardless of outside conditions.

Additionally, building dynamics and size may impact what kind of system best fits your home.

Assess Your Climate Zone And Home Size

Having the right heating system for your home is essential, and one important factor to consider in ensuring that is assessing your climate zone and home size. 

Every climate has its own unique weather patterns and characteristics; some zones are colder on average than others,have different temperature extremes, and can be impacted by higher altitudes.

Home size also plays a significant role when it comes to choosing the most efficient solution for heating your home. 

Systems designed for larger homes may not work effectively in smaller spaces while those built to accommodate small spaces may need more frequent maintenance or replacement periods if they’re too taxed with a larger configuration.

Evaluate Energy Costs And Budget

When planning to install a heating system in your home, energy costs and budget should be the top priority. 

Heat pumps require an initial installation investment that is slightly more expensive than electric heaters – however, you also need to consider the operating costs of each system.

Electric heaters use electricity to produce heat directly while air-source heat pumps use electricity to move existing ambient heat around, which can provide significant savings over time compared with electric resistance heating.

Pros And Cons Of Heat Pumps And Electric Heaters

Heat pumps and electric heaters are both popular solutions when it comes to heating your home, but each has its own set of distinct pros and cons. 

Heat pumps have a greater energy efficiency than electric heaters as they use far less electricity for the same amount of heat, making them ideal for those looking to save on their utility bills. 

In addition, heat pumps produce more even temperatures throughout the house compared to conventional electric resistance heating. 

On the other hand, electric heaters offer quick start-up times and can handle large temperature swings better than a lot of air source or ground source units. 


What is the difference between a heat pump and an electric heater?

The primary difference between a heat pump and an electric heater is that the former uses an external power source to transfer heat from one location (outside) to another (inside), while the latter generates its own thermal energy through electrical resistance. 

What advantages do heat pumps offer compared to other forms of heating?

Heat pumps provide several advantages over conventional heating systems including reduced operating costs, increased efficiency, improved comfort levels inside buildings/homes, greater environmental sustainability due to their low emissions output & potentially quieter operation depending upon type selected.

Are there any downsides associated with using a heat pump for home heating?

While typically quite reliable; failure rates may slightly increase versus traditional HVAC systems because of additional parts required making them prone to minor breakdowns if not appropriately serviced/maintained regularly throughout the life cycle due lack of knowledgeable technicians available.

How much does it cost to install a new heat pump system at home?

Installation costs for new residential heat pumps will depend on the size of the unit chosen as well any extra features equipment might include however most customers should expect to spend somewhere $4000-$7000 dollars out of pocket to get installed professionally.


Both heat pumps and electric furnaces are viable options for providing residential heating needs, however, both of these systems also come with advantages and disadvantages.

Heat Pump