The Ultimate Showdown:Heat Pump Vs Furnace Which One Wins?

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By Debarghya Roy

When deciding between a heat pump and a furnace to heat your home, there are several factors to consider. 

In this blog post, we’ll take an in-depth look at how each system works, and the differences between them and compare the energy efficiency and cost savings.

How does Heat Pump Work?

Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Heat pumps are mechanical-compression cooling and heating systems that use a compressor to transfer heat between two mediums, such as outside air and inside air.

Using refrigerant, the heat source is compressed which causes it to become significantly hotter or colder than its original temperature.

This hot or cold energy is then moved through tubes into your home where it can be used for heating and cooling. 

The process of compressively moving the heat from one place especially works well in moderate climates since it does not require a constant change in temperature flow adjustment like standard furnaces with combustion chambers.

Heat pumps come in three main types: 

  • Air-to-air 
  • Water source  
  • Geothermal source

How Furnaces Work?

Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Furnaces are one of the most common heating systems found in homes today. They work by taking a fuel source, such as natural gas, propane, or oil, and burning it to generate heat.

When the thermostat detects that heat is needed in your home, electricity ignites burners which mix the fuel with an appropriate amount of air to create combustion essentially burning off part of the fuel.

The heated air is then distributed throughout the home through ducting and vents.

This combustion produces heat which is channeled through a metal chamber called a heat exchanger where it heats up more when passing over coils filled with coolant liquid or refrigerant gas before being delivered into your house through ducts connected to blowers that push hot air throughout all parts of your home.

The type of furnace you have will depend on what type of fuel is used natural gas furnaces can be up to 98% efficient while an oil furnace may range from 80-90%.

Operation And Benefits: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Heat pumps and furnaces differ significantly in their mode of operation. A heat pump is an electrically powered system that uses outdoor air or underground temperatures to generate heat, while a furnace burns fuel such as natural gas or oil directly to generate heat.

Heat pumps are often more energy-efficient than furnaces, so they can bring down electricity bills by up to 50% compared with electric resistance heating systems. 

In areas with no access to natural gas, using a heat pump instead of a furnace can save on fuel costs too.

Energy Efficiency: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Comparing the energy efficiency and cost between heat pumps and furnaces can help homeowners make an informed decision when selecting a heating system.

Energy Efficiency Of Heat Pumps

The energy efficiency of heat pumps is an important factor to determine their performance the factors affecting it are given in the form of advantages and disadvantages in the table below,

Advantage Disadvantage
Heat pumps provide an energy efficient and cost-effective alternative to traditional heating systems such as gas or electric furnaces.
Instead of using electricity to generate heat like a furnace does, heat pumps work by transferring existing outside air through their coils and into the home.
This means that it can be up to seven times more efficient than traditional heating systems, which in turn helps you save on your monthly energy bills. 
In addition, since they rely on electricity rather than fuel sources for power, running a heat pump is also much safer for the environment compared to burning natural gas or propane.
However, there are some drawbacks associated with using this type of system, especially when it comes to cold weather performance. 
Heat pumps are not able to transfer temperatures below freezing levels effectively which means they may struggle during extremely cold winter days where you need good levels of indoor climate control quickly.
They generally perform better in milder climates.The weather conditions don’t drop drastically during the winter months but this limitation could affect those living in regions with harsher winters.

Energy Efficiency Of Furnaces

Furnaces have long been a go-to option for residential heating, with many households relying on natural gas and oil as their main heat source. 

However, there are several key factors professionals should consider when recommending a furnace system to their clients as their energy efficiency is more up to 21 rating.

One major advantage of furnace systems is their ability to provide consistent indoor temperatures in any climate due to its all-in-one design that continuously circulates hot air throughout the home.

Cost Considerations: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

When deciding between a heat pump and furnace for your home, cost should be a major factor in the equation. 

Both systems come with upfront costs along with operating costs that must be weighed against each other to make an informed decision.

When looking at initial installation, the price of both systems depends on factors such as climate control, insulation levels, and air sealing requirements. 

Cost Considerations Of Heat Pump 

Heat pumps typically require more upfront investment but can offer long-term cost savings due to their higher energy efficiency rates when compared to furnaces in both heating and cooling mode.

Cost Considerations Of Furnace

With electric furnaces, however, they may have a lower up front purchase point since they don’t involve gas lines or tank installations like traditional oil or gas models would have although ongoing electricity prices must also be taken into consideration here too.

Safety Considerations: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

When considering heat pumps and furnaces, safety should always be a top priority. Make sure to review the safety considerations in each type of heating system before making your decision.

Heat Pump Safety

The safety of installed and operated heat pumps cannot be taken for granted. Although they use electricity to generate heat, there is still the risk of electric shock from contact with live components if not properly handled by a certified technician.

Furthermore, most heat pumps are powered by refrigerants; leaks can be hazardous if inhaled so any issues must be immediately addressed with professional technicians equipped with the right tools and certification.

Having good ventilation also helps reduce any potential health risks associated with leaking coolants when it comes to installing or operating a heat pump system in your home.

Gas Furnace Safety

Gas furnace safety should not be taken lightly. Great care needs to be taken to install, maintain and use the system safely to avoid potential hazards due to carbon monoxide poisoning as well as costly repairs or replacements of the unit itself.

The chimney must always be properly installed and maintained, while adequate ventilation is key for the safe operation of the system. 

Gas furnaces can cause a significant risk of leaks that can contaminate air quality inside a home or business if left unchecked and untreated correctly by an experienced professional HVAC technician.

It is important that homes with gas furnaces are regularly checked by knowledgeable technicians who are experts in all associated parts like combustion systems and switches as well as other components such as filters and exhaust pipes respectively .

Additionally, installing carbon monoxide detectors is an essential means of helping protect against accidents caused by accidental leakage from natural gas units.

Oil Furnace Safety

Oil furnaces can be dangerous if not properly maintained and inspected. 

One of the biggest risks is carbon monoxide poisoning, which occurs when combustion products such as noxious gasses and particles from burning fuel don’t completely escape out the vent but rather leak back into the home.

This can occur in any type of heating system with a combustible fuel source such as natural gas or propane. 

It is important to ensure that all components are functioning correctly by regularly inspecting your oil furnace and undertaking regular maintenance according to manufacturer guidelines.

Having a professional HVAC contractor inspect and maintain your oil furnace annually will help ensure it operates safely and efficiently for years to come.

Choosing The Right Heating System For Your Home: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Choosing the right heating system for your home is an important decision, so it’s worth taking time to research the various options and understand how they match up with your climate, budget and needs.

Consider Climate And Heating Needs

When choosing between a heat pump and a furnace, it is important to assess the current heating system and the local climate. 

Different climates and weather conditions can greatly affect how efficient both types of systems are in providing warmth.

For example, in warmer climates heat pumps may be much more effective than furnaces at keeping homes comfortable throughout the year, while colder climates tend to favor furnaces over heat pumps due to their ability to generate greater amounts of heat faster on very cold days. 

Areas with poor insulation often need stronger heating systems that provide more consistent long-term performance compared to areas with higher quality insulation installations.

Evaluate Insulation And Air Sealing

Insulation and air sealing are important considerations when choosing between a heat pump or furnace for your home. 

Insulating your home will help keep the warm air in during cold months and the cool air out during hot months, allowing your heating system to work more efficiently.

Check on the system that requires cost free and quality insulation.

Properly sealed homes can reduce energy costs by up to 20% as they reduce the amount of heated or cooled air that is lost through gaps around windows, doors, and other openings in homes.

Examples of insulation improvements include adding additional layers of insulation in attics or installing new window treatments with better insulation properties than older models.

Sealing cracks on exterior surfaces such as window frames etc., can help greatly in preventing drafts from entering living spaces.

Look At Upfront And Long-Term Costs

When choosing between a heat pump and a furnace for your home, it is important to consider both upfront and long-term costs. 

Installation costs can vary greatly based on the type of system you choose and local labor rates, but installing a heat pump may be more expensive than adding a gas or oil furnace due to the complexity of the system.

Additionally, some states offer consumer incentives such as cashback rebates and tax credits for high efficiency systems. Be sure to check with your local government as these savings can significantly lower upfront costs.

In terms of running costs, electric furnaces are generally less expensive to operate than either gas or oil furnaces over time. They also typically have shorter lifespans compared with other options such as air source heat pumps that can last up to 15 years.

However, in colder climates where supplemental heating may be needed to supplement the primary heating system during certain months of year, electric furnaces tend not require additional cost whereas an air source heat pump may become inefficient when temperatures drop below freezing.

Consult With A Professional HVAC Contractor

When deciding between a heat pump and furnace for home heating, it is important to consult with a professional HVAC contractor. 

An experienced HVAC contractor will be able to assess your home’s needs, such as its location and layout, the climate in which it resides, and the efficiency of its insulation.

Based on these factors they can recommend the best type of heating system for you whether that’s a gas or oil furnace or an electric-powered heat pump that meets both your immediate requirements and budget while also taking into account potential long-term savings.

Maintenance Of Heat Pumps And Furnaces

Regular maintenance is essential for heat pumps and furnaces to ensure efficient operation, extend their lifespan and avoid costly repairs. 

Heat pumps tend to require slightly less maintenance than furnaces due to their simpler construction, but both systems need regular checks to keep them working properly. 

Depending on the type of heating system in use, recommended maintenance may include:

Cleaning or replacing air filters 

This should be done at least every 3 months as an unclean filter can reduce airflow in your heating system leading to reduced efficiency and higher energy bills.

Checking refrigerant levels 

Heat pump systems rely heavily on refrigerant which needs adjusting depending on a number of factors during installation so should be checked regularly by a professional contractor who is equipped with the correct safety equipment, such as ear goggles and protective gloves necessary when handling refrigerants like R-410A or R22 gas safely.

Inspecting electrical connections 

Most modern heat pumps are fitted with power controls that must also be inspected periodically by a qualified HVAC technician along with checking any exposed wiring throughout the entire unit including around condensers pipes etc.

Lubricating moving parts 

Both furnace fan bearings/blower motors need lubrication using oil specifically developed for these components; this will help reduce noise and encourage smooth running also extending useful life whenever possible if service is provided either professionally or DIY.

Monitoring exhaust flue gasses

All forms of powered burning must have adequate ventilation usually involving chimney stacks/flues Regular inspections are needed here too especially checking the condition of seals joints etc.

Common Repair Issues And Costs: Heat Pump Vs Furnace

Neglecting regular maintenance on both furnaces and heat pumps can cause issues like dust buildup, short-cycling of components, blocked drains, frozen coils, electrical problems from lack of lubrication, mechanical wear and tear from lack of cleaning as well as clogged air filters which impede airflow. 

All these problems are costly to repair with a heat pump with a range between $100 – $490 depending on the severity and furnace will be $250 – $600.

Checking your system annually may also lead to greater energy savings since replacing parts covered under warranty could save unnecessary expenses due to unexpected breakdown costs put onto unassuming customers who weren’t aware something was even wrong until damage had already occurred.

Warranty Considerations For Heat Pump And Furnace

For heat pumps and furnaces, one of the most important considerations is the warranty that provides coverage for future repairs or replacements. 

Most manufacturers offer a variety of warranties with different lengths and conditions.

Warranty period of heat pumps is generally 20-25 years and furnace is 10-18 years.

Labor Warranty

A labor warranty comes in both heat pump and furnace that generally covers all services provided by a professional HVAC contractor related to the installation and maintenance of the system. 

It typically lasts up to one year after purchase, but some companies may offer longer terms depending on their policies.

Manufacturer Warranty

On the other hand, a manufacturer’s part warranty covers specified parts related to abnormal wear or deterioration of heat pump and even furnace over time due predominantly to manufacturer defect or improper installation/maintenance service issues within certain limits depending on brand specifications.

Indoor Air Quality Considerations For Furnaces And Heat Pumps

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is an important factor to consider when evaluating any type of heating system. 

Gas furnaces can potentially create indoor air contamination from carbon monoxide, other gasses, and particles which could be harmful to occupants’ health.

To help reduce pollutants heat pumps have the ability to trap dust more efficiently than traditional furnaces do by using a larger filter and better direct airflow. 

Additionally, whole-home air cleaners and UV lights can also eliminate contaminants for either a furnace or a heat pump system.

Heat pumps offer several advantages over gas in terms of IAQ due to their design involving fewer fans that circulate filtered air directly into rooms while reusing it at the same time.

This helps keep the home cleaner with less airborne dust making its way around the living space. 

Choosing a high-efficiency ENERGY STAR rated product will also ensure that your systems performance is not impacted by leaking combusted fumes from inefficient models.

Air Filter Options For Furnaces And Heat Pumps

Air filters are an important consideration for any HVAC system, including both furnaces and heat pumps. 

Properly installed, high quality air filters help to improve the indoor air quality and filter out dust particles from circulating throughout your home. 

Different types of air filters are available depending on the type of furnace or heat pump you have in your home.

Electrostatic Filters 

Electrostatic air filters trap airborne particles using static electricity generated by a network of metal fibers woven into the filter media. The layers act as barriers that capture and retain different sizes of particles while allowing airflow through them without clogging or obstructing it.

HEPA Filters

High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are designed to remove up to 99% percent of all allergens such as dirt, smoke, pollen, pet dander, hair strands, dust mites and more from being spread through your home’s ventilation system with minimal resistance to airflow through the filter material itself.

Pleated Filters 

Pleated furnace/heat pump filters made of synthetic materials provide good filtration at lower costs than other kinds but tend not to last quite as long before needing replacement when compared to alternatives like electrostatic or HEPA style systems on certain models offered.

Performance In Cold Weather: Heat Pumps Vs Furnaces 

When it comes to the performance of heat pumps and furnaces in cold weather, there are a few things to consider. 

  • Heat pumps require an ambient temperature above freezing for effective operation, but these systems can be equipped with auxiliary electric resistance heating or an additional gas furnace as backup in colder climates.
  • The efficiency of furnaces is generally higher than that of heat pumps regardless of climate. 
  • Insulation and sealing play a huge role when measuring the efficiency rating such as old homes with extensive drafts may not perform well even if they are fitted with high efficiency furnaces due to significant energy losses from underfloor and wall cavities.
  • If a home is located in an area prone to consistent subzero temperatures during winter months then installing a smaller model boiler could lead to higher costs.
  • It’s important also to consider how your particular climate influences both types of installations.

Supplemental Heating Options: Heat Pumps Vs Furnaces 

Supplemental heating options help to provide extra heat output using various modules. Some of the common supplement options are given below,

Electric Resistance Heating 

Electric resistance heating is the most common supplement in homes with a heat pump since it doesn’t require extra fuel sources. 

The downside to this type of system is that it uses a lot of electricity, which has the potential to increase energy bills significantly during colder months.

Gas or Oil-Fired Furnaces

Gas and oil-fired furnaces provide an efficient source of supplemental heat for homes that don’t use electric resistance heating. 

While these systems are costlier up front, their environmental impact can be lower over time due to higher levels of efficiency and fewer emissions created by burning natural gas or oil instead of electricity.

Dual Fuel Systems 

This type offers both electric and gas or oil powered options through two components: 

An air source heat pump (electrical) and another energy source such as natural gas or home heating oil, typically combined within one package unit. 

As temperatures drop outside, hybrids adjust accordingly by switching between either electrical power when below 35°F degrees, moving along until full combustion firing begins at 26°F degrees Celsius. 


When deciding between a heat pump and furnace for your home, it is important to consider several factors including cost, energy efficiency, performance in different climates, and maintenance needs.

Heat Pump