While a furnace and heat pump share the function of heating your home, they use two very different methods to do so. How is a furnace different from a heat pump? A furnace creates heat through fuel combustion, while a heat pump extracts heat from the outside air. Learn more about the difference between furnace vs heat pump to maximize each of their unique advantages.

Comparing and Contrasting the Difference Between Furnace vs Heat Pump

Though the heating method is the most significant difference between furnace vs heat pump, additional factors also distinguish the two. We’ll detail how the pros and cons of furnaces and heat pumps illustrate their similarities and differences. But, first, here’s a rundown of how each system operates.

What is a Furnace?

what is a home furnace

Though most homes have them, many homeowners wonder, “What is a home furnace, and how does it work?” A furnace takes a natural fuel, such as oil or natural gas, and burns it in a combustion chamber. The resulting hot air is then forced through ductwork via a fan to heat the various rooms in your home.

What is a Heat Pump?

what is a home heat pump

What is a home heat pump and how does it differ from a furnace? Instead of burning fuel to generate heat, a heat pump uses electricity to extract warm air from outside. A compressor and pressurized refrigerant lines transfer the warmer air into your home and an air handler then circulates it through the ductwork. In warmer weather, a heat pump can also reverse function, extracting warm air from your home and replacing it with cooler air from outside.

When to Use a Furnace

Furnaces are the most prevalent source of home heating in the United States. Because they can consistently deliver a warmer heat than heat pumps, they’re ideal for use in colder climates. If you live in a place where winter temperatures consistently stay below 30℉, a furnace is most likely the right home heating choice. They’re also an easy heating method to utilize if your home has existing access to natural gas.

When to Use a Heat Pump

Since they don’t deliver as warm a heat as furnaces, heat pumps are ideal for warmer climates that don’t have long, cold winters. For this reason, heat pumps are more popular in the southeastern United States, where cold temperatures occur in short bursts. Heat pumps also take up significantly less space than a furnace, making them ideal for homes where space is at a premium.

Which is Better: Heat Pump or Furnace?

The difference between heat pump vs furnace heat gives each method unique pros and cons. 

Here’s how to determine which is better, heat pump or furnace:

Pros of Furnace Heat:

  • Warmer heating temperatures: A furnace can deliver consistently warmer heat, making it ideal for colder climates with longer winters.
  • Fewer parts and longer lifespan: Fewer parts means lesser risk of a furnace repair and a longer lifespan compared to heat pumps. A well-maintained furnace can last upwards of 20 years, compared to a maximum of 15 years for a heat pump.

Cons of furnace heat:

  • Less efficient: Even the most modern furnaces operate 95% efficiently, while heat pumps can generate 300% more energy than they use. Knowing how to save on heating costs can help increase a furnace’s efficiency.
  • Higher initial cost: Furnaces are more expensive to install, especially if you need to create your own natural gas connection.
  • Higher operating costs: In most areas, electricity is more expensive than natural gas. However, the amount of fuel a furnace requires to generate heat makes average home heating costs higher than homes with a heat pump.

Heat pump pros:

  • Dual heating and cooling functions: A heat pump can both heat and cool your home. Consequently, it’s not necessary to have a separate air conditioning system, saving time, money and maintenance.
  • Higher efficiency: Heat pumps generate significantly more energy than they consume, making them much more efficient than a furnace. The ability to both heat and cool your home also increases efficiency.
  • Lower installation and operating costs: Heat pumps don’t require a gas line connection, decreasing installation costs for homes where one would have ro be installed. They also use less energy to operate, resulting in lower utility costs than a furnace over the course of their lifespan.

Heat pump cons:

  • Lower heating temperature: A heat pump may not be able to generate enough heat for your home on very cold days. In addition, the air it blows may not feel as warm as furnace heat.
  • Increased maintenance and shorter lifespan: A heat pump requires more components to operate and runs throughout the year by heating and cooling. Consequently, it often incurs more frequent repairs and has a shorter lifespan than a furnace
  • Noise: A heat pump’s compressor and air handler generate more noise than a furnace, which operates more quietly. A furnace is also typically located away from common living areas, muffling any operating noises.

Understanding the difference between furnace vs heat pump can help you make the right heating decisions for your home. Call Dependable Heating & Air for all your home heating and cooling needs!