Heat Pump vs Furnace

Picking between a heat pump and furnace is often a daunting prospect for most homeowners looking to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures throughout the year. If you are facing the same struggle, worry no more. Experts at Conejo Valley Home Services have got you covered with key differences between a furnace and heat pump, so you make the right choice during your next purchase of a home heating system.

What is A Furnace?

As a heating unit, a furnace burns fuel such as propane and gas to generate heat, which is then distributed via ducts and vents throughout your home. The main components of your furnace are:

  • Burner: It is where the pilot light or igniter ignites fuel and air mixture to form combustion.
  • Heat exchanger: Starting at the burner assembly and ending approximately where the vent connects to the furnace, the heat exchanger transfers heat from the burner to the unit’s exterior.
  • Blower: It blows hot air through the ducts and into your home.
  • Flue: It is a galvanized metal pipe that exhausts hazardous, gaseous combustion byproducts, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

What is A Heat Pump?

On the other hand, a heat pump is a versatile equipment that acts as an air conditioner in summer and a heater when it is cold. During summer, the heat pump transfers heat from your home to the outdoors. It moves heat from the outside into your house during winter, warming the building in the process. Unlike furnaces, heat pumps do not generate heat or use fuel sources. Instead, they rely on electricity and refrigerant to transfer heat between the outdoor and indoor environs.

What’s the Difference? Heat Pump vs. Furnace

Installation Cost

The cost of installing a geothermal heat pump can run high due to the extra labor and materials involved in the process. Often, an HVAC contractor will prefer to install a furnace rather than a heat pump if your neighborhood has easy access to gas. All in all, experts from a competent HVAC company can help you determine your best option as far as installation costs are concerned.

Energy Efficiency

Traditional furnaces were notorious for being aggressive energy consumers, but new models boast an impressive efficiency rate (AFUE rating) as high as 98%. This means that only 2% of the burnt fuel escapes with the gaseous by products. Transferring heat using electricity, a heat pump can offer as high as 300% efficiency, using one electricity unit to move three heat energy units. Generally, heat pumps provide over 100% efficiency in most temperate climates.

Air Quality

Gas furnace systems and heat pumps often have similar air quality considerations. Unlike propane and natural gas furnace systems, heat pumps do not use combustion fuels, freeing you from the risk of gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning. Regardless of the heating equipment installed in your home, you can use products, such as a whole-house air purifier, to optimize your home’s air quality.

Cold Climate Effectiveness

Since heat pumps transfer warmth from outdoor air, the warmer the outdoor air, the more heat they supply. However, as temperature drops, heat pumps become increasingly less efficient. And whereas you may augment the heat pump with supplemental systems during the cold days, you may incur extra costs due to energy inefficiencies. In contrast, a furnace is designed to generate heat on the coldest days.

Noise Issues

Whereas both heat pumps and furnaces can produce strange sounds when damaged, the heat pump is conventionally the noisier of the two during normal operations because it has more moving parts. The only sound a furnace in good condition makes is a soft whoosh of air.

Lifespan and Maintenance

A properly maintained furnace can last for almost 20 years, in contrast to a heat pump, which boasts an average lifespan of 15 years. Still, fewer parts could potentially malfunction or break down in a furnace, meaning less repair and maintenance requirements.

Location Matters

Does your location experience harsh winters, where temperatures consistently rank below the freezing point? If so, a furnace could be the perfect fit for your home because it does not rely on outdoor temperature to generate heat. Contrarily, an electric heat pump might be your best choice if you live in a mild climate such as the Southeast region or an area with affordable electricity prices.


If it Heats and Cools, why is it Called a Heat Pump?

Simple. It pumps heat. During hot weather conditions, a heat pump moves heat from your home’s interior to the outside. In winter, it moves heat from outdoor air to your home’s interior.

Is there Heat in the Outdoor Air in Winter?

Yes. Outdoor air at 0 degrees Fahrenheit contains 82% of the heat available at 100 degrees F. Your heat pump extracts this heat and transfers it into your home.

How Often Should I Replace Heat Pump or Furnace Filter?

Your furnace or heat pump filter prevents dust and dirt particles from entering the air inside your home. In the long run, the pollutants may build up and clog the filter. Consider replacing a standard filter monthly to prevent costly repairs and breakdowns if you use your heat pump or furnace daily. During milder seasons, replace the filter every two to three months. However, thicker filters require fewer replacements.

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The Bottom Line

With the above differences between a furnace and heat pump, you should no longer struggle to pick the most suitable equipment for your home. However, choosing the right furnace or heat pump requires a professional HVAC contractor’s intervention because several aspects determine the right size and model, from your home size, climate zone, heating requirements, budget, and others.

If you need help with choosing or installing a heat pump or furnace, Conejo Valley Home Services has got you covered with industry-leading HVAC services in Conejo Valley and surrounding areas. We are a licensed, insured, bonded, BBB-accredited, and family-owned business boasting over four decades of industry experience and fully committed to our clients’ satisfaction. Give us a call today at 805-499-0448 to discuss your heating requirement or receive a free quote for your new heat pump or furnace installation.