Heat Pumps Vs. Furnaces: What's The Difference?


In the world of HVAC in the United States, there are two popular methods for heating your home: furnaces and heat pumps. The majority of American homes use furnaces. In fact, 47% of homes use natural gas–powered furnaces, while 36% use electric-powered furnaces. But there is the other method: the heat pump. Heat pumps are typically used in hotter and more humid climates with mild winters. That includes about 12.1 million American households. But you might wonder what the real difference is between a furnace and a heat pump and how it affects you as a homeowner.


The main difference between a furnace and a heat pump is how the device obtains or creates warm air and gets that air into your home. The biggest difference is that, unlike a furnace, a heat pump isn't creating heat. It's simply moving heat from one area to another, powered by electricity. A furnace, on the other hand, burns fuel to create heat, typically natural gas.

Energy Efficiency

One major difference between a heat pump and a furnace is that a heat pump relies entirely on electricity to move heat from one space to another. Because of this, it runs more efficiently than a furnace, especially in areas with mild winters and lower electrical costs. Because an air-sourced heat pump is simply moving already existing warm air and not creating it, it can use approximately 50% less electricity than a traditional furnace.

Better Air Quality

Another major difference between a heat pump and a traditional gas furnace is that, because it's entirely powered by electricity, a heat pump doesn't rely on the combustion of fossil fuels for operation. So not only does the heat pump not use fossil fuels, but it also isn't creating any harmful carbon dioxide emissions as a result. The air quality in and around your home is better than it would be with a traditional furnace. Because of their energy efficiency and lack of emissions, some areas of the country will pay you to switch to heat pumps from less efficient heating methods. The city of Seattle, for example, offers a $2000 rebate for homeowners that are willing to switch from an oil furnace to an electric heat pump.

Better Air Comfort

Another benefit of a heat pump is that, unlike a furnace, it's not pumping hot and dry air into your home. Because it's transferring already existing air, the air it transfers will contain its natural humidity or moisture. One of the biggest problems with furnaces is that, in the process of heating air, they dry out the air in your home. Many homeowners install humidifiers in addition to furnaces to try and combat this problem. However, with a heat pump, you won't have to worry about the air in your home drying up.

Climate Matters

One important factor to consider when choosing between a furnace and a heat pump is your climate. Heat pumps function best in areas with mild winters because they struggle to transfer enough warm air during winters with below-freezing temperatures. If you live in the Midwest, the Rockies, or up north where winters are harsh, an air-sourced heat pump may not be the best option for reliable heat in harsh winters. However, if you live in the Southeast, Southwest, or the Pacific Northwest, where winters are quite mild and rarely dip below freezing, a heat pump is a great, energy-efficient option. While it's possible to install supplemental systems that can take over when temperatures get cold enough to make a heat pump less effective, you will lose some of the benefits of the heat pump's energy efficiency and zero-carbon emissions.

To learn more about heat pumps, contact an HVAC contractor in your area.


7 April 2020

HVAC System Repair Guides

Hello, my name is Cece. Welcome to my site about HVAC repair and equipment replacement. The heating and air conditioning systems at my place of business were always failing at the most inopportune times. After bringing in a professional to take a look at the problem, we learned that the components were exhibiting signs of extreme wear. We decided to perform an equipment upgrade to restore the functionality of our HVAC system. The HVAC repairs fully solved the problem in very little time. I will use this site to talk about similar repairs you might need to complete on your own HVAC systems. Thanks for coming by.