Heat Pump vs Furnace: What’s The Best Way To Heat Your Home?

Heat Pump vs Furnace

Heating your home seems so simple, and in many ways it is. What makes it complicated is that there are a number of different ways to do so. And there is no one-size-fits all system that is going to be the best scenario for everybody.

For instance, heat pumps are gaining a lot of attention lately as a very efficient way to heat your home. However, furnace technology has come a long way and so a boiler may be your best bet.

The key is to look at the features of both of them so you can make an informed decision. In this article, we will give you a comparison between a heat pump and a furnace so you can find the best solution for you.

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump works in the same way a refrigerator does except in reverse. In this case, it pulls in the air outside and compresses it to make it hot instead of cold. This makes it very efficient and cost-effective.

There are a number of different sizes and many of them do double duty as a heater and air conditioner. How to know how big a heat pump you need? They are rated by ton so a 4 ton heat pump is what you would need for a large home to heat and cool. Most homes will need to go with something from a 2.5 ton to a 4 ton to get the home properly heated.

What is a furnace?

A furnace is what many people think of when they think of a heater. It is usually a boiler that burns fuel like natural gas to heat water or air. In many cases, these are hydronic boiler systems that send the hot water to radiators to heat the space.

They also come in many sizes and variations. A typical home with four people will need roughly a 80 to 100 gallon boiler depending on your hot water demand. But since most houses have a lot of appliances that need hot water, and showers at the same time, the bigger the better.

When to use a heat pump

Heat pumps are not for everybody as they are mainly for mild climates. If your average temperature outside is regularly under 35°F then they won’t heat efficiently. People living in mild areas that have an average of 35°F to 40°F as their normal lows will be able to use a heat pump.

If you live in a dry area then a heat pump is good to use because the air is a bit humid. This helps you avoid that dry, stale air that is annoying for many in the winter.

When to use a furnace

The basic gist of it is that if your average low temperature in the winter is under 35°F then you should use a furnace instead of a heat pump. This will work muchy better at heating your home.

The air they produce is also much warmer than what you get from a heat pump. Heat pumps blow air that is slightly cooler than a furnace. If winter is tough where you live then a furnace will give you that blast of hot air that you’ll need to feel comfortable.

There are various types of heat pumps—read the details!

The manufacturers offer various heat pumps and knowing basic information can ease the selection process.

There are various types of heat pumps

Air source heat pumps

Air-source heat pumps get outside air in refrigerants and compress it; they send hot air through the ducts in your house and warm every room. Typically, air-source heat pumps can run for two decades and don’t need frequent maintenances.

These units are highly affordable, especially when compared to the other systems. Expect to pay somewhere between $3,500 and $7,500 for a unit and installation.

Geothermal heat pumps

Geothermal heat pumps to heat and cool using the earth’s temperature; they collect and store it in a heat exchanger (a loop of underground pipes). The temperatures go to the indoor unit, which treats the air that later travels through the ducts in your home. The system has minimal energy consumption and it’s ideal if you focus on the yearly energy bills.

Geothermal models are highly efficient in the long run, but the initial spending is high due to the amount of work necessary for installation. As the system uses energy from the ground, the pipes have to be placed in dug-out trenches 4 feet down. The labor for installation is impressive and expensive and it depends on how deep the pipes have to be set up. Expect to pay between $13,000 and $36,000 for the unit and installation.

Gas-fired heat pumps

These pumps need access to natural gas and are less effective than other types of heat pumps. Even so, these models are excellent for commercial business and large buildings; a 5-ton system can take large rooms and buildings with various temperature zones. Residential homes larger than 4,000 sq.ft. can also benefit from gas-fired heat pumps—the costs for the unit and installation range between $4,500 and $8,000.

Ductless mini-split heat pumps

30% of the energy is lost because of the ductwork in the HVAC systems. The loss is higher when the ducts are located in unconditioned areas such as the attic. Ductless mini-split heat pumps reduce the energy loss through indoor units in every zone connected to the outdoor unit. These units are great for small houses and properties where ductwork isn’t installed yet.

The system is one of the most affordable options as the installation is straightforward and the spending for labor is lower than with other heat pumps. This is the best choice if you want a cheap and easy-to-install heat pump for your tiny house. The prices range from $1,500 to $5,000.

How should you choose the heat pump?

There are several aspects to pay attention to when selecting your heat pump:


Places without wide temperature ranges and moderate heating and cooling needs benefit most from heat pumps.

Energy efficiency

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) expresses the cooling efficiency for air-source and duct-less split systems. 13 SEER is the minimum standard for units in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and Midwest, whereas 14SEER is for the rest of the country. The minimal federal HSPF (heating seasonal performance factor) is 7.7.


Use the air conditioning contractors of America (ACCA) manual to identify the size you need for your household.

Tax credits and rebates

Some states offer a tax credit on purchasing energy-star certified geothermal heat pumps- check the web for details.

How many types of the furnace are there?

Natural gas, electric, oil, and propane are the main types of furnaces out there. An electric furnace will heat the air by exposing the heat elements, whereas the other furnaces will need a chamber/heat exchanger that warms the surrounding air. A thermostat will inform the furnace to shut off once the set temperature is achieved.

How many types of the furnace are there

Natural gas furnaces

These models are highly economical. Older models were around 65% efficient, whereas newer models can be as high as 98% efficient. Most Americans use natural gas furnaces to heat their homes—almost 50% use natural gas. The usage varies a lot between regions. For example, it isn’t easy to use natural gas at high altitudes.

Oil furnaces

These models are top-rated in the northeastern United States. They’re not as efficient as the gas furnaces (80-90%). However, the upfront spending is lower than with gas models. Customers can pay 25% more for natural gas models than for oil furnaces.

Electric furnaces

These units make for the most affordable to buy; they can be half the price of gas furnaces. They’re easy to install and can last for a decade. However, running the electric furnaces is expensive, a lot more than for gas models.

Propane furnaces

Propane is a byproduct of gas and oil production. It’s stored in tanks and 10% of U.S. households use propane furnaces. When gas and oil aren’t easy to access, propane furnaces are a dependable alternative.

What aspects count when selecting your furnace?

Even if your budget can be the decisive factor when selecting the furnace, you should pay attention to the other essential aspects.


It’s crucial to get the perfect size furnace for your household. BTUs it is the standard measure for furnaces, and you have to identify precisely how many BTUs your home needs for heating. The size of your house, ceiling height, local climate, and the number of windows are all factors to consider when calculating. We recommend you hire a qualified local HVAC expert to discover which size of furnace you need. If the furnace is too small for your heat requirements, you will never have the comfort you want. On the other hand, if it is too big, you will spend too much on the unit and electricity bill.

Climate and region

Where you live affects the availability of energy sources. Some types of furnaces are more prevalent in various areas. Gas furnaces are more effective in some regions, whereas electric models are the better choice in others.

Check out the reviews

Never buy a furnace for its low price. A low-priced furnace will need frequent repairs and run inefficiently, which leads to high spending in the long run. Check out the customers’ reviews, ask advice from an HVAC professional, and even friends who’re in the know about furnaces. HVAC professionals typically have insider information, such as firsthand experience with various types of furnaces. Some details are essential to know, and you won’t find them when buying. For example, the furnace filter pressure is critical, as the wrong type of filter on your furnace will alter its efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will you save money with a heat pump?

Heat pumps will save money on energy costs. They are affordable to run and add around $75 per month per heat pump constantly running in a house.

At what temperature do heat pumps become inefficient?

When temperatures drop to between 25 and 40F degrees, heat pumps will stop running efficiently. A heat pump can operate properly when the temperature is above 40. When the outdoor temperature decreases under 40F degrees, the heat pump is no longer efficient and uses more energy to do its job.

Is it possible to heat the home exclusively with heat pumps?

In some warm climates with warm winter, it’s possible to rely solely on the heat pumps. However, in most regions, clients should have a primary and a backup source of heat for the long periods of low temperatures—heat pumps aren’t efficient then. Oil, propane, gas, biomass, and electricity can be those sources.

How much is to buy and install a furnace?

New furnaces range between $1,795 and $6,290, and most people pay around $3,817 for a furnace. The brand, size of your home, and cost for installation are factors that weigh-in for the final spending. The type of furnace you buy can also impact the spending, especially if it’s different from the one you currently use (you go from gas to electric, for instance).

How do you know if your furnace has a pilot light?

The tiny blue flame sitting in front of one of the furnace burners is the pilot light. If your furnace features a small round knob on the gas valve with the words off/on/pilot, your furnace has a standing pilot ignition.

About Amanda

I love to buy a lot of products for the home, and dissect them out. I split them into duds and winners, and share the findings here on my site. As a reader of my site, I'm aiming for your next purchase to be an informed and inspired one.

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