Homeowners often wonder about heat pumps and furnaces and what are the pros and cons of each. Among other doubts, the most popular is regarding which is better for maintaining a comfortable temperature inside the house throughout the year.

However, it’s not really a simple question of which is better. They both have pros and cons, and one might be better in an area the other one falters. The most important thing to consider is your home and your climate, along with other technicalities such as cost, maintenance, and energy efficiency.

Let’s take a look at the difference between heat pump vs furnace and figure out which is the best option for you.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite. – John Muir

Which one costs more to install?

Furnaces tend to be more expensive to install, though not always by much. They often require more space, safety precautions and respect of local regulations, which results in a costlier installation.

Heat pumps can also be expensive to install, but they have the added benefit (which we’ll discuss in more detail later) to both cool and heat your home – so the added cost can usually make up for not having to install air conditioners.

Which one costs more to maintain?

Furnaces often cost more to operate because they burn fuel. A propane or gas unit will spend fuel to continue working, and an electric furnace will also spend more energy than a heat pump overall. This is also why they are better for cold climates – they generate a lot more heat.

Heat pumps work similarly to air conditioners, as in they only use electricity to circulate air and either warm it or cool it. In a way, you can imagine it like an air conditioner for your entire house.

As for energy consumption, it’s pretty straightforward – furnaces need to create heat. Heat pumps only transfer it, which uses up much less energy.

Which one is better for cold climates?

As you’ve probably picked up by now, furnaces are better for cold climates. They generate more heat and therefore are generally used in colder regions way more than heat pumps, which under extreme cold, would be noticeably inefficient. 

This happens because the heat pump would have to take air from sometimes below zero temperatures and try to heat it. For mild climates this is not a problem because the air generally doesn’t get that cold and allows a heat pump to work effectively under most conditions. This is why heat pumps are recommended for mild climates.

Which one is more versatile?

Heat pumps are more versatile. They can heat and cool your home, making them flexible for any season in mild climates. This makes for a good investment since you won’t need to install air conditioners, as the heat pump takes care of both cold and warm climates alike.

But because they don’t generate heat themselves, heat pumps are not suited for extreme cold. They are certainly not useless under these conditions, but they will struggle and use up more energy, perhaps even needing other types of heating to make for a more comfortable temperature. At least when we’re talking about temperatures close or below zero.

Which one lasts longer?

Both furnaces and heat pumps have similar lifespans, estimating at around 20 years for furnaces and 15 years for heat pumps. Since furnaces are often only used for a few months a year, they tend to need less maintenance overall, making the usual wear and tear a bit slower.

Need help figuring out if a heat pump or furnace is better for you? Contact a local heating pro today!


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