Heat Pump vs Furnace – Compare and Choose Your Best Option

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Last updatedLast updated: May 01, 2021

As a homeowner, you certainly are looking to make the temperature indoors as pleasant as possible all year round. However, heating becomes even more important in the bitter winter months. During this time, you are thinking about how effective the heating system that you have is. If it has started giving signs of wear and age, you will also be thinking about getting a replacement. When determining the heating system to use, you might come across a heat pump and the furnace. Many homeowners are divided on the heat pump vs furnace issue, so we have taken the time to consider some of the characteristics of each type of heating system.

Before you decide on buying a furnace or a heat pump, read through this article. By reading the information provided here, you will find it easier to find the best option for your requirements this year.

Heat Pump

There are several options for heating and cooling the home, and although gas furnaces are popular and cool, several people are opting to go with a heat pump to care for their heating needs. Before you join the crowd of users, it is important to first consider what this equipment is and see what the benefits and drawbacks are.

The heat pump is a piece of excellent equipment for heating the home. Despite the name, though, it can also be used for cooling your home in the summer months. The working operation of this equipment is rather simple. It will move heat from outdoors indoors. And when the indoors are warm, it works to move the heat from indoors outdoors.

Heaters on the market work by changing the electricity to heat, but the heat pump does not do that. On the contrary, it draws the heat from around the home and uses the pre-existing heat to warm you up. It does the same thing in reverse to cool the home.

Pros and Cons of the Heat Pump

As with other equipment on the market, this equipment comes with advantages and drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Energy efficiency. One of the best things about this equipment is that it is highly efficient at heating or cooling the home. Compared to other heaters, there is a very small level of wastage will this type of heater. With this equipment, you can rest assured of making the home cool while reducing the cost of running the equipment
  • Great air quality. Another advantage of using the heat pump is that it gives you better air quality. During the summer or winter, your regular air quality equipment might be working overtime. With the heat pump, you can reduce the work done by your humidifier or dehumidifier. It can not only keep you warm or cool, depending on the climate but can also help you to control humidity,
  • When using any equipment, you likely are looking to use it without disturbance. Although it is not as quiet as a furnace, it is better than several other options. It is as good as a space heater and the best models can rival the best space heaters.
  • You certainly want to be safe while getting the necessary heat during the cold months. If safety is a big deal to you, then you will have an excellent time with this equipment. Compared with gas furnaces and the like, there is a lower risk of danger when using the heat pump.

Cons of Heat Pump:

There are certain drawbacks to using a heat pump. Here, we will consider some of the biggest disadvantages of using them.

  • Cost of Installation. While this equipment later turns out to be efficient, the cost of setting it up the first time can be rather high. You have to employ the services of a professional for installation. You might have to link it to gas lines and heating systems which can increase installation costs.
  • Efficiency in cold weather. Since these work to bring warm air from outdoors inside the house, it can be inefficient when the outdoor weather is really cold. If the conditions are extreme, it is better to have another means of providing heat.


Furnace

When it comes to heating, the furnace remains the most popular option for most people. It offers plenty of advantages.

Types of Furnace

There are different types of furnaces on the market, let’s see some of them.

1. Gas

The gas furnace is the most popular type of furnace found in the homes of people today. In this type of furnace, gas is burned to produce heat in the cold months. The gas is usually drawn from the municipal line. One of the advantages of this type of furnace is that it produces plenty of heat and is relatively cheap to run.

2. Oil

If you don’t have natural gas, you could always opt for the oil furnace. This is another common type of furnace used. It is very effective at creating heat, although the gas furnace is still more effective than it.

3. Electric Furnace

This is the safest type of furnace you can install. As the name implies, it relies on electricity to work. Instead of burning gas or oil, this comes with heating elements that then work to transfer heat to the air. Some of the benefits of this type of furnace are that it is cheap, compact, and easy to use.

However, it does not offer the same level of efficiency.


Comparisons of Furnace and Heat Pump

In this section, we will compare the two types of heating systems to help you to determine which one best suits your needs.

Heat Generation

A major difference between the heat pump and the furnace is how it generates heat. Furnaces are popular in ancient cultures and have endured until now. If you are thinking of getting a gas furnace, know that this type of furnace produces heat by burning natural gas or propane. If you are running an electric furnace, it obviously works using electricity. You will observe that the electric furnace works and generates heat in a similar way to how other heat-producing appliances like a hairdryer produces heat. The hot air that you get from the electric furnace is what you get from the air blown over a heated element.

On the other hand, the heat pump uses another process to generate heat to keep you warm in the winter. Instead of burning fuel or blowing air over a heated element, the heat pump draws its heat from the outdoors. It then transfers this heat to the indoors.

Therefore, while the heat pump doesn’t generate heat by itself, so to speak, its appeal is in its ability to absorb heat using pressurized refrigerant and then transfer this absorbed heat into the interior of the home.

So, in summary, heat pumps do not generate any heat but just transfer the heat.

Climate

As we have seen above, the heat pump does not generate heat on its own but only transfers the heat. Since this is how it works, a heat pump will work best when the air outside is warm. The hotter the air that is outdoors, the warmer the air that it transfers inside. Now, this does not mean that the air outside has to be very hot before it can give you heat indoors, after all, heat pumps can still give you warmth even if the weather outside is freezing. The downside is that colder outdoor air means the pump is doing more work, which will reduce the efficiency.

Therefore, you have to consider the climate where you live. For instance, if you live in Climate zones 1-3 Trusted Source IECC climate zone map - Energy.gov A2012 edition of code establishing a baseline for energy efficiency by setting performance standards for the building envelope (defined as the boundary that separates heated/cooled air from unconditioned, outside air), mechanical systems, lighting systems and service water heating systems in homes and commercial businesses. basc.pnnl.gov , then getting a heat pump might be a wise decision. However, if you reside in higher zones, the drop in efficiency outweighs any benefit that you might gain from using a heat pump. Therefore, for such zones, it is advised that you opt for a furnace. Only the geothermal heat pump will come with enough efficiency to still be useful in such conditions. This type of heat pump works so well in such weather because it has the refrigerant lines under the frost level. Therefore, the temperature remains stable.

Noise

It is no secret that furnaces and heat pumps produce sounds. If you have either appliance, you likely have to deal with clanking, screeching, and other sounds, especially if the appliance is due for some maintenance.

However, from our testing and the reviews from others, we realize that the heat pump produces a greater amount of noise out of the two products. When you place a heat pump and furnace in the best working conditions side by side, you will observe that the pump is the noisier of the two options.

One of the main reasons for this is the compressor. The compressor is what circulates the refrigerant through the lines. As it does its job, it produces some sounds. This is the sound that often disturbs owners of heat pumps. And it is a normal sound.

While furnaces also make their fair share of noise, they are often placed in spots that are away from living areas. So the noise that they make is barely heard.

Space

Heat Pump vs Furnace - Compare and Choose Your Best Option

When installing something new in your home, you certainly need to think about the amount of space that you have. Installation is relatively straightforward for both products. The furnace is often set up inside the home and it can take up plenty of space. This space is often due to the regulation that mandates a 30″ clearance on all sides of the furnace.

The heat pump also takes up its fair share of space. Instead of 30″ of clearance space, though, the compressor of the heat pump must have at least 24″ clearance on all sides.

A heat pump requires lesser clearance space for several reasons. For one, it doesn’t burn fuel or generates heat. With a heat pump, you will discover that installation is easier and more convenient. It is even possible to install this product high up the wall, which will free up more space on the ground.

Versatility

The furnace has always been known for its ability to generate heat. That has always been its function from its inception. Therefore, it does not offer versatility.

A heat pump, on the other hand, offers more versatility. With this product, you can use it to warm the house in the winter, and even make it cooler in the summer. This is possible due to the mechanism of operation. Remember that it draws the hot air outdoors and transfers it to the indoors. Well, you can reverse this operation. Therefore, it will draw out the heat in the room and transfer it to the outdoors. Goodman 3 Ton 14 Seer Heat Pump is a perfect example of a great heat pump, especially praised for all the certifications it has.

This operation is great, especially as it makes it redundant to buy an air conditioning unit.

Cost

The next point of comparison is the cost. When generating heat, you need plenty of fuel. However, the heat pump doesn’t make any heat. The benefit of that is that you get to use only the electricity that is needed to pass the refrigerant through the product.

With that in mind, the heat pump does not use as much energy as the furnace.

The cost of running the pump or electric furnace will depend on several factors. Some of the things that it depends on include the climate, the efficiency of the particular model, and the local cost of power.

While creating this post, we did our research to discover the average cost of running the appliances. We discovered that it costs around 1559 dollars to run a gas furnace for the winter season, 850 for natural gas, and around 900 dollars for an electric furnace. What about the heat pump? Well, this only cost $500! So, it is clear that the heat pump is more efficient and cheaper to run than the other furnaces.

Installation

Heat Pump vs Furnace - Compare and Choose Your Best Option

When deciding whether to buy a heat pump or a furnace, you should also consider the cost of setting up the appliance. We carried out research to see how much it costs to install either of these products.

Installing a gas furnace would set you back around 4500 dollars. If you opted for an electric furnace, it comes slightly cheaper at $4000. However, if you are installing an electric furnace that is a high-efficiency model, then you can spend as much as 10,000 dollars or even higher.

How does the heat pump compare? Well, this product is relatively cheaper. To set it up, the average heat pump will set you back around $3500, or a maximum of 4500 dollars. The price varies and depends on some factors like the size and the efficiency of the unit.

Earlier, we discussed geothermal heat pumps. These are more expensive to set up, and in fact, it costs more to install these in your home than other types of heaters. It can cost over 20000 dollars to set this up in the home.

If you are installing a heat pump, you can find some comfort knowing that it can double as an air conditioner, which will help to offset the cost. The WYS024G-19 from the Pioneer brand is an excellent heat pump that offers excellent cooling and heating all year round.

Setting Up the Furnace and Heat Pump

Whether you are buying a furnace or a heat pump, you must ensure that you properly install it. If you don’t have the DIY skills required, it is better to call on the services of a professional. The professional will measure the volume of air in the room, consider the climate and consider your budget before making a recommendation of the heating system to use.

It is important to keep the size in mind. If the heat pump or furnace is too small, it will not give you the level of warmth that you require. Apart from the failure to keep you warm, it will also affect the durability of the system as it has to work harder to compensate for the deficit, so to speak.

And if the unit purchased is too big, you will not enjoy using it, It will cause wide variations in your indoor temperatures.

It is therefore recommended that you get a professional to set it up. The heat pump and furnace might require a connection to the electrical system of the building, which several building codes protect by mandating the presence of a professional.

And if you are setting up the gas furnace, you have to link it to the gas line of the building. A professional installation will reduce the chances of a gas leak and explosion.

Final Thoughts

So, who wins the heat pump vs furnace debate? It depends on you. If you have natural gas available, it makes sense to have a furnace. If you also have an AC unit, it might be better to just install the furnace.

The heat pump is better if you don’t have access to gas. They are highly efficient and will be better than the electric furnace. With these units, you will save money. Additionally, they are very versatile and can serve you in warm weather as well.

We hope a consideration of this post has assisted you in making the correct buying choice between the two.

References

1.
IECC climate zone map - Energy.gov
A2012 edition of code establishing a baseline for energy efficiency by setting performance standards for the building envelope (defined as the boundary that separates heated/cooled air from unconditioned, outside air), mechanical systems, lighting systems and service water heating systems in homes and commercial businesses.
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