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Heat pumps and furnaces are both systems used to heat buildings, but they work in different ways. A heat pump uses electricity to move heat from the air or ground into a building. It can also be used for cooling by reversing the process. On the other hand, a furnace uses a fuel source (such as natural gas or oil) to generate heat. It doesn’t have a cooling function.
Heat pumps are typically more energy efficient than furnaces—especially in mild climates—but may not be as effective at very cold temperatures.
In this article:
- What Is a Heat Pump?
- What Is a Furnace?
- Environmental Impact
- Resale Value
- Is a Heat Pump or Furnace Better for Your Home?
- Heat Pump and Furnace vs. Other Options
What Is a Heat Pump?
A heat pump is a device that uses electricity to move heat from one location to another. It works by using a refrigerant to absorb heat from the air or ground outside a building, and then transferring that heat inside the building through a system of coils and a compressor.
You can use heat pumps for both heating and cooling. During the heating season, a heat pump extracts heat from the air or ground outside and transfers it inside the building to warm the air. In the cooling season, the process is reversed, and the heat pump removes heat from inside the building and transfers it outside, cooling the air inside.
Heat pumps are typically more energy efficient than other heating and cooling systems, especially in mild climates. They can be an especially good choice for homes that don’t have access to a fuel source for a furnace. However, heat pumps may not be as effective at very cold temperatures and require a backup heating source in very cold climates.
What Is a Furnace?
A furnace is a heating system that uses a fuel source (such as natural gas, oil, or propane) to generate heat. The heat is then distributed throughout a building using a system of ducts.
Furnaces work by burning fuel to produce heat, which is then transferred to the air in the building through a system of heat exchangers. The heated air is then circulated throughout the building using a system of ducts and registers.
Furnaces are commonly used in homes and other buildings to provide heat during the winter months. They’re generally more effective at very cold temperatures than other types of heating systems, such as heat pumps. However, furnaces can be less energy efficient than heat pumps, especially in mild climates, and may require a fuel source to operate.Start Your Heat Pump Installation Project Now
In general, heat pumps cost more to install than furnaces. Installing a heat pump costs around $6,000, while installing a gas furnace costs an average of $2,100
|$1,200 – $20,000
|$1,600 – $12,000
Installing an air source heat pump costs as little as $4,500. These are the most common types of heat pumps, but they’re also the least efficient in cold climates. A geothermal pump costs up to $20,000. These take heat from the ground. While a solar heat pump can run you $34,000, a ductless heat pump costs between $1,200 and $17,000
The cost to install a furnace varies depending on the type. A propane furnace costs between $2,000 and $6,300, a gas furnace costs between $3,800 and $12,000, and an electric furnace costs between $1,600 and $6,900 to install.
Furnaces cost more to run than heat pumps as they consume more energy. However, a heat pump isn’t as useful in cold climates as it struggles to generate enough heat to keep your home comfortable.
You’ll also need to account for maintenance and cleaning, too. Annual HVAC inspections cost between $100 and $250 per year and help ensure your furnace or heat pump is in prime condition. These service contracts can save you money by identifying minor issues before they become expensive major repairs. Employing a few furnace maintenance tips can also help to minimize repairs.
|Costs less to run than a furnace
|Costs more to run than a heat pump
|Consumes less energy
|Consumes more energy
|More energy efficient in moderate climates
|More effective in colder climates
|Can also cool your home in the summer
|Can’t cool your home
A heat pump costs around $500 to run for a single winter season. During the summer, the heat pump can cool your home, too, adding about another $300 to your heating and cooling running costs.
For furnaces, the typical running costs for a winter season are the following:
- Propane: $1,550
- Natural gas: $850
- Electric: $900
A furnace can’t cool your home in hot weather, so you’d need a separate air conditioning system to provide cooling.
Heat pumps and furnaces are both durable heating and cooling systems that can last for many years with proper maintenance and care. It’s important to note that the life span of a heat pump or furnace can vary greatly depending on the specific unit and the conditions it’s in.
The life span of a heat pump or furnace is also affected by the quality of the unit, the type of refrigerant used, and the amount of use it receives. Proper maintenance, such as regularly cleaning and replacing the air filter and having the unit serviced by a professional, can help extend the life span of a heat pump or furnace.
|Average life span of 15 – 20 years
|Lasts around 10 – 15 years
|Repair costs an average of $400
|Repair costs $320 on average
|Replacement costs around $4,500
|Replacement costs around $4,700
Heat pumps typically have a longer life span than furnaces, with an average life span of 15 to 20 years. Repairing a heat pump costs around $400, and replacing a heat pump costs around $3,000 to $6,000.
Furnaces generally have a shorter life span than heat pumps, with an average life span of 10 to 15 years. Furnace repair costs between $130 and $500, while replacing a furnace costs approximately $4,700.Find a Pro for Your Furnace Replacement
The ease of installation for a heat pump or furnace can vary depending on a number of factors, including the specific unit, the layout and size of the building, and the experience and expertise of the installers. It’s a good idea to consult with a local HVAC contractor to determine the specific installation requirements and process for a heat pump or furnace.
They can help you understand the potential challenges and costs involved in the installation process and help you choose the best option for your home. Remember that installing a heating system is never a DIY job and always requires a heating professional.
|More complex to install than furnaces
|Easier to install
|Has indoor and outdoor units
|Only has an indoor unit to install
|Requires a dedicated electrical circuit
|Requires professional installation
Heat pumps typically require more complex installation than furnaces because they have both an indoor and outdoor unit, and the refrigerant lines that connect the two units must be properly installed and sealed. In addition, heat pumps require a dedicated electrical circuit, which may require the installation of a new circuit breaker or electrical panel. You’ll need to hire a local heat pump installer to get the job done.
On the other hand, furnaces typically have a more straightforward installation process than heat pumps. Most furnaces are installed in a central location in the building, such as a basement or utility room, and are connected to a fuel source and a system of ducts and registers. However, installing a furnace can still be complex, and it’s important to follow all safety guidelines and have the unit installed by a professional.
The environmental impact of a heat pump or furnace depends on several factors, including the fuel source used and the unit’s efficiency. Choosing a unit with a high efficiency rating can help reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
|Lower environmental impact if the electricity source is renewable
|Newer units are more efficient and environmentally friendly than older models
|More efficient use of fuel in warm and moderate climates
|High negative environmental impact if burning fossil fuels
Heat pumps use electricity to move heat from one location to another, and the environmental impact of a heat pump depends on the source of the electricity used to power it. If the electricity is generated from renewable sources such as solar or wind power, the heat pump can have a lower environmental impact compared to other heating and cooling systems. If the electricity is generated from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas, the heat pump’s environmental impact may be higher.
Furnaces burn a fuel source (such as natural gas, oil, or propane) to generate heat, and its environmental impact depends on the type of fuel used. Fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil release greenhouse gases when burned, which can contribute to climate change. However, the environmental impact of a furnace can be reduced by using a more efficient unit and properly maintaining it to ensure it’s operating at its best.Find a Pro for Your Furnace Replacement
The specific value of a heat pump or furnace may depend on the specific unit and the local housing market. Additionally, the return on investment (ROI) for a heat pump versus a furnace is impacted by the climate in your area.
|More efficient in moderate climates, so more attractive to buyers
|Better resale value if newer model that’s well-maintained
|Provides heating and cooling, so potentially increases resale value if well maintained
|Better potential ROI than heat pumps in cold climates because they perform better
|Less attractive to buyers in cold climates because they struggle to provide sufficient heating
|Less attractive in moderate climates as they can’t provide cooling
In general, heat pumps are typically more attractive to potential buyers than furnaces because they can be used for both heating and cooling and are typically more energy efficient. As a result, a home with a newer, high-efficiency heat pump may have a higher resale value compared to a home with an older, less efficient furnace.
In colder climates, you’ll likely get a better resale value with a well-maintained furnace operating at peak efficiency than with a comparable heat pump. That’s because heat pumps aren’t as efficient in cold areas and struggle to consistently provide adequate heat in very cold climates.
Is a Heat Pump or Furnace Better for Your Home?
The choice between a heat pump and a furnace for your home will depend on a number of factors, including the climate, the size and layout of your home, and the availability and cost of different fuel sources. Here are a few things to consider when deciding between a heat pump and a furnace:
- Climate: Heat pumps are typically more energy efficient than furnaces, especially in mild climates. However, heat pumps may not be as effective at very cold temperatures and require a backup heating source in very cold climates. Furnaces are generally more effective at very cold temperatures but may be less energy efficient in mild climates.
- Home size and layout: The size and layout of your home can affect the efficiency of a heat pump or furnace. A larger home may require a more powerful heating and cooling system, while a smaller home may be able to use a smaller, less powerful unit. The layout of your home, including the number and placement of windows, doors, and insulation, can also affect the efficiency of a heat pump or furnace.
- Fuel source: Heat pumps use electricity to move heat, while furnaces use a fuel source (such as natural gas, oil, or propane) to generate heat. The availability and cost of different fuel sources can affect the overall cost of operating a heat pump or furnace. It’s a good idea to compare the cost of different fuel sources in your area to determine the most cost-effective option for your home.
|$500 per winter
|$900 – $1,550 per winter
|Requires regular cleaning and maintenance
|Air filter needs replacing regularly
|Complex installation with both indoor and outdoor unit
|More straightforward installation
|15 – 20 years
|10 – 15 years
|Better if fuel is sourced from a renewable source
|Depends on type of fuel burnt
|New high-efficiency heat pump more resaleable
|Depends on type of furnace fitted
Heat Pump and Furnace vs. Other Options
Hot water boilers are the other most popular option for heating your home. Boilers use hot water or steam to heat your home via a network of pipes and radiators. Some also heat water for your hot water needs. Installing a boiler costs around $5,800, and repairing a boiler will set you back between $190 and $630. Boilers also have a longer life span than furnaces and heat pumps, typically lasting 30 years or more.
Boilers are also more energy efficient than furnaces but less so than heat pumps. However, a good boiler excels in cold climates, unlike a heat pump. Although the initial costs are higher, installing a boiler may make better financial and environmental sense given that it doesn’t burn fuel, is fairly energy efficient, and lasts considerably longer.Start Your Heat Pump Installation Project Now