What’s The Difference Between a Furnace and a Heat Pump?

Having a cool and comfortable home is a priority for most homeowners. And knowing the best appliance to maintain warm temperatures in your home during cold seasons is important.

So, what is the difference between heat pump and furnace units, as they are the most common means of keeping our houses warm? And which one is better?

Well, each appliance has its advantages and disadvantages, as we shall see in this review. We shall highlight the functionalities and differences in installation, cost, etc. In the end, you will know which is the best for you.

What’s the Difference Between Heat Pump and Furnace Units?

Most homeowners identify with furnaces more than heat pump units. Usually, a furnace generates heat using natural gasses or oil. But, others are charged by electricity.

In the past, furnaces were considered highly inefficient. However, all this has changed with the great innovations and technologies seen in recent times. Currently, furnaces are up to 98% effective. A furnace will be the best choice if your house has natural gas lines.

As for heat pumps, they don’t generate heat or use fuel sources. They rely on refrigerant and electricity to extricate heat from the outside air into your home.

Additionally, a heat pump removes warm air from your house to cool the space. The heat pump boasts up to 300% efficiency since it uses electricity to transfer heat. It is the best choice for a home not near natural gas lines since it is dependent on electricity.

To understand further the difference between furnace and heat pump units, we shall look at the following areas:

  1. Buying and Installation Cost

It is a factor that can never be ignored when choosing an appliance for your home – most homeowners want to know which is costlier between a furnace and a heat pump.

Generally, you can look at the cost of these two appliances from two angles. The first one is the cost of buying the heat pump or the furnace. And the second one is the cost of installing the two units into your home.

Heat pumps are usually more expensive than furnaces when considering buying price. However, when it comes to installation costs, the furnace system becomes more expensive.

On average, you will part with $4,500 to install a gas furnace and $4,000 for an electric one. For a high-efficiency model for either of the two, you will pay more than $10,000.

Heat pumps will cost you $3,500 to $4,500 on average, depending on the efficiency and the size. If you want a geothermal heat pump, be ready to use at least $25,000.

Note: You should conduct installation for both of them professionally. It is not a DIY project. Therefore, when choosing between the two, ensure to hire the services of an HVAC expert.

Most local building codes need an HVAC expert to combine a gas line with a furnace.

  1. Performance

Their difference in performance depends on your location. Note that furnaces extract heat while heat pumps transfer it outside.

In normal temperatures, a heat pump will perform better. And this does not mean that they cannot function in cold seasons.

Usually, the appliance gets heat from outside, even with temperatures that are below freezing points. However, it becomes a daunting task for the heat pump to transport heat the colder it gets.

On the other hand, a furnace generates heat even in cold weather. This means that no matter how cold it becomes, a furnace will still offer comfort to your home. 

  1. Energy Consumption

When considering the difference between a furnace and a heat pump, it’s crucial to consider energy efficiency. Older furnace systems were notorious for consuming lots of energy to keep a home comfortable in winter.

However, modern furnace systems are more energy-efficient, requiring less fuel to heat a home. However, when you compare a furnace to a heat pump, the heat pump is more energy efficient.

This unit doesn’t require burning fuel to produce heat. But rather, it uses a little electricity to relocate heat from one area to another. Mostly, this is from indoors to outdoors or outdoors to indoors, depending on the season.

When installing a high-energy heat pump, it uses even less energy to warm or cool your home.

  1. Durability

Another difference between a heat pump and a furnace is their expected lifespan. A furnace with a properly maintained gas can survive for more than 20 years.

Their heat pump counterpart can only survive for around 15 years regardless of its maintenance. Therefore, a furnace will carry the day in terms of durability.

  1. Space

Furnaces are installed indoors. Due to the local and manufacturers’ building codes, they take a lot of square footage space. They also require a 30-inch clearance on every side for fire safety reasons.

As for the heat pump, it is located outside a home. It does not generate heat or use combustible fuel; hence it does not require safety clearance. Just mount it high on a wall depending on the air handler with it.

  1. Noise Pollution

Both appliances can make screeching, grinding and clunking when facing mechanical problems.

However, the heat pump is noisier than the furnace when in operation. They are known for knocking and clicking when the compressor goes on or shuts down.

As for the furnaces, you are situated away from the living room (say basement or utility room). A soft whoosh of air is the only sound they produce.

  1. Maintenance

Both furnaces and heat pumps require maintenance. The difference is in the maintenance requirements.

For furnaces, the requirements are lower compared to heat pumps. Always contact a professional to do the job for you.

Difference Between Heat Pump and Furnace Units — Which is the Right Choice?

Since we know the difference between the heat pump and furnace, which one is best for your use? Well, both of them have different benefits.

For instance, if you can access natural gas, go for a traditional furnace. The furnace will also be the best if you have a new AC in your home. This is because you do not need a backup heat source.

A heat pump installation is the best alternative for your home if you don’t have natural gas. Electricity is quite expensive compared to natural gas, but heat pumps operate more efficiently to save you money than a furnace.

If you want to replace your AC, the heat pump can serve the purpose perfectly. Therefore, it is a cost-effective option. With this information, you can evaluate your home and establish which one best meets your home’s heating needs.

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