Heat pump vs furnace? Many homeowners compare the two when it’s time to install a new system in their homes. We have thoughts about how to pick the right heating system for your home, but first, let’s define each of these popular home heating systems.

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pump systems serve as an air conditioner during hot weather and a heater for cold weather.

There are two main types of heat pumps. Air source heat pumps use outdoor air to heat and cool your home. However, geothermal heat pumps or ground source heat pumps work by collecting and redistributing heat from the earth.

Think of a heat pump this way: a heat pump works by constantly moving warm air from one place to another. In the winter, the pump extracts heat from the air or ground and moves it inside your home. During the summer, hot air from inside your home is removed, which makes your home cooler.

How Does an Oil or Natural Gas Furnace Work?

An oil furnace, on the other hand, generates its own heat. When the indoor temperatures dip, an oil or natural gas furnace receives the signal and sends fuel to the burners inside a combustion chamber. A pilot light ignites the burners that heat the heat exchanger. The blower fan moves air around the exchanger and sends hot air throughout the home.

Heat Pump vs. Furnace

Now that you understand how the systems will generate heat in your home, it’s time to discuss the pros and cons of each.

Energy efficiency

You may have heard that heat pumps are extremely energy efficient. This is true. In fact, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it consumes. However, comparing the efficiency of a heat pump to an oil furnace is complicated for those who live in cold climates. Most sources say that furnaces heat efficiently – even better than a heat pump in colder climates.


While both heating systems produce heat for your home, the air from a heat pump isn’t as hot as the air you get from a furnace. However, heat pumps circulate naturally humid air — so there may be less need for a whole-house humidifier with a heat pump. In addition, both systems allow you to add air cleaners to improve indoor air quality.

Lifespan and maintenance

Furnaces with proper maintenance can last more than 20 years. A heat pump’s lifespan is closer to 15 years. Furnaces also have fewer mechanical parts than heat pumps, so that fewer things can malfunction.

What Heating System Is Right for You?

You may have read trustworthy sources that say the best way to lower your energy costs is to use a heat pump as your main heating and cooling source. You might also read that heat pumps enable you to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions compared with gas furnaces.

However, every home is different. And as you consider the pros and cons of heat pump or furnace installation, you need to consider your unique situation.

A heat pump may be suitable for you if you need to replace your heating unit and air conditioner and live in an area with low electric rates and a mild climate. Keep in mind that installation costs can be pretty high – depending on your system.

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The technology surrounding heat pumps is improving. An air source heat pump can better handle your heating needs when temperatures drop. However, some say you need a backup heat source when installing this system in Northern states.

An oil furnace may be right for you if you live in a cold climate. However, homeowners must purchase air conditioners – or a separate cooling unit to handle their home comfort needs during the summer months. Also, as furnaces burn fuel and produce carbon monoxide, your home must be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors to keep your family and pets safe.

Learn More About Heat Pumps and Oil Furnaces from Your HOP Energy Specialist

We know you have many questions about which of these heat sources is best for you. Instead of reading more about the heat pump debate (or furnace debate), we encourage you to schedule a free in-home consultation with a HOP Energy technician.

HOP Energy offers a variety of HVAC systems and brands and can answer questions about installing a gas furnace, oil-fired furnace, or heat pump system.

We will discuss the pros and cons of a heat pump or oil burning furnace and determine whether your home is better set up for an indoor unit or outdoor unit. And we will discuss which system will allow you to save money on your monthly energy bills.

HOP Energy also offers heating and cooling system repair and maintenance and can help you improve the air quality in your home. Fill out the contact form on our website – before the temperatures fall.

Contact us today