A furnace only heats the home. A heat pump heats or cools according to the thermostat setting. Which is the better option? It depends on several factors and in the end only you can decide. But here's what you should know before making a choice.
A heat pump is basically an air conditioner with a heating component. Air source heat pumps remove heat from the air and use it to heat your home. Ground source heat pumps remove warmth from the ground and use it to heat your home. The appeal of heat pumps is that they heat with more energy efficiency than oil and gas furnaces because they don’t have create heat; they simply transfer it from one place to another. The result is substantial savings on energy use and utility costs.
• Heat pumps do double duty. In summer they keep you cool, and in winter they keep you warm. You don’t have to deal with two separate systems, a furnace and a central air conditioner. With a heat pump, there’s only one system to install, maintain, repair or replace.
• Furnaces are powered by limited resources like oil and gas. Heat pumps are a “greener” choice because they use naturally available warmth in the environment.
• If you purchase a heat pump with a zoned system, you can control temperatures in every room of the house. Unlike with a furnace and central air conditioner, you don't have to heat and cool rooms you don't use. Even better, heat pumps with programmable thermostats can be set to kick in only when you're home.
Not necessarily. It depends on the climate where you live. In regions like Palm Springs, CA where temperatures are usually above 55 degrees, a heat pump is more efficient. If outdoor temperatures routinely go below 40 degrees, a furnace delivers more energy efficiency because it's better equipped to maintain consistent indoor warmth.
Another consideration is that heat pumps can be more expensive than furnaces, and they may cost more to install. Heat pumps have a shorter lifespan than furnaces because they work year round, whereas furnaces operate only in winter. Finally, heat pumps are powered by electricity, which may cost more than the oil or gas used by a furnace.
Before deciding whether you want a furnace or heat pump, find out how much the unit will cost and what your savings will be over time. Remember that whether you choose a furnace or heat pump, it must be properly sized and professionally installed. An honest and reputable contractor can help you examine the pros and cons in a straightforward way.