Most homeowners desire to run a clean, energy-efficient home. This goal includes choosing the right appliances for heating and cooling efficiency. With nearly 40% of household energy costs going toward heating and cooling, finding the right equipment is essential to keeping your energy costs manageable.

Furnaces vs. Heat Pumps: The Debate Begins

Most American homes use natural gas to heat their homes, but heat pumps continue to rise in popularity due to their ease of installation and energy-efficient function. These attributes may be attractive, but there are some homes that are not suited for heat pumps; in these cases, an energy-efficient furnace is necessary to keep your home well-regulated and comfortable. Which one is right for you and your home? Let’s take a look at some of the main features of each appliance as well as the pros and cons that will help you determine which one you should install in your home.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump circulates heated air through rooms in your home, yet it can also function like an air conditioner to cool your home at different times of the year. Heat pumps pull warm air from outside to your home’s inside, regulating temperatures throughout your living spaces. Due to the fact that they are powered by electricity, heat pumps are more energy-efficient than their gas-powered counterparts.

Heat pumps work more effectively in temperate or mild climates; those living in places where subzero temperatures are a regular occurrence find that furnaces are more efficient at regulating temperatures and keeping cold at bay. Several types of heat pumps are available for those who wish to take advantage of their heating capabilities.

Ductless Heat Pumps

Ductless mini-split units are great for older homes and those without existing ductwork. Heat is targeted to specific rooms, allowing you to turn units on and off to save energy.

Duct Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps rely on existing ductwork to supply heat throughout a home. They install easily and tap into your system, allowing for easy heat regulation in living spaces.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

The geothermal heat pump uses heat from below ground to operate. This type of heat pump is very efficient at tapping into the Earth’s natural resource of heat to regulate temperatures in your home.

Heat Pump Pros

There are several advantages to using a heat pump. Some of their more notable attributes include:

Powered by Electricity

Homeowners need not worry about gas leaks or dangerous accidents such as explosions. The heat pump is powered by electricity, so it runs cleaner than other types of heat systems.

Energy Efficiency

The heat pump actually produces more warm air than the electricity that powers it. In fact, a heat pump uses close to 50% less energy than gas or electric furnaces, helping to save you money on utility costs.

Dual-Function Capabilities

A heat pump functions both as a heating and a cooling system; homeowners need only a single appliance to heat and cool the entire home, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious homeowners.

Quiet Operation

Air conditioners and furnaces make their fair share of noise when in operation. In contrast, the heat pump is much quieter as it warms your home. You may not even notice that it is running when regulating temperatures in your home.

Cost Effective Installation

Ductless heat pumps generally cost between $3,000-$10,000 to install, compared to $5,000 and up for a gas or electric furnace. It’s important to note that a ducted heat pump is generally more costly than other options, installing for $15,000 and up. Still, ductless heat pumps can be a very cost-effective option given a lower average starting price point and their efficiency levels.

Heat Pump Cons

There are some things that could be improved to heat pump installation and operation. Consider these when choosing the right appliance for your home.

Electrically Powered

While this is also a pro, the issue of power outages does present itself as quite inconvenient. Winter storms, hurricanes, and even high winds can knock out power to your heat pump, making it difficult to keep your home comfortable.

Not Carbon Neutral

Heat pumps do produce carbon emissions due to their electrical nature. Those who invest in hybrid models with solar power can reduce their carbon footprint while ensuring heating and cooling efficiency.

Less Effective in Temperature Extremes

Those who live in climates with extreme or frigid temperatures quickly find that a heat pump can’t keep up with the demands of heating and battling subzero temperatures. In these cases, having a backup source of heat will allow you to remain comfortable regardless of how cold it gets.


A furnace, or HVAC system, uses forced and heated air moving through a network of air ducts to heat a home. The main types of furnaces are as follows:

  • Electric
  • Oil
  • Natural gas
  • Propane

All of these potential power sources work in a similar manner to heat air via an air exchanger and circulate it through ductwork into rooms in your home. As with any appliance, there are pros and cons of furnaces to consider when choosing one for your home.

Furnace Pros

While furnaces take a bit more to install, there are several benefits that come with their efficient heating. Some of these benefits include:

Reliable Heating

Regardless of the weather, a furnace will be able to efficiently produce heat, even on the most frigid of days. Natural gas, oil, and propane furnaces continue to work during power outages, making them an attractive feature for those who regularly endure power outages.

Less Maintenance

Furnaces are only used to warm a home, so they are not called upon to function at different times of the year. Less maintenance may be required to make sure your home is regulated efficiently.

More Compact

Heat pumps require both indoor and outdoor components to work, while a furnace only needs a 30-inch clearance in your home. Keeping this space clear and free from debris will allow it to function unfettered as it heats your home.

Long Life

The indoor protection of a furnace allows it to last much longer than a heat pump, with properly maintained electric furnaces lasting up to 30 years.

Furnace Cons

There are some drawbacks to installing a furnace in your home. Take these into consideration when choosing the best option.

Costly to Install

Furnaces are generally more expensive to install; combining them with the installation of new ductwork is a significant financial obligation for you and your home. An average range of cost to have a furnace professionally installed would look something between $5,000 and $15,000; these prices may not be an option for everyone looking to improve heating efficiency.

Less Energy Efficient

Heat pumps are very efficient at heating your home, while furnaces lose some of their efficiency as they push air through ductwork, causing temperatures to drop during travel. As a result, furnaces have to work harder to regulate your home.

Dangerous Operation

The presence of oil, natural gas, and propane in your home is significantly more dangerous than standard electricity used by some furnaces. Making sure that your furnace is correctly installed and in good working order will be an essential part of ensuring your safety.

Which Is Best for You?

Taking into consideration all of these factors, only you can decide whether a heat pump or furnace is an ideal choice for heating your home. The knowledgeable professionals at First Choice Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning are ready to provide you with valuable advice and tips on appliances that make your choice easier. We also provide top-notch plumbing, heating, cooling, maintenance, and repair services to valued residents in the Metuchen area and beyond. Contact us today to see how we can make your heating system choice easy and effortless.

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