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Is a Furnace or Heat Pump Better for Your Home?

Is a Furnace or Heat Pump Better for Your Home?

Are you considering replacing your furnace? If so, you have likely considered the pros and cons of getting a heat pump versus a furnace.

Heat pumps and furnaces are different heating systems for your home. A heat pump does not generate heat. Instead, it collects heat from outside and then distributes it inside. A furnace uses combustion to produce heat. You need to consider several factors, including the local climate and the size of your home, when determining if a heat pump or a furnace is right for you.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump is unique in that it is a dual-purpose system. During the winter, it will warm your home. However, you can use it to cool your home during the summer. Some units will use the existing air to exchange heat for cold in your home. Others operate using a geothermal system. They collect and redistribute heat from the earth into your home.

An air-source heat pump will have an outdoor and indoor unit. There is a refrigerant line that runs between the two units. The reverse valve lets the system change between being a heater and air conditioning unit.

During the hottest months of the year, your heat pump is like an air conditioner. When the temperature drops, the reversing valve allows it to pull heat energy from outdoor air and transform that into heat. This is possible because of pressurized refrigerant. A heat pump uses a cycle of condensation and evaporation. This happens inside the coils of the outdoor and indoor unit. Your heat pump effectively absorbs and transfers heat from one location to another.

How Does a Furnace Work?

A gas furnace uses burners, heat exchangers, a blower fan, and a flute to create heat for your home. When you increase the temperature on the thermostat, the gas furnace gets a signal telling it to send fuel to the burners in the combustion chamber.

The pilot light ignites the gas in the burners, creating heat that warms up the air in the heat exchanger. The blower will push the air from the heat exchanger into the air ducts, allowing it to travel throughout your home.

An electrical furnace works using a similar principle. However, instead of a pilot light igniting the fuel, an electrical ignition lights electrical coils. It is similar to what happens when you push down the lever on your toaster. When activated, the electrical coils heat up. This increases the air temperature in the heat exchanger. A blower sends the air into your HVAC vents, so the warm air is distributed throughout your home.

The question that many homeowners have is what system will work better for them. The truth is there are many pros and cons to installing a furnace or a heat pump.


At the end of the day, when you turn on your furnace, you want your home to be as comfortable as possible. The heat produced by a furnace is going to be hotter and drier. Both gas and electric furnaces will maintain a consistent temperature regardless of the outdoor temperature. A furnace can produce an increasing level of heat, whereas a heat pump can only circulate natural warm air. This means that the air produced by a heat pump might not feel as hot as the air distributed using a furnace.

Outdoor temperatures do not limit furnaces. Even if the temperature outside drops to 50 or 60 below zero Fahrenheit, your furnace is going to be able to heat your home continually.

A heat pump has some limitations. If the temperature drops well below zero, a heat pump may not be able to gather enough heat from the outdoor air to transfer into your home. This is why heat pumps are typically recommended in areas that have mild to moderate winters.

Heat pumps are versatile. They will heat your home during the winter and will also cool your home during the summer. A heat pump will work great if you have a home with older ductwork. You can also opt for a ductless mini-split solution. The technicians at Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air can help you evaluate the condition of your home, the climate where you live, and other factors to determine if a heat pump or a furnace is right for you.

Air Quality

You have every right to be concerned about air quality when deciding between a heat pump or a furnace. You will need to maintain your furnace correctly if you want good air quality. This means cleaning your furnace every year. It is better if you can have your furnace cleaned every year by professionals. You will need to frequently change your air filter. This should be done once every three months.

Unlike a furnace, a heat pump does not create carbon monoxide. You don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide leaking into your home. A heat pump uses moisture to create heat. The humidity level in your home will be higher when you use a heat pump. The air produced by a furnace is going to be dry. While this has some benefits, it also means that you will probably have dry hair and dry skin.

Energy Efficiency

You know that energy prices are going to rise every single year. Understandably, you want to know what heating system will provide the most efficient heating for your home.

Heat pumps are electric. However, they use little energy. They heat efficiently. In fact, they are much more efficient than a furnace. A heat pump can transfer 300% more energy than it consumes when working at full capacity. Conversely, the best energy-efficient gas furnaces out there are around 95% efficient.

For this reason, air-source heat pumps have been designated energy efficient. It is good to note that if you don’t maintain your heat pump, your heat pump’s effectiveness will drop drastically if dust and debris are allowed to accumulate. That’s why Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air recommends that you have your entire system, including your ductwork, cleaned regularly. Your system will work better, you will feel more comfortable, and you will enjoy substantial energy savings.

Installation and Life Expectancy

Installing a heat pump is typically more expensive than replacing a furnace. The caveat is that if your home does not have access to natural gas, then providing this access will drastically increase the installation process. Of course, a heat pump typically costs less to operate than a furnace, so you will quickly recoup any upfront cost.

Heat pumps are used all year round, so their life expectancy is a lot shorter than a furnace. A furnace, if properly maintained, can last between 15 and 20 years. Even with the best maintenance, a heat pump will only last between 10 and 15 years.

Get the Best in Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling

At Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air, we have been proudly serving the Greater Sacramento area since 1976. In addition to the three services in our name, we also offer reliable work in the areas of UV lights, indoor air quality, duct repair and replacement, thermostats, zone control systems, heater repair, and more. Among those other things, we offer water softening and filtration services. We have received the Best of the Best award in Sacramento for nine years running, and we’ve also received the Business Excellence Award from the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce. We want our customers to enjoy the high-quality service they deserve, and our number one goal is to keep them comfortable throughout the entire year.

Call us up today at Crystal Blue Plumbing, Heating & Air to schedule an appointment with one of our friendly experts.