Heat Pump vs Furnace: What’s the Difference?

Find out if you're getting ripped off on your car insurance in less than two minutes.
Find insurance savings (100% Free)
No long forms · No spam · No fees
4.7
App rating
25M
Insurance Quotes
2M+
Happy users
$15M+
Savings found every month
Why you can trust Jerry
Jerry partners with some of the companies we write about. However, our content is written and reviewed by an independent team of editors and licensed insurance agents, and never influenced by our partnerships. Learn more baout how we make money, review our editorial standards, reference out data methodology, or view a list of our partners
Furnaces and heat pumps both work to keep your house warm when it’s cold outside. But since they work in different ways, they have differences in cost, energy efficiency, and heating ability, which may make one right for you and not the other.
When winter sets in, having a reliable heating system can make all the difference to keep you comfortable and cozy. But choosing the right system to heat your house can be confusing if you don’t know the differences between a heat pump and a furnace.
To help you make the right choice, home and car insurance comparison app Jerry is here with all the information you need to know to decide what heating system is right for your house, your climate, and your budget.
RECOMMENDED
Compare auto insurance policies
No spam or unwanted phone calls · No long forms · No fees, ever

What is a heat pump?

A heat pump works by moving warm air into or out of your house, depending on the season. 
In the summer, it will pump the warm air out of your house to cool it down. In the winter, a heat pump will extract heat from the outside air—or the ground if a geothermal system is installed—and use it to heat your home.
A heat pump doesn’t create any heat; it just transfers it in and out of your home as needed. This means that it works as both a heating and cooling system to keep your indoor temperature comfortable in every season.

What is a furnace?

A furnace keeps your house warm by burning fuel to create heat. Depending on where you live, it might be more common to have a natural gas furnace or an oil furnace, but both use combustion to keep your house warm when it’s cold outside.
A furnace works by moving heated air through the ducts in your home with a blower. Since a furnace creates gasses—like carbon monoxide—as a byproduct of burning fuel, it also has a vent that goes outside to harmlessly release any unwanted gasses.

What is a dual fuel system?

A dual fuel system combines a heat pump and a furnace into one unit, which maximizes the efficiency and heating power of your home’s heating system. 
Because it is two systems in one, a dual fuel system costs more to install than a heat pump or furnace on its own.
Since a furnace works better than a heat pump when the outside temperature is below freezing, a dual fuel system will automatically switch to heating with a furnace when it is particularly cold out. 
When the outside temperature is warmer, the heat pump will be used, since it is more energy-efficient than a furnace when temperatures are above freezing.
Key Takeaway Both heat pumps and furnaces keep your house warm when it’s cold outside, but a heat pump can also cool down your house in the summer.

Which heating system is best?

If you are trying to choose whether a heat pump or furnace is best for your home, there are a few variables to consider before making your decision.

Installation cost

While heat pumps cost less to run throughout the winter than furnaces do, the cost of installing each system is largely impacted by your home’s current heating setup
If the house is already outfitted with the gas line, exhaust vent, and ductwork you need for a furnace, buying a new furnace can be cheaper than installing the necessary wiring to run a heat pump.
Though it’s most common for heat pumps to work using the heat in the air, geothermal heat pumps work by gathering heat from underground. While this can make them more efficient in colder climates, the cost of installing the underground components of this type of heat pump can be high if extensive excavation is needed.
However, since a heat pump can work double duty and eliminate the need for an air conditioning unit, it can save you money on cooling your home in the summertime.
The best way to determine the cost of installing a heat pump or furnace in your house is to contact a heating system expert who can take a look at your house’s current system and provide you with installation estimates.

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are generally more energy-efficient than furnaces because rather than creating their own heat, they just gather it from the air or ground and move it into or out of your house. 
Unlike gas and oil furnaces (which cannot completely burn all of the fuel they use and end up wasting some), heat pumps run on electricity and can transfer about three times more energy in heat than they consume in electricity.

Cold weather effectiveness

One of the biggest factors in deciding which heating system is right for your house is the typical winter climate in your area.
Since heat pumps don’t create their own heat, they work best when it is above 32° F outside. When it is below freezing, a heat pump has a harder time heating your house and might not be able to heat your home to the temperature you want.
On the other hand, in regions that spend a large portion of the winter in sub-freezing temperatures, furnaces work best to combat the cold and keep your house warm. By burning fuel to create its own heat, a furnace can heat a cold house much faster than a heat pump can. 
Besides just keeping your toes warmer, a furnace can actually be the energy-efficient heating option in cold climates since it can run for shorter periods than a heat pump in frigid weather.

Comfort

Since they use different methods to heat your house, a heat pump and a furnace impact the indoor humidity of your home. Depending on the humidity level you find most comfortable, you may prefer one system over the other.
While a furnace creates extremely dry, hot air by heating it with a flame, a heat pump actually increases the humidity level of the outside air as it moves heat into your house. If you have dry skin or a sensitive respiratory system, the increased indoor humidity from a heat pump can keep you more comfortable in the winter months.

Lifespan and maintenance

Both a heat pump and a furnace will last for many years, but a heat pump’s lifespan is typically around 15 years, while a furnace will usually last for 20 years or more
Additionally, since a furnace is only on for a portion of the year, it will typically require less maintenance throughout its life than a heat pump.
Key Takeaway There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a heat pump or furnace is best suited to heat your home. For a professional opinion based on the specifics of your house and region, contact a heating system expert.

Finding affordable home insurance

Being comfortable in your house—even when it’s cold outside—is vital for every homeowner. By adding the right homeowners insurance policy into the mix, you can fully enjoy the comfort of your home knowing that you are covered in the case of an unexpected disaster.
Finding affordable home insurance doesn’t have to be a hassle when you choose to let Jerry—a licensed insurance broker—do all the work for you.
All you have to do is download the app and answer a few quick questions and Jerry will find you home insurance quotes from top companies (for free!) that fit your needs and your budget.
“I signed up for a new policy with Jerry’s help. I ended up saving $236 a month after my switch. Thank you Jerry!” —Adelaide C.
Let Jerry find your price in only 45 seconds
No spam · No long forms · No fees
Find insurance savings (100% Free)

FAQ

A heat pump and furnace use different methods to heat your house. Each has advantages and disadvantages depending on where you live, your home’s existing setup, and your preferences.

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

√
No long forms
√
No spam or unwanted phone calls
√
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings — it's 100% free