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Heat Pump vs. Furnace – Which is Better?

There are many different types of home heating systems – furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, pellet stoves, and the list goes on. If you’re in the process of building a home, putting on an addition, or replacing your current heating system, it makes sense to research your options and the pros and cons of each.

Many people often find themselves choosing between a furnace and a heat pump. Although both serve the same function (to heat your home), they each have a very different way of doing so. Keep reading to learn more about heat pumps, and furnaces, and how to decide which is the right one for you.

How Does a Furnace Work?

Furnaces rely on a fuel source such as natural gas, oil, propane, or electricity to heat a burner and create heated air that is then dispersed throughout the house using a blower fan and a series of ductwork. When the air in the room is lower than the temperature that is set on the thermostat, it triggers the furnace to turn on and start heating the air. 

Furnaces are just one component of a total heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) system. They often share the same ductwork and blower as the air conditioner to distribute the heated or cooled air. 

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Unlike a furnace which only produces heated air, heat pumps can be used to heat and cool the air. They work by redistributing heat to increase or decrease the temperature in your home. In the summer, they pull the warm air from the inside and move it outside. In the winter, they work the same way only in reverse. 

Many people wonder how a heat pump creates warmth from outside air when the temperature is so cold. The fact is, even when the thermometer is nearing the single digits, a heat pump can extract heat energy from the air or ground and, using a compressed refrigerant, generate hot air for your home.      

Should You Get a Heat Pump or a Furnace? How Do They Compare?

Both heat pumps and furnaces will heat a space, but there are key differences between the two that will likely make one a better option over another depending on where you live, your space, and your budget. 

Installation Cost

It’s not surprising that cost is usually a major determining factor when deciding on a big home investment such as a new heating system. When you compare the installation cost of a heat pump versus a furnace, much will depend on the type of system you choose and whether or not existing ductwork and other infrastructure already exist. As a general rule of thumb, however, heat pumps tend to have a lower installation cost than furnaces.  


Heat pumps and furnaces both have the ability to keep you warm and cozy when temperatures are mild, but in the middle of winter when Pennsylvania temperatures dip below freezing, a heat pump is less efficient and may not work as well as a furnace. 

It’s also important to consider that a heat pump is typically noisier than a furnace. You’ll have to get used to hearing their typical grinding and clunking without always worrying that something is wrong. 

Energy Efficiency

Furnaces were once known for being incredibly inefficient, but today’s models have come a long way. Even so, they still don’t compare to the energy efficiency of heat pumps. That means they cost less to operate, except when temperatures dip below freezing. So, for people living in Pennsylvania, a heat pump will work, but a furnace would probably be a more energy-efficient option - especially during the coldest months. 


The lifespan of your heat pump or furnace will depend on whether or not it is properly maintained. With that in mind, furnaces tend to last slightly longer than heat pumps. Most heat pumps have a 15-year lifespan while it’s not uncommon for a furnace to last 20 years or more. 

Furnace or Heat Pump: Which is Right for You?

Deciding on which type of heating system to install in your home is a big decision. Fortunately, you can make that decision with confidence with the help of WM Buffington. We can explain your options, discuss the pros and cons of each, and provide you with a no-obligation installation cost. Call today to get started!

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