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Natural gas furnaces and standard heat pumps are the two most common systems used to heat homes.  Typically, customers have an idea of how a furnace works but many don't understand how a heat pump operates. Heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that work backwards.  During the season when it's hot, the heat pump causes the indoor evaporator coil to get cold while the outdoor condenser coil section gets hot. In heat mode, a heat pump reverses the process so the indoor coil section gets hot and the outdoor coil gets cold. Traditional heat pumps are very efficient in getting heat down to an outdoor temperature of about 40 degrees. Once that temperature is achieved, the efficiency really starts to depreciate. Many heating units utilize a combination of both a furnace and a heat pump. EHA commonly call this setup a dual fuel system. A dual fuel system will consist of a furnace and a heat pump employing one or the other depending upon the outdoor temperature and heat demand being called. A dual fuel system can be extremely efficient. Each system heats your home – but in different ways.  EHA can assist in helping you make the right decision in which option is right for you! 

Installation Cost

Replacing a unit can cost you a good bit of money. If your home requires cooling, a furnace will need to be matched with an air conditioner; however, a heat pump can do both!   In short, your home comfort costs could cost less with a heat pump as opposed to have both a furnace and AC.  Please note, unit costs will vary depending on the size and model selected for both.

Energy Efficiency

Gas furnaces typically have an efficiency ranging from 80% to 98% "Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency". Traditional heat pumps also have a range of efficiencies and perform extremely well until the outdoor temperature drops below 40 degrees.  To which, the ability of a traditional heat pump to provide heat in an efficient manor begins to drop drastically. Actually, as the outdoor temperature drops, the heat pump will lose its capability to provide efficient heat and will typically cause a supplemental electric heat source to kick in which can get expensive to operate.

Air Quality

Heat pumps are more energy efficient and greenhouse emissions friendly since they don’t use combustions that produce harmful emissions. 


Furnaces still have its advantages as the heat produced by gas furnaces tend to feel warmer compared to a heat pump. The heat pump still warms your home, but it “blows at a lower temperature.”  Another difference, a furnace tends to produce hot and dry air, compared to heat pumps which distribute air that’s naturally humid. Therefore, homes may not feel as dry as a furnace.

Lifespan And Maintenance

When attempting to decide between a gas furnace or heat pump, it's important to note that gas furnaces typically have longer lifespans than heat pumps. Furnaces with routine maintenance can last up to 20 years or more. However, a heat pump, like an air conditioner, commonly has a lifespan of about 15 years. Additionally, the maintenance requirement for a gas furnace is generally less since a furnace is only used for a few months out of each year as opposed to a heat pump.  Further, a gas furnace requires fewer mechanical parts than a heat pump, meaning less things will break down or malfunction.

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