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Furnace or Heat Pump? Which is Right for You?

By Your Comfort Advisor 3/24/16 9:00 AM Time to read:

 Choosing between a furnace or a heat pump can be a difficult decision if homeowners don't know what each does. While both can be effective sources of heat, each thrives under particular conditions. Ultimately, to choose the correct system, one must understand each system's main purpose and how they are rated for efficiency.

Heat Pump and Furnace Ratings

An Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) is a rating that measures furnaces. For instance, an AFUE of 70% means that a system uses 70% of the fuel burned to warm the home while the remaining 30% goes out through an exhaust vent.

Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency of heat pumps. Heat pumps also come with SEER ratings which measure the cooling efficiency of heat pumps. The higher the HSPF and SEER rating, the more efficient the heat pump.

Heat Pump

A heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that moves warm air from one location to another. A compressor circulates refrigerant that pulls heat from outside and transfers it inside. In theory, any heat pump can work in reverse to function as an "air conditioner." Since it uses electricity to transfer heat, it is more environmentally-friendly because it does not require fossil fuel consumption. Since temperatures rarely go below freezing in this area, heat pumps are most frequently used by people in the region who live off the grid.


A furnace differs from a heat pump since it uses fuel to generate its own source of heat circulating it throughout a home. Furnace types range from gas, oil and electric furnaces. The advantage it has over a heat pump is that it can heat a home no matter the outside temperature. Essentially, a furnace is reliable even when functioning below freezing conditions. One disadvantage it has over a heat pump, however, is the cost of fuel. Fuel prices will differ depending on what type of furnace a homeowner purchases.

Best Option

The first thing one must consider when deciding between a furnace and a heat pump is their geographic location. If a homeowner lives in a location that experiences severe winters, a furnace is the most appropriate option. If they live in an area with a more moderate climate, the heat pump is the better option. Although a heat pump does not perform well in temperatures under 50 degrees, one can have a dual fuel system running in their home when they pair a conventional furnace with a heat pump. If the temperature drops below optimal range for the heat pump, the furnace turns on as a back up heat source.

If you need more guidance on a purchase decision, feel free to contact one of our highly-trained comfort advisors at (909) 792-2222. Our comfort advisors can recommend a heating solution with the suitable AFUE or HSPF rating for your home.