Understanding the Difference Between Furnaces and Heat Pumps

Heat pumps and furnaces represent two different ways of heating your home. Homeowners in Valdosta, GA, searching for the best heating solution this fall should explore both types in detail. By highlighting some of the differences between them, we can help you see which one is best for you.

Heat Pumps Can Also Cool the Air

Furnaces exist only to heat an indoor environment, and they usually form the heating portion of a general HVAC system. In such an arrangement, we typically see the furnace paired with an air conditioning system and a set of ducts that distribute the air that both systems will treat at various times. A furnace will use direct ignition to generate heat and infuse it into the air in your home.

A heat pump, on the other hand, is a single integrated system that can both heat and cool an indoor environment at various times. Heat pumps can do both of these things because they perform heat transfer, removing heat from outdoor air while in heating mode (even if that air is already cold) and using refrigerant to transport that heat to your indoor air. When in cooling mode, the heat pump does the opposite, employing refrigerant to remove heat from indoors and then transporting and condensing that refrigerant outdoors.

Gas vs. Electric Heating Systems

Another major difference between furnaces and heat pumps lies in the kinds of power they consume. Furnaces most commonly run on natural gas, while heat pumps all use electricity. There are also some furnaces that use propane, oil and even electricity to generate heat.

Safety Considerations

Since the two systems draw on different sources of energy, they also present their own unique sets of safety risks. For furnaces, these risks almost all revolve around the potential for various kinds of gas leaks, be it of propane or carbon monoxide. Furnaces have special sensors and shut-off valves created to detect and prevent such leaks, but the risk is nevertheless quite real.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, being electrical systems, carry some risk of electrocution with them though connecting the system to a good circuit breaker should prevent the kinds of power surges that would make this happen. Another important heat-pump-related danger is a refrigerant leak, as refrigerant can be quite harmful when inhaled or otherwise ingested.

To reduce the chances that these and other potentially deadly events will happen as much as possible, it’s imperative that you always remember to schedule prompt repairs and regular professional maintenance. This is essential, regardless of whether you have a furnace or a heat pump.

Total Cost

Overall, a gas furnace is more expensive to install than a heat pump because you’ll need to pass gas lines through your home and may require a larger ventilation system. However, since natural gas and propane are generally less expensive sources of energy than electricity, you may end up saving money in the long run.

On the other hand, furnaces generally have higher maintenance costs than heat pumps. Which one will cost you less overall depends on how much you plan to use each system and how responsible you’ll be in taking care of it.


The question of whether a furnace or a heat pump is more efficient is a difficult one to settle, since, to a great extent, the answer depends on circumstances. On paper, heat pumps are more energy-efficient than furnaces, particularly in moderate climates. In colder climates, however, especially if you have a programmable thermostat and have developed good habits in using it, a furnace can often edge out a heat pump.

No matter which of these systems you have or which of them interests you more, we offer a comprehensive set of services for each of them. Call Waller Heating & Air Conditioning and ask for our heating services, including installations, repairs and maintenance.

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