The Important Difference Between a Heat Pump & Furnace

Winter is nearly here, and for some people that means the need for a new heater for their home. Whether it’s a dying old unit or simply the desire for an energy-efficient solution that helps you save money, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Among these options, you’ll probably hear the terms “heat pump” and “furnace” tossed around. While many people believe these two are interchangeable, the truth is that these terms indicate two dramatically different heating technologies.

Which one is right for you and your home? That’s a question you can only answer if you understand the important differences between the two. On this blog, our Fredericksburg heating repairs and installation experts will explain this difference and the pros and cons of each.


When most people think of their heater, they think of a furnace. A furnace is the most traditional and commonly-found type of heater because of their reliable heat, ease of use, and minimal maintenance requirements. A furnace produces heat the same way we’ve been producing heat since the earliest days of man: burning fuel. Only instead of burning wood or plants, a furnace burns natural gas or oil, which means a lot more consistency and a much cleaner burn.

The advantages to a furnace are numerous. For starters, they have no moving parts aside from a blower motor and thus the chances of their breaking down are minimal. Likewise, many modern units can have energy efficiency ratings in the high-90s percentiles, which means you’ll produce a ton of warming heat without spending a lot of money. This makes them ideal in areas where resources like gas are cheap, or where electricity is particularly expensive.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is quite a bit different. Unlike a furnace, your heat pump doesn’t actually require a fuel source to create heat, but rather it actually captures heat from one area and moves it to another. If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like how your air conditioner works, you’re correct—the heat cycle is almost identical to an air conditioner, just running in reverse. Instead of collecting heat from inside and moving it out, the heat pump collects heat from outside and moves it in.

The biggest advantage to this type of heating system is efficiency: in terms of heat produced for energy used, they are by far the most efficient. Likewise, without a burning fuel source, there’s no risk of a carbon monoxide leak potentially jeopardizing you and your family. But it comes at a cost, these systems are a lot more maintenance-intensive due to a number of moving parts and they are prone to breaking down. You absolutely need to have your heat pump maintained every year in order to ensure that it’s running optimally and that any potential issues are sorted out before they become a major problem. Likewise, they will put a pretty significant burden on your electric bill, so if energy is expensive they could wind up costing you a pretty penny to operate.

Which Is Right for You?

Which type of heating system is right for you? There are a few factors that this depends on. First, if you don’t have a gas line or oil source set up to feed a furnace already, installing one can be a costly endeavor, and that may prohibit you from installing anything other than an electric furnace or heat pump system. In this situation, you’ll probably want to consider sticking with the option you have.

However, if you do have the ability to choose, those in the Fredericksburg area and throughout the rest of Central Texas may want to consider a heat pump. One of the biggest weaknesses to heat pumps is that they lose the ability to work properly when the temperature outside reaches extremely cold temperatures, but Texas never really reaches those levels. Plus, with some of the nation’s cheapest prices on energy and a generally fairly mild winter climate, a heat pump could be the perfect solution.

Learn more about which option is right for you by calling 72 Degrees Air Conditioning & Heating at (830) 302-3140 today!