Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Which Is Better For My Portland Home?

In the market for a new heating system?

If so, you might be wondering if a furnace or heat pump is better for your home.

Most homeowners in the Portland area opt for a gas furnace, however, plenty of homeowners are happy with a heat pump as well.

The truth is, both systems have their pros and cons. In this blog, we’ll compare furnaces and heat pumps in terms of their:

  • Cost
  • Comfort
  • Lifespan

Want to consult with a Portland HVAC pro to help you make a decision? We’re happy to help! We give honest, helpful answers with the goal of finding the best heating system for your home.

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Heat pump vs furnace: Cost

When comparing the cost between a furnace and a heat pump, we’ll need to consider both the upfront cost and ongoing operational costs.

Upfront cost

Heat pumps are more expensive than furnaces in terms of upfront cost. However, that can change depending on the features and brand you choose. For example, a top-of-the-line furnace with advanced comfort features will likely cost more than a standard heat pump with basic features.

That said, keep in mind that a heat pump is a heating and cooling system all-in-one. In the summer, a heat pump works just like a regular air conditioner; in the winter, it works as a heater to warm your home.

If you don’t currently have a working air conditioner, a heat pump will be the cheaper option because you’d also have to buy an air conditioner to go with your furnace.

Note: A heat pump will not be cheaper upfront if you opt for a dual-fuel system (a heat pump plus a furnace). Skip towards the end of the blog to learn more about dual-fuel systems.

Operational cost

In terms of operational cost, a heat pump will generally cost less to use than a furnace in our area.

Here’s why: Heat pumps are the most energy-efficient heating system when the temperature is above 30° F. Here in Portland, we only have around 25 days of below-freezing temperatures per year, and at least 60 to 90 days of moderately cold weather (30° to 60° F).

This means if you opt for a heat pump, you’ll be getting the lowest heating cost for the majority of our cold days, which leads to increased savings over time.

Heat pump vs furnace: Comfort

Generally, most homeowners prefer the warm air from a gas furnace over a heat pump.

A gas furnace usually produces air around 130° to 140° F, while a heat pump usually produces warm air around 90° to 100° F.

While the warm air from a heat pump will effectively heat your home, it can feel colder because our body temperature is around 98°. For that reason, many prefer the heat from a furnace.

Heat pump vs furnace: Lifespan

Furnaces generally last longer than heat pumps. On average, furnaces last 15 to 20 years, compared to 10 to 15 years for a heat pump.

The reason that furnaces last longer is because they only work during the fall/winter, while a heat pump works year-round. (Remember: a heat pump both cools and heats your home.)

Whether you opt for a furnace or a heat pump, both systems need annual maintenance from an HVAC tech to keep them running smoothly and lasting longer.

Want the best of both heating systems? Consider a dual-fuel system

If you like the idea of low operational cost plus extra comfort on really cold days, you might consider a dual-fuel system.

A dual-fuel system is the combination of a gas furnace with a heat pump. On moderately cold days (when temperatures are above 30° F), the heat pump will warm your home, which will give you the most energy savings. When temperatures start to drop below 30° F, the gas furnace will kick in to keep your home warm.

Since a gas furnace is more energy-efficient than electric resistance heating (which is what a heat pump would use on freezing days to keep your home warm), you’ll save money during the entire winter season. Plus, you’d get the preferred comfort of a furnace when you need it most.

Want a Portland HVAC pro to help you pick the right heating system for your home?

Schedule an appointment

Our friendly and skilled comfort specialists are standing by to answer your questions. They’ll work with you to find the right system for your home, based on your family’s budget and comfort preferences.

To learn more about each type of heating system, visit our heat pump installation and furnace installation pages.

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