Furnaces vs. Heat Pumps: What's the Difference?

Furnaces vs. Heat Pumps: What's the Difference?

Cold weather is on the horizon! Thus, now is a great time to ensure your home’s heating system is functional and practical. If you decide to replace it, you must choose between two overarching types of heating systems: furnaces and heat pumps. Learn what they are, how they work, and how to choose the right one for your home. Then, turn to a professional HVAC company for furnace or heat pump installation.

Argent Heating & Cooling is a home services provider that helps residents and business owners in the Washington, DC, Metro area. Our service options stand upon 40 years of industry experience. Moreover, we deliver results alongside knowledgeable and professional customer service, as demonstrated by our outstanding testimonials! For more HVAC maintenance information, contact us at (703) 281-6300.

Below, we define and differentiate furnaces and heat pumps:


The traditional option for warming homes is a furnace, which heats and circulates air throughout a structure using ductwork. However, these devices only provide heat; manufacturers thus pair them with an air conditioner.  A furnace and an air conditioner compose a complete heating and cooling (HVAC) system. 

Generally, furnaces are ideal for homes in cooler climates. The most popular types are:

  • Gas furnaces: The most common type of furnace, gas furnaces require a connection to a municipal gas line and burn gas to generate heat. That hot air travels through your home’s central air ducts to reach each room.
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  • Oil furnaces: Similar to gas furnaces, oil furnaces burn fuel—in this case, oil—in a combustion chamber. The heat they produce generates warmth for the home, circulating hot air throughout the structure via ductwork.

  • Electric furnaces: Comparable to heat pumps, electric furnaces use electricity to generate heat. They work by passing an electric current through a series of conductive coils. The resistance in those coils creates heat, which the system circulates through a structure using a blower fan.

Heat Pumps

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Unlike furnaces, heat pumps are standalone HVAC systems with the ability to both heat and cool a home. Heat pumps run on electricity; similar to refrigerators, they draw heat from one environment and release it into another. These devices work best in moderate climates. 

A few types of heat pumps exist:

  • Ducted Air-Source Heat Pump: Much like central AC, ducted air-source heat pumps consist of an outdoor and indoor unit. Depending on outdoor conditions, one collects heat and transfers it to its counterpart, which releases that heat.

  • Ductless (or Mini-Split) Air-Source Heat Pump: As the name suggests, ductless air-source heat pumps don’t use ductwork to move air throughout the home. Instead, the outdoor unit connects to one or more indoor air handlers—or “heads”—installed across various zones throughout the house. If your home lacks ductwork, it may be suited to a ductless air-source heat pump.

  • Other Types of Heat Pumps: Some less common heat pump types besides air-source models are available. These systems include ground-source—or geothermal—heat pumps, water-source heat pumps, and air-to-water heat pumps. These alternatives work well in some situations but may require further research to ensure viability for your household.

Furnaces vs. Heat Pumps

In sum, you can chalk up your decision between a furnace and heat pump to your geographic location. Again, furnaces are ideal for cooler climates and heat pumps for moderately warm locales. You must also consider other factors, including the presence or absence of ductwork, fossil fuels, and water sources.

Among gas, oil, and electric furnaces, the appropriate type for your home largely depends on the climate, resource availability, and other geographical factors. That also goes for heat pumps, sourcing usable temperatures from the outside air, underground, or underwater.

Usually, you can reference the heating systems your neighbors or greater community are using. If unsure, ask your HVAC technician what heating system is suitable for your home. 

Schedule Your Next Heat Pump Installation in the Washington, DC, Metro Area

Argent Heating & Cooling offers furnace and heat pump installation to those in the Washington, DC, Metro area. We install state-of-the-art heating systems with high SEER and HSPF ratings. Moreover, expect efficiency and energy savings with your new furnace or heat pump. Be prepared for the cold. Schedule a service call today at (703) 281-6300.