Do you need a furnace with a heat pump?

Having an energy efficient heating system at home is an essential concern for the majority of homeowners living in areas where prolonged cold temperatures are a common characteristic during the heating season.

Not only will an energy efficient heating system affect your overall indoor comfort levels, but it also determines what you'll pay on your monthly utility costs.

Therefore, it's safe to say that the heating system you choose to install in your home can make or break your monthly energy costs when the temperature drops.

Heat pumps and furnaces are two types of heating systems installed in homes across Canada. So, how would you choose which one is right for your home? Is it really necessary to have a heat pump and furnace in your home? Can a heat pump replace a natural gas furnace or electric furnace?

Before installing either HVAC unit in your home and investing your hard earned money into either heating system, join the residential heating experts from Furnasman Heating and Air Conditioning as we answer these questions and more below.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

A heat pump is a type of heating and cooling system that functions off of a process that works by a strategic heat exchange where the outdoor unit collects thermal energy from the outside air before transferring it indoors.

Because of this process, heat pumps are considered to be one of the most efficient HVAC systems that homeowners can install.

Here is a closer look at how a heat pump system operates:

1. Absorption of heat from outdoor air

The process begins with the evaporator coil, which is located in the outdoor unit outside of your home. This coil absorbs thermal energy from the surrounding outdoor air during the wintertime.

2. Refrigerant circulation

The absorbed heat collected by the outdoor unit causes the refrigerant contained inside the coil to evaporate, transforming it from a liquid to a gas.

3. Compression

The refrigerant gas is then compressed by the compressor component, which increases the temperature of the gas.

4. Release of heat indoors

This is then pumped to a condenser coil located in the interior compartment. As the refrigerant turns back into a liquid, it releases the absorbed heat into the indoor to heat your home. As you may have guessed, this process uses less energy than traditional HVAC equipment that has to generate heat through a combustion process.

5. Distribution of warm air

The warm air is distributed throughout a home's indoor air using a duct system or the unit itself, depending on the type of heat pump you have installed.

Heat pumps in cooling mode

If you think the magic of a heat pump stops there, you'll be happy and excited to know that a heat pump can actually serve as air conditioners during the summertime as well. How exactly can heat pumps do this? It's actually quite simple and the way heat pumps act as cooling systems is similar to how traditional air conditioners operate.

Here is a closer look at how a heat pump system works during the summer when the outdoor temperature increases to scorching heights:

1. Evaporation

In mini split heat pumps, a coil is housed in an air handler unit located within the interior of your home. When you want to cool your indoor air, the warm air is moved over this coil. using a fan.

The refrigerant stored within this coil is used to absorb the thermal energy within your air, which transforms the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas.

2. Compression

Now that the refrigerant is in its gas state, it is pulled into the compressor component which again, is located in the outdoor compartment Once it is in the compressor, the gas is pressured, increasing the temperature as well.

As the refrigerant releases heat to the outdoor environment, it condenses back into a liquid state. This heat transfer process allows the refrigerant to release e heat it absorbed inside your home.

3. Expansion valve

Further, as the refrigerant within the outside heat pump unit is in a liquid form, it passes through an expansion valve, which decreases the pressure of the liquid. As a result, the temperature of the refrigerant is also reduced.

4. Heat exchanger

The cycle is finally completed when the cool liquid refrigerant goes back to the indoor coil from the heat exchanger. The refrigerant absorbs the ambient heat from the air as it travels over the cold coil from the warm indoor air, causing the air to evaporate again. The heat pump keeps doing this, sucking heat out of the air within and transferring it outside to chill the space inside for as long as you need.

As you can see, air source heat pumps are a type of HVAC equipment that offers numerous benefits that go beyond their outstanding energy efficiency ratings, offering solutions for your home's heating and cooling needs from a single unit rather than a separate furnace and air conditioner.

Can heat pumps work if the outdoor air is cold?

Heat pumps are capable of functioning in cold outdoor air, but as the temperature drops, so does their effectiveness. Despite being adaptable systems that can supply both heating and cooling, the weather has an impact on how efficient they are.

In other words, it takes more effort for the heat pump to remove heat when the outside air gets colder.

In extreme cold, traditional air-source heat pumps may lose their efficiency, which reduces their value as independent heating sources. It may be required to provide extra warmth in extremely cold temperatures, usually with a backup source like a furnace, in order to meet heating demands.

That said, cold climate heat pumps are also available. If you live in a particularly cold part of Canada, cold climate heat pumps are able to work like any other heating system and provide warmth to your home, despite the freezing temperatures outdoors.

Which Is Better: Heat Pump or Furnace?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when deciding between a heat pump and a furnace. Each system has its own benefits and things to keep in mind.

For a deeper understanding of each system's advantages, take a look at the comparison below:

1. Air source heat pump advantages


Heat pumps are known for their energy efficiency levels, which can help you save on your monthly energy bills. The transfer heat method to collect heating energy from the cold air outdoors used by heat pumps uses less power than it takes a natural gas furnace to generate heat.

Offers heating and cooling solutions

Heat pump technology allows heat pumps to be used from heating and cooling. This is a great way to maximize the space in your home and only have to maintain a single system rather than separate gas furnaces and air conditioner units.

Perfect for moderate environments

Heat pump systems, while incredibly energy efficient, work best in mild climates, where the outdoor temperature never drops below -25 degrees Celsius. This means you can provide heat to your home confidently while keeping your energy bills affordable.

Transfer heat method is environmentally friendly

Unlike oil furnaces or gas furnaces that involve burning gas to provide heat, heat pumps simply move heat from one area to another. Burning gas creates carbon monoxide and greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment.

Heat pumps are safer to operate

Air source heat pumps are safer to operate than gas furnaces, given that they do not produce harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide which is potentially lethal if you are exposed to it unknowingly.

2. Heat pump drawbacks

An electric heat pump does not work well in frigid climates

A downside to electric heat pump technology is that it does not work well in frigid climates where temperatures drop below freezing for long periods of time.

Upfront investment

A new heat pump system is a big investment. Unlike a traditional heating system, a new heat pump tends to be more of a big financial decision. That said, government incentives are often available to homeowners wanting to install new heat pump systems in their home, given how environmentally friendly they are.

3. Natural gas furnace and electric furnaces advantages

Energy efficient in climates where the temperature routinely drops below freezing

A gas furnace is a great heating system for homeowners living in areas where the temperature routinely drops below freezing. You can have peace of mind knowing your home is heated well and that your family is comfortable with gas heating.

Warms up a room quickly

Gas furnaces are known for their ability to heat the indoor air in your home quickly for uncompromised comfort even during the coldest times of the year while remaining energy efficient.

Can be used with a heat pump to provide supplemental heat in a dual fuel system

If you are interested in a dual fuel system, now that a furnace and heat pump is possible. In cold climates, a gas furnace or electric furnace can be used as a supplemental heat to provide heat to your home when temperatures drop below -25 degrees Celsius.

By having both heating systems installed and using your furnace as a backup heat source, you can maintain your energy efficiency levels without sacrificing your indoor comfort.

This means you can have the best of both worlds when you have a furnace with a heat pump installed in your home.

Has a long life span

Gas furnaces are known for their long lifespans. Generally speaking, when taken care of correctly, gas furnaces can last anywhere between 20 to 25 years before needing to be replaced with a new unit.

Natural gas furnace and electric furnace drawbacks

Gas furnaces are only available to homeowners where gas is available

Unlike heat pump systems that operate on electricity, gas furnaces are only possible in areas where gas lines are available. Therefore, gas furnaces may not be available to install in all homes.

Electric furnaces don't last as long

Electric furnaces don't last as long as gas furnaces. In general,electric furnaces will only last 15 to 20 years, which is significantly shorter than other units.

Ultimately, the best choice for you and your home depends on your specific needs, climate, and energy preferences.

Consulting with an HVAC professional can help you assess your situation and determine the most suitable heating solution for your home based on your budget!

Can a heat pump replace a furnace?

It is possible for a heat pump to replace a furnace in your home. Heat pumps are highly adaptable as they offer both heating and cooling solutions from a single unit. However, whether or not to make the switch from a furnace to a heat pump depends on several factors.

In regions with mild temperatures throughout the winter, heat pumps can operate in place of a furnace. However, in extremely cold climates, where temperatures consistently drop below freezing, the efficiency of air-source heat pumps can decrease substantially.

In these situations, many homeowners opt to install a backup heat source like a furnace or boiler to create a dual system. When temperatures outdoors fall below freezing, the heat pump turns off, and the secondary heater is put to use automatically. 

This can help homeowners keep their home's energy efficiency ratings high without sacrificing their indoor comfort during the winter.

Ultimately, if you’re stuck choosing between a heat pump and a furnace for your home, the best course of action to take is to meet with a professional HVAC company in your area. They will be able to evaluate your needs and budget and help you determine what type of unit would be best for your home.

Which is cheaper to operate: heat pump vs furnace?

While heat pumps are generally more affordable to operate than furnaces, it really depends on the electricity prices in your area. If energy prices are relatively affordable in your area, operating air source heat pumps can be incredibly beneficial, because they use less electricity to operate and maintain their energy efficiency levels, approximately three times more than furnaces.

At the same time, the energy efficiency of electric heat pump systems is also affected by how often you use your unit to warm the interior of your home. The key here is to balance indoor comfort and energy efficiency by using heat pump best practices such as turning the heat down at night and while you're away from your home.

Furthermore, how well you take care of your heat pump and furnace throughout its service life also determines how cheap it is to use throughout the winter. To maintain energy efficiency levels, booking routine maintenance appointments with a professional HVAC technician once a year is essential.

It's also important that you schedule prompt repair work with a technician as soon as you notice there is something wrong with your heat pump or furnace. This can help prevent further damage from happening to your equipment, which would otherwise impede its ability to function correctly.

Looking to install a new heating system in your home? Book a Consultation with Furnasman Heating and Air Conditioning today!

Can’t quite make a decision? If so, the team at Furnasman is here to help! With years of experience partnering with homeowners, Furnasman Heating and Air Conditioning offers leading HVAC services that will restore and upgrade your indoor comfort levels all year round.

We understand that problems with your heat pumps or furnaces can happen at any time, which is why our technicians are available for repair and maintenance services 24/7/365 days a year including after-hours, weekends, and holidays at no extra cost to homeowners.

Furnasman Heating and Air Conditioning proudly serves homeowners throughout Winnipeg, Garden City, East Kildonan, St. Andrews, St. James, Headingley, Tuxedo, Whyte Ridge, Mitchell, River Heights, St. Boniface, The Maples, Westwood, West End, Woodhaven, Steinbach, Windsor Park, St. Vital, and the surrounding areas.

If you live in one of these communities, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team to schedule a consultation appointment with one of our home comfort advisors. During your consultation appointment, a home comfort advisor will go over the extensive list of our current heat pumps and furnace models that we can customize to fit your unique needs and home.

We’ll also give you the inside scoop on our current discounts and financing options that can help you save money on your new equipment.

Are you ready to upgrade your home comfort with heat pumps and furnaces? Book with the team at Furnasman Heating and Air Conditioning by giving us a call directly or by using our online booking form.