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Heat Pump Or Furnace: What Should I Choose?

furnace or heat pump massachusetts

If you have existing ductwork in your central Massachusetts home, you will typically have to choose between two pieces of equipment if you want central heating: a heat pump and a furnace. Although they will both heat your home, they do so in very different ways and offer different benefits and costs along the way.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each type of heat system, and some of the factors you should consider when making your decision.

Heat Pumps

How they work

A heat pump doesn’t burn fuel to generate heat; instead, it draws heat from outdoor air into your home (basically, it acts like an air conditioner in reverse…in fact, it can actually act as an air conditioner when in cooling mode).


  • Extremely efficient
  • Able to run year-round, in heating and cooling modes
  • Easy to install
  • Quiet while running
  • Does not emit carbon monoxide, so no CO poisoning safety risk


  • Produces less heat than a furnace (air is not as warm coming from your vents)
  • Efficiency often decreases when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing (since there is less heat in the outdoor air); however, technology has made this less of an issue in recent years – today’s heat pumps can operate with adequate efficiency even at low temperatures
  • More complicated to maintain, which can mean more replacement parts and repairs

Why choose a heat pump?

Heat pumps are a great choice if you want an efficient, year-round heating and cooling solution (for example, if you are replacing both your heating and air conditioning system at the same time). In the past, heat pumps were mostly an option for homes in milder climates, but heat pump technology has come a long way in recent years, making them a viable option even in a place like New England.


How they work

Furnaces produce warm air by burning fuel, then distributing that air throughout your home via series of ducts and vents. Because furnaces use fuel to create heat, they blow much warmer air than heat pumps.

Furnace systems include four components – a burner (which produces heat); a heat exchanger (which transfers that heat to the air); a blower (which pushes warm air through your ducts), and a flue (which vents exhaust gases). They can run on natural gas, propane, or oil.


  • Typically cheaper to purchase than heat pumps (depending on size and features)
  • Best if you like your home on the warm side
  • Often easier to maintain than a heat pump, with fewer opportunities for problems 


  • Not as efficient as a heat pump
  • Cannot act as a heating and cooling unit
  • Can potentially dry out the air in your home, which can worsen health problems and cause damage to your furniture (this can be overcome by installing a whole house humidifier, which integrates with your furnace)

Why choose a furnace?

If you like it especially warm in your home – or especially cool in the summer, using a dedicated air conditioning system – a furnace might be a better choice for you. If you have an existing home cooling system that you are satisfied with – especially a newer one – your choice could also lean toward a furnace.

Still not sure whether to choose a furnace or heat pump for your next heating system? We can help! Our experts will give you the COMPLETE run-down on what systems will work best for your home, budget, and lifestyle, with great options available from today’s top names in home comfort.

Contact Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling today to learn more!