HVAC Replacement GuideWhat is the Difference Between Heat Pump and Furnace and What to Choose for Sacramento Area?

heatpump vs furnace

Jake Smith, Online Marketing Strategist
Technically Reviewed by Jake Smith, Online Marketing Strategist on Dec 18, 2021 | Written by Alpha Mechanical Editorial Contributors

When it comes to heating the air in your home you have multiple options, but understanding how to choose the right heating system can feel overwhelming. Due to the fluctuating climate in Sacramento year-round deciding on the most energy-saving system can be tricky.

The benefits and disadvantages of each unit can be a struggle to navigate. In this article, we’ll outline the differences between a heat pump versus furnace to give you a better sense of what is the best unit for your home, electric furnace or heat pump, assuring you that Alpha Mechanical is the right professional for the job.

Difference Between
Heat Pump and Furnace

What is a Heat Pump?

A heat pump is part of a heating and cooling system that is installed outside your home. In the summer months it can be used as an air conditioner simply by reversing a valve. Powered by electricity, the pump uses liquid refrigerant to take in outdoor heat and turn it into vapor. An electric compressor constricts the vapor which then increases the temperature. The vapor circulates into the indoor air handler where it condenses back into liquid and sends the hot air into the home through the vents. The cold liquid gets released outside for another cycle.

What is an Electric Furnace?

A furnace is an indoor appliance that heats space using fossil fuels. A blower draws indoor air into the furnace where it passes over the heat exchanger and as the air gets hot it gets released into the home’s ductwork to be distributed throughout the home. Electric furnaces function similarly to gas furnaces except that they use electricity to produce heat instead of gas. This device uses electric heating elements (like a toaster) rather than gas burners. Coiled heating elements are mounted inside the furnace which uses electrically charged particles to produce heat.

Other important parts of the electric furnace include the contractor, sequencer, and transformer. The contractor runs the voltage to the heating elements and partners with the thermostat to tell your furnace to produce heat. A quality sequencer turns the heating elements on and off without energizing all the heating elements at once so as to not blow a breaker. The transformer supplies the furnace with power for the control circuits, thermostat, and sequencer.

One benefit to an electric furnace is it doesn’t produce carbon monoxide which is environmentally friendly and also entails an easier installation. Electric furnaces use all electricity to heat your home, therefore are 100% efficient. A disadvantage with the electric furnace is that electricity can be more expensive in some regions.

Heat Pump vs. Furnace: Comparison


  • Uses natural gas or oil (propane)
  • Less efficient 80-97%
  • Works in all climates
  • Produces emissions
  • Longer lifespan and potentially less service necessary

Heat Pump

  • Uses electricity
  • More efficient 100%
  • Works in warmer climates
  • No emissions
  • Shorter lifespan/ more maintenance

Heat pumps begin to lose their effectiveness when outdoor temperatures are around 40 degrees, however, they have proven to be more energy efficient because they use significantly less power to transfer heat. Since a heat pump can also be used as an air conditioner during summer, you would not need a separate HVAC unit. The main difference between furnace and heat pump is that the furnace creates its own heat and can withstand the most severe winter months.

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Heat Pump vs Electric Furnace for The Sacramento Area

So far we have ventured through several options for homeowners with a variety of preferences, but what tips does Alpha Mechanical recommend to Sacramento residents?

Although there is an option to have a heat pump for furnace, let’s take a look at what is best for this region. A solution to the issue of weather and energy efficiencies for the winter in the heating systems mentioned above would be an electric furnace or an electric furnace with heat pump. Also known as a dual fuel system, this unit resolves the heat pump system or furnace debate for the California homeowner. The furnace will provide satisfying heat on the coldest nights while the heat pump will relieve you in fall and spring.

A thermostat surveys the outside temperature and determines which system is more efficient to run. In areas where the winter climates can get into the freezing temperatures, pairing the electric furnace with the heat pumps can allow for considerable savings costs when compared to electricity alone. The heat pump is a central air conditioner in warm months.

When in AC mode the indoor coils get cold as heat is pulled away from it. Although moderately less systematic than most mini-split systems the heat pump with electric furnace unit is ideal for average to large size homes where ductwork is already installed. If you’re afraid your heat pump may need to be replaced or want to upgrade, you can trust us for your heat pump replacement in Sacramento, CA.

Consider Alpha Mechanical Your Trusted Partner Equal to the Task

Whether you’re in need of repair, replacement, or installing a new dual fuel system, Alpha Mechanical is the company for the job. With experienced technicians, we can further discuss which heating system is right for your home while providing you with installation, setup, upgrades, and maintenance for your unit. Our goal is to optimize efficiency, climate control, and indoor air quality leaving our customers with the assurance they made the right investment. We perform furnace replacement in Sacramento and can assist you in making the best decision, heat pump or furnace, and what works for you and your family’s home financially.

Our company has partnered with several banks to help with HVAC financing in Sacramento with Wells Fargo, GreenSky, Enerbank USA, and Foundation Finance Company. There are also Energy Efficient Rebate in the State of California. SMUD rebates for HVAC are available for energy-efficient home improvements. If you need help navigating promotions or specials by your local energy company or equipment provider, give us a call and we will be happy to help determine the most cost-effective option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a furnace and heat pump?

The main difference between a furnace and a heat pump is that a furnace burns natural gas to send heat into your home while a heat pump uses electricity.

Heat pump vs. electric furnace: which is better for your home?

Although the answer to this question relies upon where you live, for the Sacramento region, an electric furnace since it works best in winter climates that drop below a certain threshold. You don’t want your heat pump to fail on the coldest nights.

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