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Heat Pump vs Furnace: Which Will Keep Your Chicago Home Warm?

Are you questioning the best way to heat your home? Heat pumps have been a hot topic of discussion lately for their environmental friendliness. While they’re a popular heat source in the southern U.S., can they handle the notoriously brutal Chicago winters like a standard gas furnace?

When it comes down to it, both heat pumps and furnaces will keep your house warm. The real question is, which heat source will better suit your individual needs? Generally, choosing between a heat pump and a furnace comes down to your type of home, your comfort level, your access to fuel, and your personal preferences.

What Is a Heat Pump?

When weighing your options between a heat pump and a furnace, understanding how heat pumps work will aid your decision-making process. Many Chicagoans are familiar with how furnaces work—a gas burner heats air flowing through the system and pushes the air through your house’s ductwork. Furnaces depend on a fuel source such as gas or propane to heat the air moving through the system.

On the other hand, heat pumps work similarly to air conditioners, but in reverse—they draw in heat from the air, water, or ground outside of your home and concentrate it to redistribute the warmth throughout your home. There are three common types of heat pumps:

  • Air-to-air. Transfers heat between the outside air and your house using air ducts.
  • Mini-split. Works similarly to an air-to-air system but doesn’t require ductwork.

When Choosing Between a Heat Pump and a Furnace, Consider Your Individual Needs

Even in the coldest conditions, there’s a relative amount of warmth that heat pumps can extract from the air. With modern technology, both types of heating systems can do an adequate job keeping your home warm, even in the most frigid conditions. To help make heat pumps more accessible to homeowners in the northern U.S., some heat pumps are equipped with a supplemental electric heating element. In the end, it comes down to the benefits you personally want to get from your home’s heating system.

Environmental Impact

With a gas-powered furnace, your dependence on fossil fuels leaves behind a pretty large environmental footprint. Heat pumps can heat your home without depending on fossil fuels to provide heat. Even dual-source systems that use electricity as a heat source when the temperature is too cold to adequately heat your home, your environmental impact is considerably smaller than employing a heat source that’s fully powered by electricity.


If you’re looking to save money in the long run, consider the price of electricity versus gas in your area. If electricity is more expensive per unit than gas, a heat pump will generally cost more than a gas furnace and vice versa. Additionally, gas furnaces tend to have longer lifespans and cheaper maintenance costs than heat pumps.

Access to a Fuel Source

If you’re building a new home in a rural area, you may not have easy access to a natural gas utility, or you may want to save some additional money by avoiding the service altogether. Since heat pumps use the environment around you to extract heat, you can install them just about anywhere.


Do you live in an older home with poor insulation or a new home with the top-of-the-line stuff? How your home is insulated can greatly affect how a heat pump functions in your home. A gas furnace can power through just about anything. If your house is drafty with old windows and insulation, a heat pump could struggle to adequately maintain higher temperatures.

Choose the System That Works for You

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, both gas furnaces and heat pumps will be able to heat your home no matter where you live. The final decision comes down to your personal preferences and what you plan to gain from your home’s heating system.

The heating experts at Althoff Industries can help you weigh the pros and cons of both systems and help you determine the type of system that will work best for your home. Contact us today to schedule your home heating consultation.

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