Do You Need a Furnace With a Heat Pump?

If you’re thinking of installing an energy-efficient heat pump, pairing a furnace with it may sound odd. Both systems generate heat, so wouldn’t using just one make the most sense?

Some homes get by with one heating unit or the other, while others greatly benefit from their combined use. Which setup is right for you? Do you need a furnace with a heat pump in your home?

The answer depends on your needs, local climate, and living conditions. So before reaching out to your local expert furnace installation company in Denver, you’ll want to know the difference between furnaces and heat pumps, what benefits they offer, and how to choose the right system.

do you need a furnace with a heat pump

How Heat Pumps Work

A heat pump is a type of HVAC system that generates both hot and cold air. Professionals install them just outside your home to absorb heat from the outdoor air and transfer it to your indoor air handler to warm your home during the winter. The warm air blows past electric-powered coils, flowing through the ductwork and into your home. 

Heat pumps also provide cooling capabilities by taking warm indoor air and dispelling it outside during the summer. Refrigerant allows the air to move through your system, transforming from liquid to gas and back again as it heats and cools. 

There are many types of heat pumps, each pulling heat from a different source. These heat pumps include:

  • Air-source heat pumps
  • Ground-source heat pumps
  • Water-source heat pumps
  • Geothermal heat pumps

How Furnaces Work

Fuel source is the primary distinction between heat pumps and furnaces. Where heat pumps use existing heat to warm your home, furnaces burn gas, oil, or propane to generate heat. Furnaces usually appear indoors, particularly in basements and utility closets. 

When you set your thermostat to heat your home, the furnace motor turns on and tells the circuit board to ignite the fuel source to provide heat. The furnace’s blower then activates and pushes air through the heat exchanger to heat it up before distributing it through your home.

Comparing Heat Pumps and Furnaces

Do you need a furnace with a heat pump? Answering this question means considering the differences between installing either unit and whether you’re better off choosing both.


Since furnaces use either gas, oil, or propane as fuel, they can produce carbon monoxide if not properly ventilated. Metal, PVC piping, and chimney flues are ideal since they can safely handle a furnace’s output.

On the other hand, heat pumps don’t require ventilation and are the safer option because they don’t burn fuel, won’t produce carbon monoxide, and use natural resources like air, water, and earth.


The installation cost for furnaces and heat pumps is about the same, hovering between $6,000 to $16,000 for most units. System size, energy efficiency, and air quality add-ons will also affect the price tag. Some HVAC contractors provide free in-home estimates to customers considering new unit installations.


Both furnaces and heat pumps require ongoing maintenance to function correctly. Since the heat pump unit is often outdoors, it can quickly accumulate debris, so a maintenance plan with annual cleanings is vital. Furnaces typically involve a technician inspecting and cleaning the unit’s burners, flame sensors, and blower motor.

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps work best in places with warm weather and mild winters. So if temperatures in your area regularly stay above 40 degrees, you can get by with a heat pump. Heat pumps are also fantastic for lowering your carbon footprint when the weather is only slightly cool.

However, if you live in a place that sees freezing temperatures year after year, then a combined furnace and heat pump will come in handy. Some of the more energy-efficient gas furnaces can achieve 96% efficiency, keeping your fossil fuel usage to a minimum.


Furnaces usually last longer than heat pumps due to their reduced usage. Since heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, they see more use throughout the year. The average lifespan of a heat pump is a decade. Meanwhile, furnaces only operate about four to five months per year, so one can last 15 years if properly maintained.

Should You Install a Furnace With a Heat Pump?

One of the most significant disadvantages of using only a heat pump is that it often struggles to provide warm air during extreme cold weather. This is common in a western state like Colorado, where winter temperatures dip below freezing. 

Since heat pumps rely on outside energy to heat the indoor unit and generate warm air, chilly environments make the process more difficult.

Furnaces are incredibly useful and versatile in colder climates, thanks to their use of ignitable fuel as a power source. This makes them more effective in cold environments than heat pumps. Here are some additional reasons to pair a furnace with your heat pump:

  • Backup heating through redundancy, meaning the furnace will take over warming your home if the heat pump can’t generate enough heat
  • Energy efficiency by choosing one unit over the other depending on the conditions, such as using a heat pump during spring and summer while the furnace runs during fall and winter
  • Reduced strain on both systems through alternate usage, leading to less wear and tear, as well as increased system lifespan

Let JC Mechanical Install a Furnace With Your Heat Pump Today

Although there are many factors to consider when answering the question, “Do you need a furnace with a heat pump?” there’s only one option for the best HVAC service provider in Denver, CO. Family-owned and -operated, JC Mechanical delivers superior HVAC services and heating maintenance to residents throughout Colorado. We value and listen to our customers so that our professionals consistently exceed expectations.

Whether you need a heat pump estimate or a furnace installation, JC Mechanical has you covered 24 hours a day!Call JC Mechanical today at (720) 594-5588 and learn how we can make your home comfortable year-round with a dual furnace and heat pump HVAC system.

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