Conventional electric heat vs. a heat pump: Which is better? Should you switch?

Heat pumps have changed cold climate electric heating for the better. But which type of heating system is right for you?

Heat pumps have changed cold climate electric heating for the better. But which type of heating system is right for you?

You may have heard some myths about electric heat, but we’re here to tell you some good news:

Electric heat is the far superior (and most energy efficient) way to heat a home… when you do it with a heat pump. 

Jump to table of contents

Maybe at first you felt good about having electric resistance heat in your home. Electric heat is better for your health, after all. 

But then you saw your winter heating bills, and you’re thinking it’s time to switch.

Or maybe you’re just now exploring converting from natural gas or switching from oil heat… and looking to go with cleaner, more cost-stable energy instead. You could get an electric heat pump with Sealed’s energy-savings guarantee. Tap here to see if you qualify. 

We’ve got you covered on the electric resistance heat vs. heat pump topic… so let’s dive in. 

Table of contents:

Key points:

  • Switching from conventional electric heat, like electric baseboard heating, to a heat pump is the most efficient way to heat a home. Not to mention, you’ll feel way more comfortable.
  • Heat pumps do double—no, quadruple—the duty compared to electric heaters of the past. They heat your home evenly in winter, perfectly cool your house in summer, help regulate your home’s humidity, and filter your indoor air year-round.
  • You can get a super-efficient heat pump—along with any federal or local rebates your project is eligible for—with expert project management and an energy-savings guarantee with Sealed. Tap here to see if your house qualifies.

Conventional electric resistance heat vs. heat pump: What’s the difference?

Here’s a quick, easy-to-understand explanation for electric resistance heat vs. a heat pump: 

Electric resistance heating is like a big toaster that warms up your room or house when electricity flows through it. Coils heat up; warm air radiates out.

A heat pump is a high-tech appliance that can transport heat energy that’s in the atmosphere outside your house indoors to heat your home in winter. It also reverses this process to move heat and humidity outside of your house in summer to keep you cool. (It’s both a heating system and air conditioner.)

But which type of electric heat is best for your home? 

Overall, heat pumps are the most efficient way to keep your home comfortable in winter, but electric heaters are easier to set up and cost less… at first.

To know what heating system’s right for you, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.

Ready to go back to science class for a few minutes? Here we go!

Back to top

How electric resistance heating works

Electric resistance heating—like baseboard heat, space heaters, and electric furnaces—works by converting electrical energy into heat. As an electric current flows through a wire or coil heating element, it generates heat because of the material. 

The heat created is then moved throughout your house via ductwork or with fans that distribute the heat out of baseboard units, wall heaters, and space heaters.

And electric resistance home heating is all very much like a toaster: This same kind of energy transfer is what heats up your frozen waffles and toasts your sourdough. 

And that’s why it’s also not an efficient way to heat your home.

So if you’ve been using one of the electric heating methods listed below, well, there is a better option out there.

Types of electric resistance heaters commonly used in homes:

  • Baseboard heaters
  • Wall heaters (also known as panel heaters)
  • Radiant heaters, like embedded floor heating
  • Electric furnaces
  • Portable space heating units

And we would be remiss if we didn’t throw in a joke here: We’ve already mentioned toasters, but toaster ovens also use this way of heating.

Hungry yet? (This writer’s going to grab a snack. Be right back.)

Okay, let’s talk about the star of this article: Electric heat pumps. 

How do heat pumps work compared to conventional electric home heating methods? 

Two men installing a new heat pump.

How heat pumps work

Rather than burning through lots of electricity, gas, or oil, heat pumps use a tiny bit of electricity to move heat energy in the atmosphere around. 

Heat pumps transfer heat using refrigerants contained within coils, extracting heat from the outdoor air (or ground, if you’re using a ground source heat pump) and moving it indoors during colder months to keep you warm. 

And if you’re wondering, yes, there is heat energy in the atmosphere, even on the coldest days of winter. Read What temperature does a heat pump stop working? to learn more.

Here’s what makes heat pumps really special: They can also reverse this process to work like a traditional air conditioner to keep your household feeling fresh, cool, and comfortable on the hottest days.  

Heat pumps are way more energy efficient than conventional electric heating or natural gas heating—they provide 2-3 times more heat energy per unit of electricity than other methods.

Tap here for a deep dive on how heat pumps work.

Types of heat pump HVAC systems for homes

  • Ground source heat pumps (aka geothermal heat pumps)
  • Air source heat pumps
  • Ductless mini-split heat pumps (another type of air source heat pump that allows for zoned heating and cooling)

Heat pumps are way more energy efficient than conventional electric heating or natural gas heating—they provide 2-3 times more heat energy per unit of electricity than other methods.

GIF of baseboard heating in a home with wood floors and dark blue walls

Baseboard heat vs. heat pump

Baseboard heaters deserve an individual mention here, since they’re often seen as an easy go-to for making really cold rooms more comfortable and are fairly easy and affordable to install. 

Many homeowners rely on them to give a boost to freezing rooms since they allow for simple zoned heating, but they’re really inefficient. 

And ductless mini-split heat pumps allow for the same zoned customization and ability to forgo ductwork… with nearly triple the efficiency.

In fact, homeowners with baseboard heating pay about $1,300 more in energy costs a year to heat and cool their homes compared to those with heat pumps (1).

And adding baseboard heating to a house to reduce uncomfortable rooms just puts a bandage over the underlying problem.

The real problem that needs fixing? Insufficient insulation, home air leaks, and an HVAC system that’s not working properly—so every part of your home isn’t as comfy as it could (and should!) be.

Homeowners with baseboard heating pay about $1,300 more in energy costs a year compared to heat pumps.

Carbon Switch

While heat pumps can be more expensive to install upfront—and if your home has uneven temperature issues that means it’s likely in need of an insulation fix, too—heat pumps do have clear benefits over DIY electric baseboard heating:

  1. Superior energy efficiency
  2. Longer lifespan
  3. Ability to both cool and heat your home
  4. Excellent dehumidifying properties

Ready to learn why heat pumps are superior in efficiency? Let’s dig in.

Are heat pumps more efficient than electric heat? Heat pump vs. electric resistance heating efficiency

Yes, heat pumps are more efficient than conventional electric heat of the past. If you’re already using electric resistance heating in your home, a heat pump can cut your electricity use by 50% (2).

We’ll say that again in case you’re scrolling fast: 

By switching to a heat pump, you could cut your electricity use during the heating season in half

And depending on where you live, you could get a super-efficient heat pump system with an energy-savings guarantee and flexible payment options—eligible rebates included. Tap here to see if your house qualifies to work with Sealed.

By switching to a heat pump, you could cut your electricity use during the heating season in half

No matter what type of electric heating system you use, there are a few factors that can affect the efficiency of your heating system overall (including your heat pump). 

It’s important to keep these things in mind for optimum performance: 

  1. Sufficient insulation in your home, especially in your attic and along your foundation
  2. Air sealing any air leaks throughout your house (and most homes have them!)
  3. Regular HVAC system maintenance by a professional

Is a heat pump better than electric heating systems of the past?

We can say with absolute confidence (and a lot of expertise—heat pumps are the only kind of HVAC system we’ll install) that heat pumps are better than any other conventional heating system you could choose. 

Here’s a high-level look as to why:

  • They can last up to 25 years with a properly insulated and air sealed home (3)
  • They offer a flexible installation—with or without ductwork
  • They’re the most advanced HVAC technology on the market
  • They provide heating, cooling, air filtering, and dehumidifying expertise
  • They’re quiet, safe, and there’s no off-gassing or carbon monoxide risks from fossil fuel heating
  • They’re a life upgrade and make your house more comfortable

There’s no reason not to switch out your electric furnace or baseboard heating to a heat pump. 

Especially if you can get one with an expert’s guarantee.

Switch from electric resistance heating or baseboard heat

Depending on where you live, you may be able to switch from conventional, wasteful electric resistance heat to superior heat pump heating with Sealed—and get an energy-savings guarantee, while you’re at it.

We manage the project, hire local experts, negotiate pricing, get the work done right, and make sure it saves you energy, too. We stand by our work: If you don’t waste less energy, we take the hit. 

Sealed offers flexible payment options, too. That way, you’ve still got money in the bank and the home upgrades you want and need. 

Plus, you get to leave behind the hassle of coordinating home projects. We make it easy.

It’s the best way to get powerful home upgrades.

Answer this two-minute questionnaire to see if your house qualifies.

May 5, 2023