Heat Strip vs. Heat Pump: What’s The Difference?

Are you having trouble choosing between a heat strip and a heat pump for your perfect home?

Worry not! Just because a heat strip costs way much less than a heat pump and a heat pump is more efficient than a heat strip, be sure there’s one that best fits your preference.

Step by step, I will help you choose the perfect heating system for your home. Stick around to learn more.

What Is A Heat Strip?

A heat strip is a secondary heat source installed inside an air handler and operates using the same A.C. power as the air conditioning unit. They also can be referred to as auxiliary heat strips.

Heat strips help the heat pump’s heating output whenever the outdoor temperatures are low. A heat strip can be activated to warm your home as they operate much like an electric stove but cannot generate enough heat to keep you warm and toasty during frigid weather.

They are much suitable for the spring and autumn seasons when the weather is not that cold and at the same time not warm enough.

Pros and Cons Of Heat Strips

Let us hop down to these pros and cons of heat strips.


  • Heats up quickly: Oh yes! You do not have to wait for hours for the room to get heated. Just a few minutes less, and the temperatures in your home will change as you desire them.
  • Easy To Maintain: Since electric heat strips are composed of a few parts, they are easy to clean and maintain.
  • Easy To Install: Electric heat strips are almost a plug-and-play component due to the compatible units. You do not need much effort to install them. It’s very simple to install them


  • Cost: As much as electric heat strips emit warm air quickly, they are efficient during extreme cold seasons. They tend to be expensive in the long run as electricity costs more than gas. You will end up paying higher electric bills.

What Is A Heat Pump?

A heat pump is a heating system used to cool or heat an enclosed area like home. It has an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. 

Technically, the outdoor unit is installed outside the home while the indoor unit is installed inside your home. They work almost the same way as straight cool systems, but heat pumps heat better.

During cold weather, the heat pump pulls heat from the cold outside air and transfers it inside your home, and during warm weather, it pulls heat out of the indoor air to cool your home to the desired temperature. 

heat strip vs heat pump

Types of Heat Pumps

Unlike electric furnaces and air conditioners, a heat pump offers an energy-efficient alternative for all climates.

However, it would be best to familiarize yourself with the various heat pumps before settling down for the hating system that best suits you. The three major types are;

Air To Air Source Heat Pump

It is the most commonly used type of heat pump. These pumps work using air as a heat source and heat sink. Due to their sufficient heating and cooling properties, they are suitable for use in any season.

A fun fact about this type of heat pump is it reduces your electricity use for heating by 50% compared to other heating systems like the electric furnace and space heater.

There’re a few different types of air to air-source heat pumps, they include;

Ductless Heat Pumps

Some know it as the mini-split heat pump as they are rising swiftly in popularity due to their ease of installation and energy efficiency.

From its word, ductless heat pumps don’t necessarily require an extensive network of ducts. They are best suitable for older structures that need to be fitted with a modern air conditioner.

Exhaust Air Heat Pump

This air-to-air source heat pump is not commonly known but uses exhaust air from a separate process and extracts heat. 

One major drawback of this heat pump is that it should be located near an exhaust system with a constant flow and consistent temperature.

Underground Heat Pump

They are also known as geothermal heat pumps, and they take advantage of thermal energy stored underground. They transfer heat between your home and the ground and do not need a condensing unit.

The installation of geothermal heat pumps is quite costly due to excavation and underground piping that needs to be done.

However, they have a low operating cost since they take advantage of relatively constant ground or water temperatures. Underwater heat pumps reduce energy use by 30% to 60%. They also control humidity and fit in a wide range of homes.

Unlike air-source heat pumps, underwater heat pumps can be used in extreme climatic conditions, thus being reliable.

Water Source Heat Pump

If your home is close enough to deep water sources like lakes, rivers, or an ocean, then a water source heat pump should be your idle type of heating system.

Water source heat pumps work the same as air to air-source heat pumps, but they use water bodies as a heat exchange medium. They absorb heat from the water to warm the indoor air and vice versa.

Water source heat pumps are a perfect choice since the temperatures deep underwater are stable throughout the year enough to be used during extreme climates. The only disadvantage is you have to be near a water body.

Water source heat pumps can either be closed or open loops. Open loops collect open water into the system and move the water through the internal structure, and then heat is released or absorbed. On the other hand, closed loops only move a refrigerant through a closed pipeline.

Pros and Cons Of Heat Pump

Here are some of the various pros and cons of a heat pump system.


  • Cost: Heat pump systems are generally cheap and have lower running costs. Don’t worry; your electric bill will not go up with a heat pump system.
  • Low Maintenance and Safer: Generally, heat pumps require less maintenance and no safety concerns. Since they do not burn gas, there’s less risk associated with using the heat pumps.
  • Energy Efficient: A heat pump has an average efficacy of 300% compared to other heating systems, which have lower efficacy.
  • Generate Heat And Provide Cool Air: A heat pump is pretty much capable of generating heat during milder cold days and generating cool air in your home during summer!


  • Difficult To Install: I’ll tell you for sure; you will need a professional to help you install a heat pump in your home as it is challenging to do it yourself. Why so? Research needs to be undertaken to understand the movement of heat and your home’s heating requirements.
  • Less Efficient During Cold Weather: I know we mentioned that an air source heat pump would be helpful during cold and warm seasons, but they tend to be less efficient in freezing environments. The freezing temperatures can easily damage the heat pump.

Heat Strip Vs. Heat Pump – In-Depth Comparison

Now, let us compare the two heating systems based on their features so that we can weigh out the most suitable heating system for your home, shall we?

Cooling /Heating Method

A heat pump uses a refrigerant to move heat from one place to another. The refrigerant connects the outdoor air conditioner to the indoor evaporator coil. 

They maintain a consistent temperature throughout your home, thus eliminating cold spots, which is common with a gas furnace.

On the other hand, electric heat strips help a heat pump produce heat even when the temperature goes below average.

Power Source

A heat pump heating system is typically powered by electricity, but do not worry about getting substantial electricity bills as its consumption is pretty pocket-friendly. However, it is also crucial to note that heat pumps also use natural gas.

It is 100% efficient in almost all temperate climates and will still serve as a heater and air conditioner. A heat strip is also powered by electricity, just like heat pumps.


Heat pumps provide a consistent temperature to heat your home during wintertime and can be used as an A.C. unit to provide cool air during warm seasons. It has a reversing valve that transfers heat from outside to your home.

A heat strip is an electric heating element that can only warm the cold air as it passes over the heat strip coils.


Heat pumps are generally affordable compared to other heating systems when it comes to cost. But ductwork needs to be already installed in your house, or you will be forced to spare a few more coins to install it. They are also cheap to run.

Electric heat strips are quite expensive to run and can cause your energy bills to be much higher than usual.


A heat pump is effective during milder climates, but they are not that effective when the average temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Why? A heat pump does not generate heat but generally transfers heat from one place to another.

An electric heat strip is pretty effective during these colder seasons. It works well when defrosting the air in your home.


Technically, no technician will be able to tell you how long your heating system will last. Also, the lifespan of your heating system will greatly depend on how you maintain your heating system.

But on average, a heat pump will last for more than ten years and not later than 15 years, interesting, right? I mean, you have ten years of nothing but warm temperatures during winter and cool air during summer.

The lifespan of a heat strip will also depend on how you maintain it but on average, heat strips will last ten years or more.

Frequently Asked Questions About Heat Strip Vs. Heat Pump

So many people ask questions about heat pumps vs. heat strips, and I know you have a few questions as well. Here are some examples of the frequently asked questions;

Do heat strips come on automatically with a heat pump?

So, your heat pump should include electric heat strips, so most heat pumps have them. When the heat pump breaks down, they are used as emergency heat and cannot keep your home warm.

With the emergency heat running, the outdoor unit is locked, and then heat is provided by the electric heat strips only.

Why does a heat pump have heat strips?

They are there for emergency use. They help the heat pumps increase the temperature of the air being pulled out by the unit.

In addition to this heating method, heat pumps use heat strips coils as an auxiliary heating source if the unit cannot convert the outside air as quickly as possible.

Do all heat pumps have heat strips?

No. Not all heat pump systems are equipped with an electric heat strip component. But keep in mind that most heat pumps do have electric heat strips.

It is beneficial to have them so that your heat pump fan blows air across the heat strips, and they can distribute that heat out across the room of your house.

Which is better, heat pump or heat strips?

A lot has been said between the two heating systems, and I know you also have one you are opting for.

A heat pump is better than a heat strip despite the drawbacks. Why? A heat pump is more efficient than a heat strip, and the fact that you can supplement it with a heat strip kit blows my mind more. 

So you are still covered even when the weather is freezing, and you are worried your heat pump may break down.

On the other hand, an electric heat strip also outdoes a heat pump as it works flawlessly in areas where the temperatures are way below average; something a heat pump cannot perform fully.

The Bottom Line

These two heating systems are the industry go-to for residential use, especially if you do not live in a no sunshine State.

So, as we prepare for the winter season, do not freeze out to death, yet you can install a heating system in your home and enjoy the warm temperatures. 

Install an electric heat strip if;

  • You live in a freezing environment as heat strips perform best in areas where the weather is freezing.
  • You want something that will not take much of your time when installing it.
  • You are looking for a cost-effective heating system.

Install an electric heat pump if;

  • You are looking for a low-budget heating system.
  • You live in an area where the temperatures are not extremely cold.
  • You want something safe to use and easy to maintain simultaneously.