heat pump vs gas furnace which one is better
heat pump vs gas furnace which one is better

There can be advantages to installing a heat pump vs gas furnace. Heat pumps provide heating and cooling. Under the right conditions, heat pumps are more energy efficient and cheaper to operate than furnaces. Under the wrong conditions, however, heat pumps are less efficient heaters than gas furnaces.

The most critical determination is whether your climate conditions can support a heat pump or require a gas furnace. Other factors to consider are the many related costs, including the equipment, installation, repair, and operation costs. The fuel sources, maintenance requirements, life expectancies, and unit performance are also important considerations. After considering everything, you’ll know whether a heat pump or gas furnace is better for your home.

heat pump icon

Heat Pump

Unit Cost

  • Air-source: $2,000 - $5,500
  • Ground-source: $3,000 - $6,000

Average Installation Costs

  • Air-source: $4,500 - $8,000
  • Ground-source: $6,000 - $20,000

Fuel Source

  • Air-source: Electricity
  • Ground-source: Geothermal energy

Efficiency 

  • Air-source: Approximate CoP*: 4

The amount of heat transferred varies depending on the weather; it can drop to 1.5 kW for every 1 kW of electricity consumed during cold conditions.

  • Ground-source: Approximate CoP*: 5

Ground-source pumps consistently transfer 3 - 4 kW of heat for every 1 kW of electricity consumed because they’re below ground and unaffected by the weather.

Life Expectancy

  • Air-source: 12 - 20 years
  • Ground-source: 50+ years

Pros

  • Federal tax credits are available
  • Save up to 50% on energy costs in mild to moderate climates
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable
  • No carbon monoxide concerns
  • Provides heating and cooling

Cons

  • Inefficient in cold climates
  • Some heat pumps require ductwork
  • The cost of ground-source heat pumps outweighs the energy savings
  • Requires regular maintenance
gas furnace icon

Gas Furnace

Unit Cost: $3,000 - $4,000

Average Installation Costs: $1,500 - $2,000

Fuel Source

  • Natural gas
  • Propane

Efficiency: 55 - 98% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency)

Life Expectancy: 15 - 20 years

Pros

  • Clean-burning fuel
  • Easy to install
  • Inexpensive to repair
  • Efficient in cold climates
  • Reliable fuel source
  • Moderate unit and installation costs
  • Low-maintenance

Cons

  • Requires access to a gas line
  • Potential carbon monoxide leaks
  • Only provides heating

* The CoP (coefficient of performance) measures how many heat units can be produced for each unit of energy consumed under ideal conditions. Efficiency can be over 300% because heat pumps use energy to transfer heat.

What's the Difference Between Heat Pumps and Gas Furnaces?

Heat pumps and gas furnaces differ in installation cost and scope, heat and energy efficiency, maintenance, performance, and lifespan.

Installation

The magnitude and cost of heat pump vs gas furnace installation depend on the current set-up and compatibility. Furnace installation is more comprehensive and expensive if a gas line needs to be connected, while heat pump installation is more comprehensive and expensive if the house is not wired for supplemental heating.

Installing an air-source heat pump might be slightly cheaper than a gas furnace if ductwork exists, but the size and complexity of the heat pump determine the final cost. Ground-source heat pump installation is very costly, requiring drilling and extensive labor.

Heat and Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are powered by electricity and can be up to 300% efficient, meaning they need only one unit of electricity to move three units of heat. Some new furnaces are up to 98% efficient, indicating only 2% of the fuel isn’t generating heat.

Once installed, the weather largely determines the heat pump and furnace efficiency. Heat pumps are more efficient and cost-effective than furnaces in regions with mild winters (40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit). On the other hand, furnaces are more efficient and cost-effective than heat pumps in areas with cold winters and temperatures below 32 degrees. Natural gas is a cheaper fuel than electricity and provides warmer heat.

Maintenance

Furnaces require less maintenance than heat pumps because they are only used for part of the year. Furnace maintenance consists of filter changes at least four times a year and cleaning the furnace flame sensor as needed. A heat pump requires constant removal of leaves, weeds, snow, and ice around the unit to maintain good airflow, filter changes once a month, and occasional coil cleaning. Annual inspections and tune-ups by professionals are recommended for furnaces and heat pumps. Professionals charge $75 to $200 for one to two hours of work.

Repair costs for heat pumps and furnaces are similar. According to HomeAdvisor, heat pump repairs cost an average of $389. Furnace repairs cost an average of $310. However, furnaces are less likely to require repairs than heat pumps because they have fewer mechanical parts to break.

Performance

Gas furnaces generate heat, whereas heat pumps transfer heat. Gas furnaces are better for cold regions because their heat is warmer and not affected by outdoor temperatures.

Heat pumps struggle to transfer heat when the temperature drops below freezing. Installation of a supplemental heating system will provide additional warmth when needed, but auxiliary systems use a lot of energy and are costly to run.

Heat pumps are preferable in temperate regions where gas furnace heat might be too warm. Furnaces also have the disadvantage of producing dry air that dries out the skin, whereas heat pumps circulate naturally humid air. The ability to provide cooling in the summer is another advantage of heat pumps.

When it comes to operational noise, heat pumps are noisier than furnaces. Clicking and knocking sounds are regularly produced by the compressor and air handler. Furnaces make a whooshing sound when the burners initially fire up. Still, the noise typically goes unnoticed since furnaces are often located in basements or other places away from the living areas.

Lifespan

How long HVAC systems last depends on various factors. Gas furnaces have longer lifespans than heat pumps, about 20 years. Heat pump lifespan is akin to air conditioners, about 15 years.

Heat Pump vs Gas Furnace Cost

The equipment, installation, repairs, and operating expenses must be considered to compare heat pump vs gas furnace costs. Costs are further determined by the unit’s capacity, type, brand, and efficiency. Labor, permits, ductwork installation, tax credits, rebates, and the climate are additional factors impacting the total cost.

Equipment Installation Repairs Annual Operation

Heat Pump

2,000 - $5,000

$4,500 - $8,000

$389

$260 - $850 in mild climates

Gas Furnace

$2,000 - $6,500

$3,000 - $10,000

$310

$820 - $1,550

heat pump vs gas furnace cost

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump: Which Is Best for Your Home?

Your region’s climate is essential when determining whether a gas furnace vs heat pump is better for heating your home. Heat pumps transfer heat from the air outside your house, so the outside temperature matters. Gas furnaces generate heat from fuel; the heat’s temperature isn’t impacted by the temperature outside.

Heat pumps are best in regions with winters averaging around 40 - 60 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s climate zone map, these regions comprise zones 1 - 3. Heat pumps are more energy efficient and cheaper to use in locations with mild to moderate climates. Electric rates are another important consideration since heat pumps are powered by electricity.

Gas furnaces are best in regions with cold winters and temperatures below freezing. These regions comprise climate zones 4 - 7. Furnaces aren’t impacted by outside temperatures when generating heat. Furnaces produce hotter heat and heat houses more quickly than heat pumps. Natural gas is a cheaper energy source than electricity.

heat pump vs gas furnace infographic

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a heat pump replace a furnace?

A heat pump can replace a furnace in mild climates where temperatures stay above freezing and can also save you money on energy costs. Keep in mind that a heat pump is noisier, possibly more expensive to install, requires more maintenance, and includes indoor and outdoor components.

Can you have a heat pump and furnace?

A heat pump and a furnace can be installed together. A “dual fuel system” is beneficial in regions that get too cold during the winter for a heat pump to be effective. The system determines the most efficient way to heat the house based on the outside temperature.

Is heat pump heating cheaper than gas?

Heat pump heating is cheaper than gas in mild climates. Electricity is more expensive than gas, but heat pumps can be up to 300% efficient. Heat pumps are inefficient heaters in cold temperatures, and natural gas heating is cheaper.

When does a heat pump switch to a furnace?

A dual-fuel system has a heat pump and a furnace that can both provide heat. The heat pump provides warmth when the outside temperature is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The furnace switches on when the outside temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Furnaces

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