What is the Difference Between an Electric Heat Pump and a Gas Furnace?

Every home and homeowner’s need for heating during the colder months is different. Luckily, with a bit of research and knowledge, deciding which type of heating source is best for your home is relatively simple. Basically, it comes down to the benefits of a heat pump vs a gas furnace. Heat pumps use the outside air to heat in winter and cool in summer, so they are versatile. Furnaces burn gas or oil-based fuel to generate and then distribute heat. 

In the winter, a heat pump extracts heat from the outdoor air or ground and distributes it through your home. In the summer, hot air inside your home is removed to cool the indoor environment. Heat pumps are also quite energy-efficient. They act as a simple transport mechanism for moving warm air from one place to another depending on the season.

Mild climates tend to have average winter temperatures of around 30-40 degrees F, so heat pumps make sense for heating homes in Phoenix. Locations with low electric rates are also good choices for heat pumps. However, if you live in a cold climate with temperatures consistently below freezing, a gas furnace is far more suitable. 

Furnaces work more efficiently for heating in cold-weather climates because unlike heat pumps, furnaces don’t depend on the outdoor temperatures to convert to heat. As part of a central heating and cooling system, a furnace burns fuel and distributes the heated air throughout your home. All furnaces have four main components: 1) burners for burning fuel, 2) heat exchangers, 3) a blower for distributing warm air, and 4) a flue exhaust for by-products generated by burning natural gas.

Pros & Cons of Electric Heat Pumps

Lower installation cost. Installing a heat pump system usually costs less than the installation of a furnace, which requires an extensive ventilation system. 

Energy-efficiency. Most electric heat pumps are significantly more energy-efficient when compared to a gas-operated furnace. Under the right conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it uses. A high-efficiency gas furnace operates at about 90 percent efficiency. 

Lower operating costs. Electricity costs less than natural gas in most areas of the country, so a heat pump system will cost less to operate than a gas-fired furnace.

Quieter operation. Heat pumps are quieter than a traditional gas furnace.

No risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with the use of a heat pump.

Larger size. A heat pump system requires indoor and outdoor components, while a gas-fired furnace is an indoor component.

Effectiveness in heating. In periods of extremely cold weather, a heat pump is not as effective at heating a home.

Pros and Cons of Gas Furnaces

Longer lifespan. A gas-fired furnace usually has a longer lifespan than a heat pump. With proper maintenance, furnaces can last 20 years or more. Like air conditioners, heat pumps have a shorter lifespan. 

Less required maintenance. Gas-operated furnaces are only used for a few months out of each year, so the maintenance requirements are less than those for a heat pump. The simpler system is also easier to service and maintain.

Higher dependability. A gas-fired furnace has fewer mechanical parts than a heat pump, so that’s fewer things that can break or malfunction.

Smaller size. A heat pump system requires indoor and outdoor components, while a gas-fired furnace is an indoor component.

Home safety. A gas leak could result in an explosion and fire.

Cleanliness of the air. Gas combustion generates by-products and greenhouse gases that can result in poor indoor air quality in your home.

Now that you understand the pros and cons of heat pumps vs gas furnaces, is it time to upgrade your HVAC system? From the highest efficiency systems to efficiency on a budget, Donley’s Comfort Heroes can recommend the heating and cooling system that will work best for your home and needs. Call us today.