Gas Furnace VS Heat Pump: What’s Better?

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump: What's the Difference?

Year-round comfort is a top priority for homeowners, and their heating system and air handler system is a vital component of comfort. While there are several options for heating your home, the two options that are most commonly found in residences are gas furnaces and heat pumps. While gas furnaces have been the standard in many homes for decades, heat pumps are becoming a popular option as energy consumption and preservation of natural resources are top priorities.

While both types of systems last for around 15 years with proper maintenance and can effectively heat your home during the winter months, they both provide this heat differently.

A gas furnace generates heat from a fuel source, such as natural gas or propane, and works by blowing air over a heating element.

A heat pump uses a thermodynamic principle to heat your home, drawing heat from outside and then transferring it inside your home. So, instead of generating heat, it will move the heat via a pressurized refrigerant line.

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of a Gas Furnace

As with any type of HVAC system or appliance, some pros and cons can come with a natural gas furnace. Some of the advantages of this type of heating include:

  • Faster heating: Gas furnaces can provide warmth quickly, no matter how cold the outside air gets.
  • High efficiency: Most newer gas furnaces have high AFUE ratings and are more efficient than other options, such as baseboard heat, even in colder climates.
  • Versatile: A gas furnace can be combined with an air conditioner or heat pump to create year-round temperature control for your home with a simple turn of a thermostat.

While there are many advantages to a natural gas furnace, there are some drawbacks to choosing this type of system as well.

  • High installation costs: Upfront costs for installing a gas furnace, especially if ductwork needs to be run, or if replacing an older, lower AFUE unit with a newer higher AFUE unit, can be more expensive than radiators and portable heating options.
  • Safety concerns: Natural gas heating systems are relatively safe when properly maintained and checked for defects. But there is a risk of carbon monoxide if a gas line leak occurs, so it is best to have a carbon monoxide alarm in your home when operating a natural gas furnace.
  • Shorter life span: Gas furnaces are designed to last 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance, significantly less than electric furnace options, which can last 20 to 30 years.

Pros and Cons of a Heat Pump

Heat pumps are popular with homeowners as part of a ductless mini-split system or a ducted HVAC system for many reasons. Some of the best advantages of a heat pump include:

  • Lower energy costs: Heat pumps are more energy-efficient, especially in mild climates than combustion-based systems, and you can save money on your annual utility bills.
  • Less maintenance: A heat pump also requires less maintenance than a gas furnace, and most of it can easily be done DIY.
  • Lower emissions: With a heat pump as your HVAC system, you will reduce your carbon emissions and help preserve natural resources.
  • Provides cooling: If you live in warmer climates that require air conditioning to keep your home comfortable, your heat pump can work as a heating and cooling system.

While the advantages of installing a heat pump are many, there are some cons to consider when making your final decision. The main drawbacks of a heat pump are:

  • A higher upfront cost: Costs for installation can be significantly higher for a heat pump than for a gas furnace, depending on the type of heat pump. The most common type of heat pump, air-source heat pumps, does not have as high installation costs as geothermal heat pumps.
  • Less efficiency in colder weather: If the outdoor temperature is really low, a heat pump may not work as efficiently or effectively as a gas furnace. This makes them not always the best option in extremely cold climates.

How Do Air Handlers Work?

Your air handler system is responsible for controlling the air circulation and helping maintain a comfortable temperature via the thermostat or other control system. The air handler system will contain a blower motor, an evaporator coil, wiring, and other electronic components. Each part will play a vital role in the operation of your system and the comfort of your home.

Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is one of the primary refrigeration components in your system. When the system signals the handler that cool air is needed, the coil will be cold, and the humidity will be drawn out of the air when it passes. The result will be cool air from the ducts or individual handlers. When warm air is required, the coil will be warm and transfer that heat to the air passing over it before it is sent out into the home.

Blower Motor

The blower is responsible for pushing the air from the system out through the ductwork in your home. These motors come at different speeds, each working differently to disburse the air.

  • Single-speed: A single-speed blower motor will operate at one speed and cycle on or off when cold or hot air is needed.
  • Multi-speed: This type of motor can operate at different speeds, varying by demand. In some cases, it may run at 100% speed if the demand is high, but can be reduced to a lower speed when temperature or humidity maintenance is needed.
  • Variable-speed: With a variable-speed blower motor, the fan speed will precisely control the airflow through your home. They are ideal for keeping a consistent temperature throughout your home and are known for their energy efficiency.

Other Components

The supply and return connections and the air filter are other components essential to the air handler operation. The air filter will help trap and remove allergens and particulates from the air before recirculating.

Your ductwork will be affixed to your air handler by the air supply and plenum connections. The supply is designed to deliver the air inside your home, and the return is designed to bring the air back to the system to be heated or cooled.

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump: Which System is Optimal For an Air Handler?

If you are looking to install a gas furnace and an air conditioning system, you will likely not need an air handler system. This is especially true in colder climates with frigid temperatures. If you live in a more temperate climate or choose to install a heat pump, then having an air handler installed is necessary.

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump: How to Use Them Together

For some people, enjoying energy-efficient comfort in your home all year long is crucial and worth having two systems, also known as a dual fuel setup. When installed correctly, the systems work together to help keep a consistent temperature throughout your home, no matter the outdoor temperature.

Dual fuel systems are often found in a split system configuration, including a gas furnace and an electric heat pump. Essentially, it will combine the efficiency for heating and cooling that a heat pump offers with the capacity to heat that a gas furnace has. When the temperatures outside drop too low for the heat pump to handle efficiently, the gas furnace will take over.

The dual fuels system will be controlled by a control system or your thermostat. When the thermostat calls for cooling, the heat pump will function as an air conditioner. If a moderate heat output is needed, your heat pump will reverse the refrigerant flow and remove cold air from the home, increasing the home temperatures. If the thermostat signals that a high amount of heat is needed, the heat pump will pause operations, and the gas furnace will take over. The threshold between the heat pump and gas furnace can be set by the thermostat or dealer during installation.

Since electricity and natural gas function better under certain weather conditions, dual fuel systems are extremely energy efficient as they utilize both sources, which can combat the volatility of energy prices.

Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump: Which is Best for Your Location?

Choosing the right heating option for your home will largely depend on the type of weather in your area as well as the fluctuation of temperature. A heat pump would be best if you live in areas with mild winters and relatively temperate weather. If you live in areas that see frigid temperatures and harsh winters, then a gas furnace may better meet your needs. Or if you want to enjoy a consistent temperature throughout the year, greater energy efficiency, and live in an area that sees hot summers and cold winters, then a dual fuel system may be worth the investment.

Find Your Ideal Gas Furnace and Heat Pump Comfort at Superior Home Supplies

Help enjoy a comfortable home this winter by finding the right system to heat your home no matter how cold the temperature outside gets. Superior Home Supplies has natural gas furnaces and heat pumps from top HVAC brands and all of the parts and supplies you will need to keep them operating efficiently. Check out our available heating and HVAC appliances, or contact our knowledgeable staff to find out which options will be perfect for you.


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