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Heat Pump vs. Furnace - Which is Right for You?

When it's time to replace or upgrade your cooling and heating systems, or if you're remodeling or designing a new home, there are important decisions to address regarding local climate, home comfort and energy efficiency. This is especially the case when you're looking at a heat pump vs. gas furnace and A/C combination. Find out which cooling and heating system is best for maximizing your home comfort while keeping the energy budget out of the red zone.

Heat Pumps: Practical and Efficient

Heat pumps are basically air conditioners designed with a reversing valve and other components, which provide heating in addition to cooling. Using refrigeration principles, heat pumps deliver cooling and heating by extracting or releasing heat-energy at the indoor and outdoor heat-exchange coils, utilizing pressure and temperature manipulations of the refrigerant - super-heated and super-cooled.

With the moderate winters and the warm and humid summers of Florida and southern Georgia, heat pumps are popular home-comfort systems, and for more reasons than one:

  • Practical and efficient cooling and heating in one system
  • Easy do-it-yourself care, which all systems require
  • Capable of providing inexpensive storage-water heating and pool heating
  • Easy switch-over to heating cycle during late-season cold spells
  • Can be retrofitted with a solar-electric system for inexpensive or free heating and cooling

Furnace and A/C Combination

Another popular option that deserves careful consideration for efficient cooling and heating is an A/C system and gas furnace combination. The gas furnace is fitted with the evaporator coil of the A/C unit, and both use the same blower to deliver cooling or heating to the home. These are some of the advantages of an A/C and gas furnace vs. a heat pump:

  • Natural gas is readily available and generally less expensive than the electricity required for heat pump heating
  • Gas furnaces provide powerful, efficient and comfortable heating in very cold temperatures
  • Modern sidewall venting improves the operation of combustion appliances in the home to prevent CO poisoning
  • New gas furnaces are built to last decades

Toe to Toe: Heat Pump vs. Gas Furnace

Heat pumps and gas furnace and A/C systems share many good qualities for design and performance. These are some of their shared strengths:

  • Advanced features, such as variable-speed blowers, are available, which boost efficiency of both systems
  • Integrate well with indoor-air quality systems, whole-house dehumidifiers, zoning systems and smart thermostats
  • Heat pumps and A/Cs provide excellent dehumidification inside the home, especially in new high-efficiency systems with better evaporator design
  • Reputable service professionals for annual maintenance are a phone call away
  • Exceptional warranties, rebates and tax credits for qualifying installations

Ultimately, your selection of a heat pump vs. gas furnace may depend on installation costs and heating efficiency - even in the moderate climate of Florida and southern Georgia.

If you favor a gas furnace and A/C combination to heat and cool your home, you'll need to compare the purchase and installation costs. You are essentially buying two systems, which requires greater labor expense and an HVAC technician who is knowledgeable and experienced with sidewall venting for the gas furnace. You’ll also need to provide do-it-yourself and professional maintenance for two systems.

On the other hand, long-term heating efficiency should be considered. While high-efficiency heat pumps deliver comfortable heating to the heat pump's balance point, which is typically around the freezing point, heat pumps require backup heating in very cold weather. Electric-resistance heating is the standard backup heating add-on for heat pumps.

Unfortunately, electric-resistance heating is very inefficient, and can quickly increase heating bills. To help prevent activation of electric-resistance heating, heat pumps should be installed with a "smart" or programmable thermostat with adaptive-recovery capability. In heating cycle, adaptive recovery brings the temperature to the thermostat set point slowly.

If you've used a heat pump system in the past, and have wondered why heating bills were so high on occasion, backup electric-resistance heating is the likely suspect. The good news is that our moderate climate, coupled with continuing advances in heat pump efficiency, means it's not likely to get so cold that the backup heating will need to kick on, except very infrequently.

If you would like assistance with your decision regarding a heat pump vs. a gas furnace and A/C system, please contact us at to locate a contractor near your southern Georgia or Florida home.

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