Comparison of Gas Furnaces vs Heat Pump Systems

pros and cons furnace heat pumpDeciding whether to install a gas furnace or heat pump into your home, starts with knowing the which heating system is best for your specific house, your own preferences for indoor comfort, and of course the area and cheapest fuel sources where you live.

One of the many gas furnace comparison questions we’re often asked about at Gas Furnace Guide, is the use of a split system heat pump versus gas furnace and air conditioner, for heating and cooling your home. Aside from the type of fuel used to heat your home (natural gas or propane for the furnace, versus electric for the heat pump) there are several major differences in heat pumps vs gas furnaces.

In this Gas Furnace Buyers Guide, we’ll look at several of the pros and cons that you need to consider as you decide whether to choose one heating and cooling system versus the other. There is much more to it than a simple eHow article can cover. In this furnace versus heat pump comparison, we’ll get into the details of operating costs, like the natural gas or electricity from your local utility company, the differences in the initial cost of equipment and accessories, installation, replacement, and maintenance costs, as well as the overall operation of heat pumps and gas furnaces with ac units.

Heat Pump vs. Gas Furnace / AC Comparison

The table below contains the main features and functionality most commonly compared in heat pumps and gas furnaces.

Features or Comparison
Air Source Heat Pump
Gas Furnace & AC
HVAC System Type Forced Air / Duct Forced Air / Duct
Main Components of System
– Outside Unit HP Condensing Unit AC Condensing Unit
– Inside Unit(s) Air Handler / Evaporator Gas Furnace / Evaporator
Fuel and Efficiency
Primary Heating Source Refrigerant Thermodynamics Combustion, Heat Exchanger
Heating System Fuel Electric Heat Natural Gas or Propane
Air Conditioning Electricity Electricity
Cooling Efficiency Ratings SEER SEER
Heating Efficiency Ratings HSPF AFUE
Effective Heating Range (Outside Temps)
Heating 32 Degrees and Up Any Temp
Cooling Central Air Central Air
Multi-Stage Heating Limited to Compressor Up to 3 Stage Burners
Two Stage Cooling Available Available
Characteristics and Features of Each System Type
Noise Level –
(1-10 rating, 10 being loudest)
7/10 – HP Condenser
5/10 – Indoor Air Handler
6/10 – AC Condenser
7/10 – Single Stage Furnace
3/10 – Two Stage Furnace
Air Temperature from Vents Lukewarm Hot
Programmable Thermostats Yes Yes
Outside Venting Req’s None Exhaust Flue
Longevity (when properly maintained) 7-12 Years 12-18 Years

** For definitions of SEER, HSPF, AFUE and much more, visit the furnace terms and definitions page.

Heating Fuel and Operational Costs

The cost to operate either a gas furnace or a heat pump system truly relies on the cost of your fuel source, from your local utility company. Both units are going to use the same electricity to power the cooling system and the blower and other electrical requirements.

The real difference in heat pumps versus gas furnaces comes in the way each one converts energy into heat. You need to know the cost of both a cubic foot of natural gas, and a kilowatt of electricity from your utility providers to get a true value of which is going to cost more to heat your home. Once you know those values, go to a tool like the Fuel Cost Comparison tool at, to learn how much money it will cost to heat your home with each unit. Also, the HowStuffWorks site has a good comparison on whether a heat pump saves money or not.

Installation Differences

Surprisingly, when it comes to installing either a heat pump or a gas furnace and ac, both are very similar. Each system requires permits and inspections, both systems have an outdoor condensing unit, electric service, and refrigerant lines connecting the outside condenser to the inside evaporator. In fact, if you look at the furnace replacement cost guide, the main difference between the two lies in the heating portion of the system.

Looking at the HowStuffWorks website, you see that heat pump systems use an all-electric air handler with a heating strip for backup heat. They requires no venting, no fresh combustion air, and aside from electrical service, no plumbing gas lines or other special requirements are required.

When you read our FAQ page, you will learn that gas furnaces heating systems on the other hand, require special venting requirements to allow the exhaust to vent out of the home through either the roof or the sidewall of the home. They also require unrestricted combustion air, to allow the gas to burn. In addition, it’s smart to have a CO (Carbon Monoxide) detector installed in your home to monitor for dangerous gases.

Both units need condensate drain to allow the water byproduct from cooling, to be drained away from the unit.

For those wondering about what to expect when you replace or install an HVAC system, the Bigger Pockers blog has a well written article on the do’s and don’ts for installing an HVAC system at your home.

Maintenance of Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnaces and AC

When it comes to annual gas furnace maintenance and even the cost of furnace repairs, can be a bit higher than heat pump systems, since you effectively have 2 separate hvac systems that both need annual maintenance.

A heat pump system uses all of the indoor and outdoor components all year round, so effectively when it’s maintained, it’s done until next year. With a split system furnace and ac, you use the gas furnace to heat your home in the winter months, then in the summer, the furnace system does not operate again until next year. Learn more about heat pump operation at the website.

Regardless of whether you have a heat pump or gas furnace heating system installed, you should have annual maintenance completed by a professional contractor at least once a year. Not only does it extend the life of the unit, it helps keep your warranty intact.

Replacement Flexibility and Costs

One of the hardest things a homeowner wants to hear on a 30 degree winter day, is that they need to replace the heating system in their home. For owners of heat pumps, that usually means you need to replace the entire system, and as you’ll learn, heat pump prices are not to be ignored. The outdoor condenser, the indoor coil and air handler, in order to have a properly matched system.

Gas furnaces and air conditioner split systems offer a bit more flexibility in this area, treating each of the systems independently. If your gas furnace breaks on a winter day, you can replace the furnace only, without having to worry abut the outdoor condensing unit and air conditioner system.

Initial Cost to Purchase

One of first things everyone wants to know is which system cost the least between a heat pump vs. gas furnace split system. The truth is, both are very comparable when it comes to the installed price of a new system. The main differences that dictate the price you pay are going to be dictated by the features you choose, and the level of efficiency you want to have installed.

Based on a 1800 square foot home, a complete split system heat pump or furnace and air conditioner, installed in your home, is going to cost approximately:

  • $3,800 – $6,500, Good System with standard efficiency, no bells and whistles.
  • $4,500 – $7,000, Better System with some features, higher efficiency heating or cooling.
  • $6,500 and higher, Best Systems with advanced comfort features and accessories, super high efficiency heating and cooling, etc.

The estimates above are only rough estimates, in order to get an accurate idea, we suggest speaking to a pro, and getting 3 free estimates to compare to each other. You can do so by clicking the QualitySmith banner on this page, or click here to get 3 free quotes now.

To learn more about pricing, check out this page at the site, or for more indepth coverage, the website.

Whats Your Experience?

Did you recently make the choice to install either a gas furnace or heat pump? If so, what made you decide which heating system was best for your home and your own needs?

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