Heat pump vs. gas furnace: 8 major myths
At HVAC.com, our writers create solutions that put you in control of your HVAC system. Our product reviews and recommendations are researched and backed by real buyers and industry experts, not dictated by our partners.
Heat pumps and gas furnaces are two popular options for heating a home. Each system comes with pros and cons, but they work in very different ways. Check out these eight myths about heat pumps vs. gas furnaces to gather the facts so you can decide which heating system is the best option for you.
Myths of a heat pump vs. gas furnace
Our goal is to deliver the facts on whether you should install a heat pump vs. gas furnace. Here are the top eight myths, and the truth behind them, of installing a heat pump vs. gas furnace so you can make the best investment for your home.
Myth #1 – A gas furnace is always the best way to heat a home
A gas furnace is not always the best way to heat a home. If you do not have gas lines leading to your home, then a gas furnace cannot be installed. They can also produce extremely hot heat, which means that the temperature in your home can quickly reach the setting on your thermostat. This can leave cold spots around your home and contribute to dry skin.
Gas furnaces may provide overpowering heat when the temperatures outside are between 40 and 60 degrees. A gas furnace also produces CO, which can be a threat if the unite isn’t installed properly and inspected annually.
Heat pumps can actually be a better choice in certain regions, like the south, where winters are milder. In areas that don’t experience temperatures below freezing, a heat pump consumes less energy and can be more efficient than a furnace.
Myth #2 – A heat pump is the same as an air conditioner
An air conditioner’s refrigeration system absorbs heat from inside the home to the refrigerant, which carries the absorbed heat to the outside through the outdoor unit. A heat pump works the same way as an air conditioner in cooling mode, but the two differ when heating.
The heat pump’s refrigeration system absorbs heat from outside the home and delivers the absorbed heat through your indoor coil. This process creates an energy-efficient way to keep your home warm in mild temperatures.
Myth #3 – Heat pumps don’t heat your home as well as gas furnaces
A heat pump is an effective way to heat homes in climates that experience mild winter temperatures, like the Southeast. Heat pumps aren’t designed to warm a home when temperatures fall below freezing. For this reason, homes in the Northeast, and other cold climates, should rely on gas furnace heat when deciding between the two.
Myth #4 – Gas furnaces are always more efficient than heat pumps
Natural gas is cheaper than electricity in most regions, which makes a furnace more cost-effective than an electric heat pump in areas that experience freezing temperatures. Gas furnaces are not always more efficient than heat pumps, however.
For states that experience cooler temperatures (40-60 degrees) but not extreme cold (below 40 degrees), a heat pump can be more efficient and cost-effective.
Not an HVAC expert? No problem!
Myth #5 – A gas furnace is cheaper than a heat pump
The upfront cost for installing a heat pump is usually cheaper than the cost to install a furnace. However, the monthly energy bill is where you’ll see the real savings. It’s less expensive to heat a home with natural gas in a colder region, but you’ll want to rely on a heat pump in a warmer region. Also, if you don’t have natural gas lines running to your home, installation can be extremely expensive.
Myth #6 – There is only one type of heat pump
There are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, ductless mini-split, and geothermal. The air-to-air heat pump is the most common type of heat pump and works by moving the heat outside your home through the air handler unit inside your home and across the indoor coil.
A ductless, mini-split heat pump is similar to a window air conditioner. It is a smaller air-source unit with an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit.
Lastly, a geothermal heat pump uses the warmth stored in the earth (which is roughly 50 to 60 degrees) to heat your home. It uses this warmth to heat the air before it blows it into your home. The best heat pump for you will depend on your type of home and your heating needs.
Myth #7 – Carbon monoxide is a risk with both gas furnaces and heat pumps
Gas furnaces do produce carbon monoxide, which can be harmful if leaked into your home. As long as the gas furnace is installed correctly and regularly inspected, the furnace is safe. Heat pumps, however,do not use combustion to create heat as gas furnaces do, so they do not create CO. Heat pumps do need to be inspected seasonally for optimal performance.
Myth #8 – Gas furnaces produce more heat
Technically, gas furnaces produce more heat than heat pumps. Extremely hot air is not always a good thing, though. The extremely hot air that gas furnaces produce isn’t necessary in regions that have mild winter temperatures. Utilizing a system that produces higher temperatures than you need wastes energy and money.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not necessarily. If you live in a region where electricity is cheaper than gas, then a heat pump can be a more cost-effective and efficient way to heat your home.
The easiest way to determine if you have a heat pump is to set the thermostat to heat. Go to the unit outside of your home. If the unit is running while the heat is running inside, then you have a heat pump.
Most of the reasons you would choose a heat pump vs. gas furnace come down to where you live. If you live in the South, where winter temperatures may only reach 40 to 60 degrees, then a heat pump is the best fit for your home. If you live in an area where electricity costs less than gas, then a heat pump is also the better option.