When it comes to cooling, a heat pump and air conditioner are the same thing.
The difference is that a heat pump can also heat your home in the winter, while a conventional AC cannot. If you opt for a conventional AC, you’ll need to pair it with a furnace or other heating system.
So, should you go for the heat pump or AC/furnace combo?
It depends. We’ll provide some general recommendations based on some common scenarios.
Ask yourself the following questions, then jump to the section below that corresponds to your situation.
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If you already have a gas furnace, we recommend replacing your air conditioner with another conventional AC instead of a heat pump.
The main reason is that a regular AC is cheaper to install than a heat pump. Plus, pairing that AC with a gas furnace is cheaper to operate in the winter.
You see, a heat pump relies on electricity to heat your home. Since gas is cheaper than electricity, in the long run you’ll save more money by sticking with a gas furnace.
Additionally, some homeowners prefer the feel of a gas furnace compared to a heat pump. Gas furnaces deliver air between 120° and 125° F, while heat pumps output air between 90° and 100° F. Some homeowners find this higher output temperature to be more comfortable (likely because it is what they’re used to).
Note: Lower output temperatures don’t mean that the heat pump isn’t heating your home. In fact, because of the lower air output temperature it produces, a heat pump heats your home at a steadier pace. A gas furnace, on the other hand, blasts higher temperatures which means faster heating but more hot/cold spots throughout the house.
The bottom line? If you already have a gas furnace, it’s probably best to stick with that instead of buying a new heat pump.
If you have an electric furnace, we usually recommend replacing both your AC and electric furnace with a heat pump.
The reason is electric furnaces are very expensive to operate. In fact, an electric furnace costs about 50% more to operate than a heat pump.
Of course, operational costs are only one factor to consider. You’ll also need to consider factors such as:
Because of those additional factors, if you have an electric furnace, we recommend you consult with an HVAC contractor to determine whether you should purchase an AC or heat pump.
If you’re building a home or adding a central HVAC system to your home for the first time, we recommend that you contact an HVAC contractor to get their opinion. Since this decision depends on many factors specific to your family’s budget and heating preferences, it’s best to get advice from a pro.
That said, we’ll take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of each type of system.
If you want the best of both worlds, one option is to install a dual-fuel system. A dual-fuel system is the combination of a heat pump and a gas furnace.
The benefit of a dual-fuel system is that you’ll save money in milder cold temperatures when you use your heat pump. Then when it gets really cold, your gas furnace will kick in. Since gas furnaces have the cheapest operational costs for cold temperatures, you’ll end up saving money in the long run.
That said, dual-fuel systems can be expensive to install. If you’re interested in a dual-fuel system, contact a professional to see if it would work for your home and budget.
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We’ll help you find the best heating/cooling system for your home and budget. Our comfort specialists aren’t pushy—they just provide honest, upfront recommendations based on your needs.