Heat Pump vs AC & Furnace: Everything You Need to Know

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, you have options. If you’re considering installing a heat pump vs AC and furnace, you’re smart to be doing some homework before making the decision.

February 28, 2024
Heat Pump Installation

While a heat pump system and AC with a furnace system can each heat and cool your home it can be tough to decide which HVAC system is right for your situation. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each system. You’ll learn about:

Understanding Heat Pumps

While most Americans are familiar with the standard HVAC system made up of a central air conditioning unit and a furnace, not everyone understands heat pumps. So, just what is a heat pump, and how does a heat pump work? 

There are two types of heat pump systems - an air source heat pump system, and a geothermal heat pump system. Today we will focus on air source heat pumps, referred to from now on as just heat pumps.

Does a heat pump replace both the furnace and AC? Yes. A heat pump cools your home in the summer and heats your home in the winter. A heat pump moves warm air out of your home in the summer, and extracts heat energy from the outdoor air in the winter and transfers it inside.

Does a heat pump cool as well as an air conditioner? Yes, all things being equal. For example, an 18 SEER2 heat pump can cool your home just as well as an 18 SEER2 air conditioner. In addition, all things being equal dehumidification will be the same.

Benefits of a Heat Pump System

There are many benefits of a heat pump system compared to a gas furnace and AC system. The main benefits include:

Superior Energy Efficiency

Heat pump systems are more energy efficient than furnaces, up to 3X more. This can result in savings on your heating bills. If this is important to you in the debate of heat pump vs air conditioner, the heat pump wins.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Since heat pumps are electric, they do not involve the direct burning of fossil fuels like a natural gas furnace. This can help reduce carbon emissions. If this is important to you in the debate of heat pump vs furnace, the heat pump wins.

Suitable for Use in a Space without Ductwork

If you need to heat and cool a space that doesn’t have ductwork, such as an attached or detached garage you’ve turned into a workshop, a rustic cabin, an attic, or other space, a ductless mini-split heat pump system can be a cost-effective solution.

Installing ductwork in an existing home or space involves extensive remodeling. A ductless heat pump system is easy to install without all the mess. A single-zone ductless mini-split can cool one room, while a multi-zone ductless system can cool up to 5 rooms.

Eligibility for Federal Tax Credits

Heat pump systems that meet ENERGY STAR® energy-efficiency and performance standards are eligible for up to $2,000 in federal tax credits. That includes standard heat pumps as well as mini-splits that meet the criteria.

While air conditioners and furnaces meeting energy-efficiency and performance standards are also eligible for tax credits, the credit is only $600 per unit, maximum.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Heat Pump and AC/Furnace

There are 3 main factors to consider when deciding how to heat and cool your home:

Let’s take a look.

Climate Considerations

Do you live in an area of the country with moderate temperatures? Then getting a heat pump vs an AC/furnace combination may be a no-brainer.

Do you live in an area where the outdoor temperature drops below zero and stays there for weeks at a time? Then you may opt for a cold climate heat pump that can heat more efficiently in colder climates. But you may also wish to consider another solution: a dual-fuel heat pump system.

Dual-Fuel Heat Pump Systems Give You the Best of Both Worlds

If you want the energy efficiency of a heat pump but are concerned about heating your home in extreme temperatures, consider a dual-fuel heat pump system. A dual-fuel heating system pairs an electric heat pump with a gas furnace. 

The heat pump heats your home in the fall and winter and has a gas furnace as a backup system to take over/offer supplemental heat in colder conditions. This hybrid system automatically chooses the most efficient and effective way to heat your home.

Initial Installation and Maintenance Costs

It’s no secret that a standard heat pump system costs slightly more than a furnace + AC system. The advanced technology of the heat pump is mostly responsible for that. Installation costs may be higher if you are converting from a gas furnace + AC to a heat pump - think of it as the cost to convert.  After that, installation costs between the two systems are similar. However, the increased energy efficiency may help offset that higher initial cost.

A mini-split heat pump system is cheaper and less invasive to install in a home or other space that doesn’t have ductwork. It’s less labor-intensive than the remodeling that needs to happen to install new ductwork.

Maintenance costs for the two systems are essentially the same. You’ll need to replace air filters and schedule a spring tune-up and a fall tune-up to keep either system running at peak performance.

Long-Term Costs or Long-Term Savings

In the long term, a heat pump system will be more energy efficient and may give you long-term energy savings over the life of the unit. However, This is not guaranteed. It depends on your utility rates.  Sometimes, a heat pump will increase your heating costs in the winter because natural gas is cheaper than electricity. 

The average lifespan of a heat pump is 15 years. The average lifespan of a comparable central air conditioning unit is 15 years, but it may outlast a heat pump since it only runs in the summer. Lastly, the average lifespan of a gas furnace is 15-20 years. 

The life expectancy of any until will depend on the quality of the unit to begin with, how often the system runs, and how well you maintain it, among other factors.

Potentially, a central AC unit could outlast a heat pump. A furnace might outlast them both.

Making the Right Decision for Your Home

Making the right heating and cooling choices for your home is not a decision to make alone. Consult with reputable HVAC professionals in your area. Be sure to choose companies that know all about heat pumps, CCHPs, and ductless mini-split systems.

Most companies will try to steer you to whatever you already have because that will be the easiest and least expensive way to go.  If you have an AC unit and furnace they will assume you want to go with another AC and furnace rather than paying the extra cost to convert the system to a heat pump system.  However now, federal tax credits and rebates are high enough that some dealers are beginning to realize they can make the switch for their customers at an equal cost.

Determine your heating needs with the help of a professional, and weigh the long-term costs and benefits. 

American Standard Provides Award-Winning Excellence

Whether you choose a heat pump system or a gas furnace with AC, American Standard has you covered. We engineer heating and cooling products to a higher standard to provide you with energy-efficient and durable systems you can count on. We’re recognized in the industry for superior products and owner satisfaction.

Gas Furnace Awards

In 2022, a National Product Testing and Research Magazine rated American Standard gas furnaces 5 out of 5, or Excellent, in Owner Satisfaction, and 4 out of 5, or Very Good, in Predicted Reliability.

Heat Pump Awards

In 2021, a National Product Testing and Research Magazine rated American Standard heat pumps 5 out of 5, or Excellent, in both Predicted Reliability and Owner Satisfaction categories.

Air Conditioner Awards

In 2021, a National Product Testing and Research Magazine rated American Standard central air conditioners 5 out of 5, or Excellent, in Owner Satisfaction, and 4 out of 5, or Very Good, in Predicted Reliability.

Consult with HVAC Experts for Advice

Intrigued by the idea of upgrading to a heat pump vs AC and a furnace? Curious if you need a dual-fuel system? Find your local American Standard dealer near you who can provide product recommendations that will keep you and your family comfortable for years to come. For over 100 years, we’ve designed and manufactured some of the most awarded, well-engineered heating and cooling equipment and earned a reputation for doing things right.

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