As an expert in the HVAC field, people ask me which is better: heat pumps vs gas furnace?
This is a question for the ages. Predominantly, here in the Sacramento Valley, most people have gas furnaces. This means they have a gas line plumbed from their meter on the side of the house that goes all the way up to the furnace in the attic, or closet or, or garage. A smaller percentage of people in the Sacramento valley have all-electric heat pumps. This just means electricity fuels all their heating needs.
So which is better? Let’s Explore Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace
Well, if you put the two together and feel the heat coming out of the registers on an all-electric heat pump, and then feel the heat coming out of the registers of a gas-fueled furnace, you’ll feel the gas furnace has warmer air coming out of it. This alone is the major reason people choose gas furnaces over electric heat pumps.
Let’s assume the air in your house is 65 degrees. The air coming into the system is 65 degrees. A gas furnace will heat that air by about 30 to 60 degrees. I find that temperature difference to be more in the area of 45 to 55 degrees most of the time. This means you will have anywhere from 95 to 125-degree air coming out of your registers. In the winter, gas furnaces feel very nice for this reason. Your house will warm up quickly with warm air like that coming out.
An all-electric heat pump will typically take your 65-degree air and warm it up about 20 degrees. This will warm up your house, but it will take longer. A heat pump uses your outdoor condenser too, which is way more expensive to operate than a gas-fueled furnace. You know how expensive it is to run your AC in the summer right? Well, it will be equally as expensive, if not more, to run your heat pump in the winter. You see, the heat pump alone can only heat your house until it’s about 45 degrees outdoor temperature. When it gets colder than that, there is almost no heat in the outdoor air to convert into heat for your house, so the dreaded “heat strips” will turn on. The heat strips will dramatically increase your 20-degree difference to 35 to 60 degrees but will take just as much electricity to run as it does the outdoor unit. This means you will be using summer weather electricity to run the outdoor unit and equally as much electricity to operate those heat strips. You will warm up, it’s just doubly expensive to operate the heat pump and your heat strips in the winter.
Here in Sacramento County gas furnace are much less expensive to operate.
If you don’t have natural gas or propane run to your house, then you have no choice, you’ll have to get a heat pump. But, if you do have gas to your house, I think it’s much wiser to switch to a gas-fueled furnace. You’ll get warmer air out of it, which feels great in the cold December and January months.