For starters, some San Antonio homeowners actually choose to go with both. This surprise 3rd option is referred to as a "dual fuel” system, which uses a gas furnace as a backup heating source for a heat pump (we’ll talk more about this later on).
However, if you’re trying to choose one over the other, much depends on how your home is set up and whether or not you have access to natural gas. Once this is determined it’s important to think about your specific needs.
That said, here are the factors that will have the most impact on the decision you need to make:
- Access to natural gas
- Comfort - How warm do you like it?
- Climate - How cold are your winters?
- Cost - How much are you looking to spend?
- Efficiency - Which is the most energy efficient?
In this blog, we’ll cover each one of these factors and give you the details on what both systems can do, as well as how they can best serve you in the long-run.
Access to natural gas
If you DON’T have easy access to natural gas, a heat pump is your best option. That’s because heat pumps operate on electricity and don’t require natural gas to operate (unlike gas furnaces).
On the other hand, if you do have natural gas, you have options.
If you have access to natural gas, your next step should be researching the cost of installing a new gas furnace vs the cost of installing a heat pump. Then go with what fits within your budget and preference.
Note: If you’re installing a gas furnace in your home for the first time, keep in mind that you may need to factor in the additional cost to install a secondary gas line for the furnace.
“Comfort” is a relative word; what one person deems comfortable, another might consider intolerable.
That said, we’ll outline the differences in how furnaces heat vs how heat pumps heat and let you draw your own conclusions.
A gas furnace:
- Delivers air between 120 -125 degrees
- Heats a home/room quickly with shorter, hotter bursts of air
A heat pump:
- Delivers air between 90 -100 degrees
- Heats a home/room slowly but produces more even heating
If you live in a moderately cold climate that reaches anywhere between 30 - 40 degrees at its coldest, a heat pump is a viable option. San Antonio falls into this category and homeowners here are typically content with the heat pump option considering our often calm and not-so-frigid winter season.
For those who live in the North/Northeast and withstand below freezing temperatures during the winter, a furnace is ideal. Furnaces have the power to generate a greater level of heat and this is what allows them to operate more effectively in colder climates.
Note: Many homeowners in the San Antonio area opt for a dual fuel system that combines a furnace and a heat pump for efficient heating. See more info on this option in the “dual fuel” section further below.
When choosing between a heat pump and a furnace, you have two types of costs to consider:
- Upfront costs- how much it costs to install the system
- Ongoing costs- how much you’ll pay in operational costs
Typically, heat pump equipment is more costly so the upfront purchase price is greater than a gas furnace. However, a furnace does require combustible air ventilation, so when installing a furnace in a space where one doesn't already exist, additional labor will be required. .
For a more accurate depiction of install costs, contact one of our pros for an in-home estimate or check out our blogs below:
- What’s the Cost to Install a Furnace in San Antonio?
- What’s the Cost to Install a Heat Pump in San Antonio?
This is tricky because how much you pay to run a heat pump vs furnace all depends on gas vs electricity prices in your area. However, on mild days, a heat pump typically costs less to operate than a gas furnace.
In moderate temperatures, when the heat pump isn’t relying on backup heating, a heat pump is 100% efficient, whereas a gas furnace might only be anywhere from 80%-98% efficient.
Here’s how efficiency correlates to monthly operational costs:
- For a 100% efficient heat pump, every $100 you spend on heating, all $100 goes toward heat output
- For a 90% efficient gas furnace, only $90 goes toward heat production, while the other $10 gets wasted in flue gases
Keep in mind that a heat pump is only 100% efficient when it’s not relying on any backup heating source. On very cold sub-freezing days, a heat pump won’t be able to heat your home adequately and will automatically switch over to a backup heating source, which is typically more expensive.
How much higher the operational costs are all depends on the type of backup heating you have. For example, some homeowners use backup electric heating strips, which consume a lot of energy and are very expensive to operate.
An alternative to electric resistance heating strips is to use gas heating as the backup heating source. This heat pump/gas furnace combo is called a “dual fuel system”.
Let’s explore this option in more detail...
A 3rd option to consider: dual fuel system
A dual fuel system pairs a heat pump with a gas furnace and alternates between the two in order to amplify efficiency and comfort all around.
During moderately cool temperatures, a heat pump provides enough heat to keep you warm. However, when the temperatures begin to fall below freezing, the heat pump automatically shuts off and allows your furnace to take over.
The automatic transfer from heat pump to gas heating eliminates the need to use expensive electric resistance heating, which saves you money on operational costs in the long-run.
Overall, dual fuel systems can replace your AC and help save you money for both cooling and heating in the long-run.
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- FREE in-home quotes
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