Heat Pump Or Gas Furnace?

Should Houston Homeowners Get A Heat Pump Or Gas Furnace?

Houston homeowners often wind up asking the same question if they need to replace their home’s heating and cooling system. Should they get a heat pump, or should they get an air conditioner and furnace system?

There is a good rule of thumb to use when choosing between a heat pump or a more conventional AC/furnace combo:

If you live somewhere really warm, like Houston, that has electricity cheaper than gas, then seriously consider a heat pump. On the other hand, if your location has sub-freezing temperatures in winter and your electricity costs more than gas, use a combination of a furnace and air conditioner. Simple enough, right? Your utility rates and local climate should determine just which HVAC system is going to be your best bet.

We’ll go into why each of these factors matters as well as how they apply to Houston homeowners.

Why Climate Matters

To know why the climate is so decisive as a factor, it’s important to first understand how heat pumps work.

The following is a simple explanation:

In the summertime, a heat pump will work like an air conditioner does, as it uses refrigerant to actually absorb the heat of your home’s air before moving it outside. In wintertime, it does the reverse, as it extracts heat from the air outside to move into the home. That’s different from gas furnaces that produce heat by burning fuel. So this is the point where climate factors in. If the weather goes below 40F, a heat pump isn’t able to heat a home up to the temperature setting the thermostat is at. So, it would have to have a backup heating system that can kick in and help out.

A gas furnace.

A gas furnace is certainly more efficient than an electric coil. As such, a lot of homeowners choose to pair up their heat pump with a gas furnace in order to have a ‘dual-fuel heating system’. Now, you might be thinking why would you get a heat pump and a furnace when you can just opt for an air conditioner and a furnace? The answer comes from how often a heat pump needs to rely on its backup heating system. In most of Houston, a heat pump only needs to rely on its backup gas furnace for only a very few winter days that get really truly cold. So, even though a heat pump/furnace combo might cost a bit more in advance than an AC/furnace combo, your utility rates could be lower across the calendar with the former over the latter. We are certainly implying that the heating rate of a heat pump doesn’t cost as much as a furnace’s. That topic is covered in the next section.

Why Electric Vs Gas Rates Are Deciding Factors

Heat pumps and air conditioners have similar cooling efficiencies. A 13 SEER heat pump will cool just as efficiently as a 13 SEER AC unit. That should simplify a few things for you. So, your only necessary comparison is the cost of using a gas furnace as compared to a heat pump. In the end, everything comes down to how much electricity costs versus how much gas costs. Per Entergy, a heat pump might save you around $300 per year. That makes heat pumps the better heating option in Houston in terms of cost-efficiency.

Find A Reputable Houston HVAC Contractor

Regardless of the particular heating/cooling system you choose, the caliber of the installation has a huge influence on how much efficiency you’ll get. Per ENERGYSTAR, the estimated savings potential of a good installation will range from 18 percent up to 36 percent for air conditioners or heat pumps, but 11 percent to 18 percent for a furnace.

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