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Heating and Cooling

Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Why They’re More Similar Than You Think

You may have heard that heat pumps can replace a typical gas or oil burning furnace as an extremely efficient way to heat your home. But did you know that a heat pump doesn’t just heat your home, it can cool it too? 

That’s right. 

A heat pump can do the job of a gas furnace and an air conditioner, in one super-efficient solution that could save you money upfront and long term on energy bills. 

If you’ve done any preliminary research into heat pumps and air conditioners, you’ll likely come away with a bunch of questions, such as:

  • What is a heat pump and how does it work?
  • How does an air conditioner work?
  • What are the similarities and differences between heat pumps and air conditioners?
  • What heating/cooling system is best for me?
  • What about efficiency?
  • What is the SEER system?
  • Why is a heat pump better for the environment?
  • How much does a heat pump cost vs an air conditioner and a furnace?
  • How do I find out more/get specific information for my situation?

We’re here to demystify all the above. 

In this article, we’ll explain exactly how a heat pump works versus an air conditioner. And then we’ll discuss why, in many cases, having just a heat pump can be a good solution for home-owners who want a more efficient way to heat and cool their homes that can save money. Specifically, here’s why:

  • Heat pumps are convenient – they heat and cool your home so they replace your gas furnace and your AC unit with one appliance.
  • You can replace just your AC unit with a heat pump. It will cool your home and work as a back-up for your existing furnace (and can replace it over time).
  • Heat pumps can mean saving on your utility bills because:
    • Heat pumps are much more efficient than a furnace for heating (300% efficiency vs 95% at best for a furnace).
    • High efficiency heat pumps cost less to run than an air conditioner. This is because they dehumidify air better and use less energy.
  • Heat pumps don’t have the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or gas explosion that gas furnaces do.

We’ve researched the cost implications of buying a heat pump vs an air conditioner with a gas furnace. Plus, we’ve linked to a ton of sources and videos that you’ll find useful if you want to take an even deeper dive into the topic. 

If you’ve read what we’ve written so far, and you’re already convinced that heat pumps are worth considering, we suggest you contact 2 – 3 local HVAC companies (using Home Advisor, Yelp, or similar sites to find companies near you), and ask them these questions:

  • How much would an installed heat pump cost vs an air conditioner?
  • How much would the running costs be in our area for each?
  • What’s the best/most cost-effective way to heat and cool my home bearing in mind what appliances I already have (e.g. gas furnace)?
  • Are there any incentive schemes or rebates in our area for installing a heat pump?

What is a Heat Pump?

In basic terms, a heat pump works in the same way as an air conditioner. So, while an air conditioner moves heat from your home to the outside and blows cool air back in, a heat pump does the opposite. We’ll get into the details of how heat pumps and air conditioners work below, but the key piece of information is that both devices run on electricity and not gas

Why is this important?

Because most people in the US use gas (or oil) furnaces to heat their homes and this is not necessarily the most cost-effective or efficient way. Let’s dip into that briefly.

How Do Gas Furnaces Work?

Furnaces burn fuel to create heat. Once the heat is created, it is sent through a network of metal tubes known as a heat exchanger. Then, an “air handler” system blows air through the hot tubes, creating a stream of warm air that’s blown into your house to heat the rooms.

Image: AMRE

The most common fuel used in the U.S. is natural gas because it’s the cheapest. Other, less common furnaces run on oil, propane and electricity. 

Here’s a 5 minute You Tube video by AMRE Supply that explains how a furnace works.

How a Furnace Works / Repair and Replace

Without delving too deeply into the mechanics of gas furnaces here, the key takeaways of using a gas furnace to heat your home are:

  • Gas furnaces are by far the biggest contributing cost to your gas bill. Unless you live in a warm climate and don’t switch on your heating much, your gas furnace uses a lot of gas – for more than your stove (smaller fire, a lot less heat, far less usage). And, if you live in a colder climate, you’re going to have your furnace running even more.
  • Gas furnaces only heat your home, they don’t cool it. So, if you live in a warmer climate where you need air conditioning, you’re going to have to buy a separate AC unit. This means two different devices to buy and maintain, and find space to house.
  • Burning gas comes with safety risks such as carbon monoxide poisoning and even gas explosion.
  • Gas furnaces are typically only around 85% efficient (in contrast to a heat pump which is 300% efficient). This is because they can’t collect all the heat from the gas they burn.

Aside from the points above, it’s important to note that the only reason gas furnaces compete with heat pumps at all is because of the relatively low cost of gas in the United States, compared with electricity. 

You can read more about how heat pumps measure up to furnaces in this in-depth piece: Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces

Let’s get back to heat pumps and air conditioners.

How Do Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps Work?

A heat pump works exactly like an air conditioning unit, but it can also operate in reverse. This means it can be used to cool your home and heat it. 

We’ll discuss how an air conditioning unit works first.

What is Air Conditioning?

An air conditioner is an electrical unit that extracts the heat from your home and moves it outdoors, making your home cooler. It does a great job of cooling your home but that’s all it does. If you want to heat your home, you need a separate HVAC appliance to do that. 

How Does Air Conditioning Work?

AC units use a “refrigerant”, which is just a fluid that is cooled down so that it absorbs heat from inside your home or room and cycles it across a network of piping to a coil in a unit outside, where that heat is released. It then is cooled back down, sent into your home, and the cycle starts again. So ACs simply cycle a refrigerant around pipes to grab heat from inside your house and transfer it outside, cooling your home. The key feature here is that ACs don’t consume a fuel. They don’t burn gas or use oil. They just use electricity to cycle the refrigerant, compressor or expand it to heat or cool it, and run the fans. This is also true of heat pumps (which are just ACs that run in both directions) and is a key reason why they can save money compared to furnaces for heating. 

Most AC units operate as “split systems” — a hot, condensing side (which includes a condensing coil, compressor and fan) which lives outside your house, and a cold unit that sits inside your home. 

This diagram from Energy Star provides a good “at a glance” explanation. 

Here’s a useful video from The Engineering Mindset that explains in more detail how an AC system works: 

Air Conditioning System Basics hvacr how does it work

And this article from Jacobs explains more about the different types of air conditioners and how to choose one. 

The Obvious Drawback of Air Conditioners: They Only Cool, They Don’t Heat

We’re stating the obvious, but AC units do a great job of cooling your home in the warmer months, as well as filtering air, but they don’t heat.

And that’s fine if you only need an AC system. But that’s rare. Even if you live in one of the warmer states like Hawaii or Florida, you’re still going to want some form of heating during the cooler months. 

The chart below shows the average monthly temperature in Florida. Most people living there would want heating during at least three months of the year (Dec – Feb), maybe even four or five (Nov – Mar). 

Image: Current Results

So, this means you need to invest in two sets of equipment – AC and some kind of heating system. As we’ve discussed, most people in the US tend to have gas furnaces. But, as we’ve mentioned already, a heat pump can do both jobs — cool your home and heat it. 

We’ll take a deep dive into heat pumps next, and then we’ll consider the cost implications of having a heat pump versus an air conditioning unit with a gas furnace.

How Heat Pumps Work

A heat pump works exactly like an air conditioning unit, cycling a refrigerant from inside to outside to move heat from one place to another.  The only difference is that a heat pump can also operate in reverse. This means it can be used in place of an AC unit and a furnace to cool your home and heat it.

When a heat pump is used to heat your home, instead of absorbing heat from inside your home and dumping it outside like an air conditioner, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the outside and dumps it into your home as warm air. It can do this because, via an expansion valve, it cools down the refrigerant to such low temperatures that it’s colder than the air outside., So,so when that outside air passes over the refrigerant, the refrigerant heats up a little —, heat that will eventually be dumped into your home. Specifically, using a compressor, the refrigerant is turned into a high pressure vapor. The pressured gas increases in temperature and its hot vapor flows through the heat exchanger. A fan then blows warm air through it and this is transferred into your house via your air ducts. 

The result is the same as a furnace which also blows warm air through the air vents in your house. The difference is that, just like an AC as we mentioned above, heat pumps don’t burn fuel (e.g. gas), they just use the refrigerant to move heat from one place to another. 

This is also why they can have energy-in/energy-out efficiencies as high as 300%, unlike furnaces which top out at around 95% efficiency because at best you can capture 100% of the heat in a fuel (and you never will capture 100% in real life). A heat pump only needs electricity to run the compressor (which heats the refrigerant), cycle the refrigerant around, and run the fans, but the actual heating and cooling effect is done by grabbing heat and moving it, which is a lot more efficient than burning a fuel. 

The diagram below from Energy Star illustrates the process of a heat pump. 

Here’s a video from This Old House which explains the basics of how a heat pump works: 

How a Heat Pump Works | This Old House

Or if you want a more in-depth look, here’s another video from The Engineering Mindset

Different Types of Heat Pumps

Before we dive into the different types of air source heat pumps (which we’re talking about in this article), it’s worth noting that there are also ground source heat pumps. These pipe the refrigerant into the ground outside your house (instead of to the air outside, like the far more common air-source heat pumps we’ll be discussing in the rest of this article) and the refrigerant exchanges heat with the ground. They are much more expensive, are not typically used in the US and are more commonly used in really cold countries where the ground has more heat than the outside air.

Back to air source heat pumps.

There are two main types of air source heat pump — ducted (split) or mini-split (ductless) heat pumps. The ducted configuration operates via a single unit which sits outside your home and is connected to ducts in your home through which the warm or cooled air flows – many look just like an AC unit that sits outside a home. Mini-split heat pump units, on the other hand also have the outdoor unit but inside, instead of connecting to ducts, they have individual wall units that release the hot or cold air into the room, like the wall units you see in hotel rooms.

Image of ducted heat pump: Energy.gov

Benefits of a Heat Pump

The key advantage of a heat pump is that it does the job of your gas furnace and your air conditioner — it produces heat and cools the air. This, in itself, is a huge benefit, and there are others too:

  • It doesn’t use gas, so your gas bill will be reduced significantly if you’re not using a gas furnace which typically guzzles the most gas in your home.
  • It’s super energy-efficient — up to 300% energy efficient meaning that for each unit of energy it uses, it generates 3 units of heat. This is huge compared to a gas furnace which is only 85% efficient (or 95% at best). 
  • Increased efficiency saves you money. We’ll get into the costs below, but for many homes and climates, using an efficient heat pump saves money every month once you break even on the upfront cost. 
  • There’s no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a heat pump because it runs on electricity. (Note: if you use other gas appliances such as a stove you will still have a risk from those). 

FAQs About Heat Pumps

Do heat pumps work in really cold temperatures?

Yes, they do!

This question is a common myth about heat pumps that dates from the 1980s when heat pumps didn’t work too well in extreme temperatures. These days, heat pumps work extremely well in the coldest of climates (think Norway). This is because their components have been refined to do just that. In particular, modern compressors (which heat up the refrigerant) now operate at variable speeds instead of just on or off so this allows them to work super-hard in cold temperatures.

If you need proof that heat pumps work well in really cold climates, ask any Scandinavian. Norway, Finland and Sweden have the most heat pumps per capita in the world and they are the coldest countries in Europe. 

In the US, the third coldest state (by average temperature), Minnesota, is promoting heat pump installations. Minnesota Power offers a program promoting heat pumps, including rebates and savings which demonstrates its endorsement of this efficient technology. The coldest state, Alaska, also has multiple heat pump incentives. 

How do heat pumps work even when it’s below freezing outside?

The refrigerant used in a heat pump is crucial to how it performs in cold conditions. Because heat always travels from hot to cold, if the refrigerant is even colder than the outside temperature, even if the outside temperature is below freezing, heat will still travel from the outside air to the refrigerant. Typical refrigerants used in heat pumps can get down to -37F. This means most modern heat pumps can operate in temperatures right down to -13F which pretty much covers almost all inhabitable cities with decently sized populations.

This article from Sealed explains how heat pumps work in super-cold temperatures which should dispel any lingering worries.

Again, if Finland, Norway, Minnesota and Alaska are promoting heat pump installations, you should be fine. 

Do I need a heat pump, a furnace and/or an air conditioner?

In many cases, a heat pump alone will be enough to heat and cool your home. However, everybody’s situation is different and there are several factors to consider:

  • The climate where you live
  • The cost of gas where you live
  • The cost of electricity where you live
  • The size of your house
  • What heating/cooling arrangement you currently have (existing furnace, ducts, etc.)
  • How warm/cool you like your house

To get a definitive answer, you need to ask a local HVAC company (or, even better, three companies) to work this out for you. They will estimate how much a heat pump would cost to install and run based on the electricity costs in your area, versus having a furnace and an air conditioner, or, whether it’s more cost effective and efficient for you to just have a heat pump.

If you already have a furnace and you’re just looking to replace your air conditioner, it’s definitely worth considering replacing your AC unit with a heat pump and using that to cool your home. Depending on the relative cost of gas vs. electricity in your area (or whether you have rooftop solar), you can use your heat pump just like an AC in the summer for cooling and either the heat pump or a gas furnace in winter for heating.  It’s worth considering that the upfront costs of an AC unit are less than a heat pump — we’ll get further into the all important costs below.

In time, when your existing furnace needs replacing, you’ve already got a heat pump so you can switch to that as your source of heating and cooling without needing to spend any capital on a new furnace.

What Industry Standards to Look For (Heat Pumps & AC)

Before we get into costings, there’s some industry jargon around measuring the efficiency of air conditioning and heat pump systems that’s helpful to understand — SEER, EER, HPSF and the Energy Star label.

What Are SEER and EER Ratings?

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It’s a standard used in the US heating and cooling industry to measure how well a system (AC unit or heat pump) cools a space and the amount of electricity it uses. According to the Department of Energy Guide, the SEER equals the cooling output of a system (in BTUs*) divided by its overall power consumption (in watt-hours) during the cooling season. This measure is specific to the temperate climate in the middle of the US. 

EER is similar except it measures efficiency when the outdoor temperature is at 95℉ specifically rather than the whole season.

The higher the SEER and EER ratings, the more energy-efficient the system. 

Air conditioning units that are 15 years old typically have low SEER ratings of 8-10. Since 2006 all AC units sold in the US must have a SEER rating of at least 13 and most modern units are rated between 13 and 21. 

Importantly, upgrading from, say a SEER rating of 9 to 14 can reduce your energy consumption by 35%. Of course, there’s the initial outlay for the equipment (which we’ll talk about in more detail later), but, if you’re paying $100 per month to run your AC unit, this cost will come down to $65.

SEER ratings are also used for air source heat pumps which can heat and cool your home. The Department of Energy recommends you look for an Energy Star qualified heat pump (more on this below) with at least a SEER rating of 14.

*BTU – British Thermal Units

What is HPSF?

The other term to consider for heat pumps specifically is its HPSF – the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The HPSF is the ratio of the total heat output (in BTUs) during a normal heating season divided by the total energy (in watt-hours) consumed during the same period. It’s basically the SEER rating for heating.

As with the SEER and EER ratings, the higher the HPSF rating, the more efficient the heat pump.

Energy Star qualified heat pumps have a HPSF of at least 8. 

What is the Energy Star Label?

Energy Star is the performance label which meets the US Environmental Protection Agency requirements. 

AC systems and air source heat pumps that have the Energy Star label must have a SEER rating of at least 14. Heat pumps must also have a HPSF of at least 8.

Buying a HVAC system with the Energy Star label ensures you are investing in a system that meets high efficiency standards.

At a Glance Essentials and Benefits of Industry Ratings

To summarize, if you’re buying a new AC unit and/or air source heat pump, systems should have:

  • ASEER rating of at least 13 (going up to 33). 
  • An EER rating of at least 10 (going up to 14).
  • A HPSF rating of at least 8 (going up to 14)
  • An Energy Star qualified system (this will mean the SEER rating will be 14 or above).

You will pay more for a system with higher ratings (because they’ll save you on electricity bills during the life of the product) and you should take advice from your local HVAC advisor on the best option for you. However, these are some of the benefits that will offset the initial outlay:

  • Reduction of utility bills: Choosing a system which is more efficient will use less energy and could reduce your electricity bill significantly.
  • Provide more indoor comfort: As well as sweltering heat, humidity can be a problem for people living in the southeast and southwest. An AC unit (or heat pump which you use for cooling) with a higher SEER rating will not only cool your home more efficiently, it will also manage the humidity more effectively too.
  • Kinder to the environment: Choosing a heating/cooling system with a high SEER rating will reduce your carbon footprint. 

You can read more in this article by American Standard who advise that where you live will impact what SEER rating you choose as well as the size of your family and your home. 

What About Costs?

Working out what system is right for you, for example, AC unit plus gas furnace, heat pump plus gas furnace, or just a heat pump that heats and cools your home, ultimately comes down to cost.

As we mentioned above, there are many factors to take into consideration. To recap:

  • The climate where you live
  • The cost of gas where you live
  • The cost of electricity where you live
  • The size of your house (which will have a bearing on what size HVAC equipment you need).
  • What heating/cooling arrangement you currently have (existing furnace, ducts, etc.)
  • How warm/cool you like your house

In addition, there will be variances in cost dependent on what SEER rating (and other ratings) you choose, that will impact the initial outlay and the running costs. 

To get more information and estimated costs for your specific situation you’ll need to contact 2 – 3 local HVAC companies (a good place to start is the Home Advisor site), and ask them these questions:

  • How much would an installed heat pump cost vs an air conditioner?
  • How much would the running costs be in our area for each?
  • What’s the best/most cost-effective way to heat and cool my home bearing in mind what appliances I already have (e.g. gas furnace)?
  • Are there any incentive schemes or rebates in our area for installing a heat pump?

There are two areas of cost to consider — 1) Upfront costs to buy and install your appliance/s and, 2) Ongoing running costs in your area.

We’ve done some research into both and, before we dive into some detail, there are some high level takeaways (with the disclaimer that, of course, prices for each appliance vary hugely). But, broadly speaking, we found the following to be true:

  • Upfront Costs:
    • An AC unit is usually cheaper than a heat pump to buy and install but there are some comparable prices with heat pumps.
    • A gas furnace is cheaper than a heat pump to buy and install.
    • The cost of an AC unit and a gas furnace together is slightly more or comparable to a heat pump to buy and install (and, remember, the heat pump does the job of both appliances).
  • Running Costs:
    • A high efficiency heat pump can be slightly cheaper to run than an AC unit.
    • A heat pump can be slightly cheaper to run than a gas furnace but this depends heavily on the gas vs electricity costs in your region. Again talking to multiple HVAC companies in your area to go over this is advised. 
    • A heat pump is much cheaper than other forms of heating, in particular electrical resistance heating (space heaters, baseboard heaters).
    • The more you spend upfront on a super-efficient heat pump, the more your running costs will reduce (dependent on the gas vs electricity cost in your area).

Let’s delve into some basic numbers so you have an idea of the costs for each appliance as a starting point.

Upfront Costs of AC Unit and Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump

Air Conditioning Units

According to Home Advisor, the cost of a 3 ton – 5 ton AC Unit including installation ranges from $3,800 to $7,500 with the average homeowner spending under $6,000. 

(Info from Home Advisor Nov 22)

This is consistent with this article by Bob Vila which gives a complete lowdown on air conditioners.

Gas Furnaces

Replacing a furnace costs anything from $2,700 to $6,400 and you’ll pay more for high-efficiency models (although these will never exceed 95% efficiency, unlike the 300% efficiency of a heat pump).

AC Unit Plus Gas Furnace

So, bearing those ballpark figures in mind, the approximate cost of an air conditioning unit plus a gas furnace (i.e a complete HVAC system) ranges from $6,500 to $13,900. The lower figure is an absolute minimum and would not have anywhere near the efficiency benefits of a heat pump.

Heat Pump

In comparison, the price of a standard split heat pump (that feeds into your duct system just like a furnace and AC unit) ranges from $5,500 at the basic level up to $13,000 for a super-efficient high SEER rated heat pump with advanced features like variable speed (to control the comfort of the air flow). This is discussed in more detail in this video from HVAC company Fire & Ice

[Note, as we mention below, starting in 2023 and running until 2032, there is a federal 30% tax rebate on heat pumps – a significant reduction in installed price for heat pumps.]

Depending on what type of heat pump you can afford, the price range for a heat pump is comparable to replacing an AC system alone and actually replacing your entire HVAC system of AC and gas furnace. Again, this is something you need to discuss in detail with your local HVAC company. 

Running Costs of AC Unit and Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump

The biggest variable for any HVAC appliance is its running costs. This is the key factor to consider when discussing your needs with an HVAC advisor. Gas is currently relatively cheap in many areas of the US — approximately 2X – 3X cheaper than electricity (per unit energy) — so this has a significant impact on whether you choose appliances that run on gas or electricity.

In general terms, the cost of running an AC unit and a heat pump is comparable, since they both run on electricity. However, a heat pump with a high SEER rating will run more efficiently than an AC unit. This type of heat pump manages humidity more effectively and therefore uses less energy. So, it may be that a heat pump has lower running costs than an AC unit. 

Because heat pumps are 3 – 4 times more efficient than gas furnaces, but gas is 2 – 3 times cheaper than electricity, running a heat pump will generally work out slightly cheaper (or more-or-less the same) as a gas furnace. It’s important to remember though, that this is only because of the current low natural gas prices in the US. And this doesn’t apply to all areas, for example, Hawaii, where gas is as expensive as electricity. 

Here is a map of electricity prices as the time of publication from the EIA: 

In general, if you’re in one of the lighter blue states, your electricity is pretty cheap (compared to the average) and a heat pump is worth considering. If you’re in the darker blue states (in particular California, Massachusetts, etc.), it may be more expensive to heat your home with a heat pump than a gas furnace. 

So, the only reason gas furnaces are able to compete with heat pumps on running costs is because of the low cost of gas. And, of course, this is something that can change.

It’s worth mentioning that, if you have rooftop solar, this will make the running costs of a heat pump (and/or an AC unit) extremely low since you’ll effectively be generating your own electricity, whereas you still have to pay for gas.

Plus, electric appliances need less maintenance compared to combustion (gas, oil) heating systems so repair costs will be less too. 

Depending on your local gas and electricity costs, the more super-efficient your heat pump, the more you’ll save on running costs over time.

Here’s some interesting analytics from Carbon Switch.

AC Units are Cheaper Upfront But Heat Pumps Will Save You Money Over Time

According to an article by Carbon Switch, while AC units may be cheaper to buy and install, a heat pump can save you $10,000 over the lifespan of the unit. So, if you have the money to spend on a heat pump, that’s a significant saving.

Image: Carbon Switch

Note: These upfront costs (in green) are at the high end of the pricing spectrum, so we assume they are based on larger-sized units (3-5 ton) and high SEER ratings. 

The article also says that, as an alternative to using existing ducting or having ducts installed, you can buy a mini-split heat pump system which doesn’t need ducting and is easier to install than ducted HVAC systems. 

Financial Help With Buying a Heat Pump

If the initial outlay for a heat pump is an obstacle, many states offer rebates and incentives which can make a big difference. In particular the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act has implemented a 30% federal tax rebate for buying a heat pump (up to $2000). This tax rebate starts in 2023 and is slated to last until 2032. Thirty percent is a big deal. That means a fully installed heat pump at $8,000 would only cost you $5,600 after the rebate. This can significantly tilt the scales of heat pump vs. air conditioner + furnace in favor of a heat pump.  You can go to the DSIRE database to check if there’s a scheme in your region. 

Again, discuss this with your HVAC advisor when you ask for quotes.

Heat Pumps are the Carbon-Friendly Choice and a Necessary Part of Reaching Net Zero Carbon Emissions

Aside from the benefits of heat pumps we’ve already discussed — primarily that they do the job of two HVAC appliances, heating and cooling your home, plus they can reduce your utility bills over time — the other key benefit is that heat pumps are the carbon-friendly choice.

This is because they run purely on electricity (which can be generated from non-carbon emitting sources) and don’t use gas (which is a fossil fuel and will release CO2 when burned). Experts agree that, to avert the climate crisis, we need to move away from natural gas in order to hit net-zero emissions, and heat pumps are part of how we’ll achieve this. 

Heat pumps are more than three times more efficient than gas furnaces in terms of the energy they use to create heat. So, even if your electricity comes from fossil fuels (which some does), you’ll use far less of it to heat your home. 

Electricity also has a good chance of being produced with a renewable source whereas gas doesn’t. In 2020, 20% of US electricity generation was from renewable sources and many states (California, Vermont and South Dakota, to name a few) are generating most of their electricity from non-GHG sources. 

If you care about solving the climate crisis, note that at some point humans need to stop burning natural gas to get to net zero carbon emissions. As long as homes are heated with natural gas furnaces, that’s impossible. So, even if you get a heat pump and today you’re buying electricity from the grid, some of which is produced by carbon emitting sources, you’re definitely emitting significantly less carbon than by burning gas because of two reasons: (1) heat pumps have 300% energy efficiency vs 95% for a furnace meaning they only need one unit of electricity to generate 3 units of heat, versus 1 to 1 for a furnace, and (2) majority of states in the country now get a sizeable portion of their electricity from non-carbon emitting sources. 

Finally, importantly, by getting a heat pump you’re also contributing to the infrastructure change that needs to happen in order to eventually get to net zero carbon emissions.

Next Steps

We’ve discussed that having a heat pump that heats and cools air is the obvious solution for most homeowners who want to make climate-conscious decisions. A heat pump replaces the need to have an AC unit and a gas furnace, it’s convenient, super-efficient and kind to the environment. For an initial capital outlay, heat pumps will likely save you a significant amount of money on your utility bills over time, depending on your local gas and electricity costs.

To get more information and estimated costs for your specific situation contact 2 – 3 local HVAC companies (start with the Home Advisor site), and they’ll work out the installation and running costs of different heat pump vs air conditioners and gas furnaces for you.

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