Patrick Riley
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Heat Pump vs. A/C and Furnace for Phoenix, AZ Homes

September 16, 2016

If you’re new to Arizona, you may be wondering what form of cooling and heating is best for your home. Your main choices are:

So which is better? 

Well, there are pros and cons to each. But before we discuss those, do this first: ensure that your area can provide gas service. If it can’t, then your answer is clear: you can only get a heat pump, which runs on electricity.

But, assuming your home can actually get gas, here’s the CliffsNotes version of what you need to know:

  • Installation costs: Heat pumps are cheaper to install.
  • Operational costs:  Heat pumps are 30% less expensive to run than furnaces.
  • Lifespans: Heat pumps don’t live as long as air conditioners and furnaces.
  • Heated air temperature: Furnaces deliver hotter air than heat pumps. But people’s preferences determine which temperature is better.

Let’s explore these factors in more detail.

Installation costs: Heat pump vs. A/C and furnace

In general, installing a furnace and air conditioner will be more expensive than installing a heat pump. The cost difference rises even higher if you need to install a new gas line, which can increase the installation price by $300 to $1,000. 

Note: We’d like to give you exact prices of heat pumps, furnaces and air conditioners, but there are just so many factors (size, efficiency levels, labor costs) involved that would alter the final cost. 

If you’d like price estimates, just schedule online or shoot us a call.  
 
Winner: Heat pump

Operational costs: Heat pump vs. furnace

Operational cost refers to how much money you’ll spend to use (or “operate”) the system over a period of time.

A heat pump cools air as efficiently as an air conditioner but heats air cheaper than a gas furnace. According to SRP, “A heat pump can save up to 30% on heating costs when compared to a gas furnace and provides year-round comfort.”

Note: That percentage will go up or down depending on the ever-changing cost of electricity and gas. 

Heat pumps perform well in Arizona for 2 reasons:

  • Heat pumps are very efficient— According to energy.gov, “an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes.” 
  • Heat pumps work best in non-frigid climates— Heat pumps work efficiently until the outside temperature reaches below 40 F (in which case, the heat pump relies on a much less efficient electric resistance coil). However, most of Arizona rarely reaches those freezing temperatures.

Winner: Heat pump

Lifespan

The average lifespan of a heat pump is shorter than both a straight cool air conditioner and furnace, as you can see in this comparison:

  • Heat pump lifespan: 10 to 14 years
  • Air conditioner lifespan: 15 to 20 years.
  • Furnace lifespan: 20 to 30 years

Why is the heat pump lifespan shorter? 

Because it’s running year round, both cooling and heating your home. But a straight cool air conditioner only runs during the hotter months and a furnace only has to run during the very few cool months.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a system you don’t have to replace very often, you may want to consider getting an air conditioner with a furnace.

Winner: Air conditioner and furnace

Heated air temperature: Heat pump vs. furnace

Heat pumps and furnaces deliver heated air at different temperatures, which can affect how comfortable you will be. 

To show you what we mean, here’s a quick comparison of both systems’ heated air: 

Furnace heated air

  • Temperature: 120 to 125 F
  • How it feels: Relatively intense
  • Known comfort issues: A furnace may not distribute heat equally throughout your home since the furnace heats the home very quickly compared to a heat pump. Also, some people perceive a furnace’s air as too intense. 

Heat pump heated air

  • Temperature: 90 to 100 F
  • How it feels: Relatively mild and sometimes lukewarm.
  • Known comfort issues: Some people perceive heat pump air as “lukewarm” or chilly compared to furnace air. Why? Because heat pump air is often delivered below your body’s temperature, making it feel cooler by comparison.

Keep in mind that everybody has different heating preferences, and those subjective preferences can make all the difference when choosing a heat pump or furnace.

Winner: Tie. Depends on your preferences.

Can’t decide? We can help.

If you live in Arizona  and need help deciding between these two types of HVAC system, we can help. Contact us for a free in-home consultation.