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Heat Pumps vs. AC & Furnace Combinations: Which Option Is Best for Your Home?

Posted On: June 20, 2023

Twin Cities homeowners who want to optimize their home’s HVAC efficiency often wonder if a heat pump can keep their home warm during Minnesota’s frigid winters.

Would a heat pump be sufficient for heating and cooling your home? Or is it possible to find an air conditioner and furnace combination that’s as energy-efficient as a heat pump to keep your home comfortable year-round?

Learn more about how these systems compare to make your decision.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Heat pumps operate similarly to air conditioners but fundamentally differ from furnaces, which use an energy source such as gas, propane, or electricity to create heat from scratch.

Heat pumps transfer warm air from outside to heat your home in the winter. This process is most efficient when the air outside is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but there’s always warm air available outside that a heat pump can transfer — no matter the temperature.

In summer, your heat pump can transfer cool air from outside instead, which can keep your home cool in higher temperatures.

Your heat pump works with your indoor air handler to distribute the heated or cooled air through ductwork, just like an air conditioner and furnace would.

Why Choose a Heat Pump for Heating & Cooling?

Many Twin Cities homeowners choose to install a heat pump as their home’s heating and cooling system to enjoy:

Cost-Effective Installation

You only need to pay the costs of labor and equipment once if you install a heat pump.

Air conditioners and furnaces also should be installed simultaneously and manufactured by the same company for optimal operation. This is a challenge for homeowners who don’t want to invest in two new systems at once.

Space Savings

For a heat pump, you’ll only need to make space for two units: the main outdoor unit and the indoor air handler.

A furnace/air conditioner combination will require space for three units: an outdoor AC unit, an air handler, and the furnace.

You’ll need extra space in your basement, garage, or utility closet to house your furnace, and the system needs at least 30 inches of space on all sides to function optimally.

Optimal Heating Efficiency

Heat pumps generally function at 200% to 400% efficiency, which results in significant utility bill savings.

Even the most efficient furnaces will never reach 100% efficiency because some energy is always lost in the combustion process.

Better Air Quality

Furnaces produce a dry heat that reduces the humidity of the air circulating throughout your home.

This can negatively affect your home’s indoor air quality and family members with respiratory conditions.

HVAC Efficiency Ratings

The Department of Energy recently updated HVAC energy-efficiency regulations for air conditioners, heat pumps, and gas and electric furnaces.

The updates make it easier for homeowners to purchase high-efficiency HVAC systems and make a positive environmental impact.

  • Heat pumps must now have a minimum rating of 14.3 SEER2 and 7.5 HSPF2 or higher.
  • Furnaces need to have a rating of 81% AFUE or higher.
  • Air conditioners must be rated at 13.4 SEER2 or higher.

Knowing these new rating requirements can help you evaluate the efficiency of the systems you’re considering. A higher-rated system will use less energy to heat or cool your home, which can lead to lower utility bills.

Consider a Hybrid System

A more cost-effective alternative to installing a furnace and an air conditioner is a hybrid system.

A hybrid HVAC system combines a gas furnace with a heat pump. You’d still enjoy the energy savings of a heat pump on mild winter days and only use the gas furnace to heat your home when the temperatures are well below freezing.

The Twin Cities’ Top Choice for Quality HVAC Installation & Replacement

Choosing the right system depends on your home’s heating and cooling needs and budget. However, no matter which system type you choose, you can qualify for federal rebates and tax credits that add to your savings.

The team of licensed and insured technicians at Genz-Ryan Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical is ready to help you through every step of the HVAC installation process. Our team also repairs and maintains heat pumps, furnaces, and air conditioners, so we can support your comfort throughout your system’s life span.

Schedule HVAC replacement in Minneapolis-St. Paul by calling (612) 223-6158 today.

Proudly Serving The Twin Cities!