Heat Pump System vs Gas Furnace

All heating systems aren’t created equal. Many homeowners may find themselves with a choice between a heat pump system or a gas furnace when buying a home or installing a new heating system in their current home. If that sounds like you, then read on for a look at the pros, cons, and background information on both options.

What is a heat pump system?

Many new construction homes and homes without natural gas lines in Arizona are built with heat pump systems instead of traditional gas furnaces. Heat pumps are unique in the sense that they can both heat and cool your home. This is because heat pumps don’t actually create heat. Instead, they absorb heat from the surrounding air and transfer it. It might not feel like it, but there’s still heat in the air even when it’s cold outside. In the winter, a heat pump takes this heat and moves it into your home. In the summer, the process is reversed. Instead of moving heat indoors, the heat pump sends indoor heat outdoors.

An air-source heat pump is the most common type of heat pump, and is best suited for warmer climates. The efficiency and performance of a heat pump can depend on several factors, including variable blower speeds. Choosing a blower speed may come down to cost, or energy efficiency, depending on your priorities.

Single speed

This blower motor comes with one speed. It’s the least expensive, but also least efficient, option.


This blower can utilize low, medium, and high speeds. It’s a moderately priced option.

Variable speed

This blower automatically adjusts its speed based on the temperature you set in your home. With this advanced feature, it’s the most expensive blower option, but also the most efficient.

Pros of heat pump systems

Heat pumps are popular in parts of the country with mild winters, like much of Arizona. Many may consider a traditional furnace to be “overkill” in mild climates, while a heat pump is a more fitting alternative. The pros of heat pump systems include:

Energy efficient

A heat pump can transfer up to three times more energy than it consumes. This can reduce the amount of electricity your home uses on heating by approximately 50%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Lower energy consumption means lower monthly energy bills, leaving more money in your pocket.


In contrast to furnaces, heat pumps operate quietly. If you’re bothered by loud noises, a heat pump is a great choice. You might not notice when it’s on at all.

Cons of heat pump systems

Despite their benefits, heat pump systems have their fair share of drawbacks as well. As a homeowner, it’s important that you evaluate both sides of the equation before deciding on a heating system for your home.

Higher upfront cost

The initial upfront costs of a heat pump system are higher than the costs of a furnace. But, this investment often pays off over time in the form of lower monthly energy bills.


A heat pump system has higher maintenance requirements than a gas furnace. This has to do with the fact that a gas furnace is only used for a few months, while a heat pump can be used all year round for both heating and cooling. Heat pump systems also have more mechanical parts, all of which need maintenance to make sure they don’t break down.

Air isn’t as warm

Because heat pumps work by pulling heat from the outdoor air, they aren’t as effective in very low temperatures. The air they produce isn’t the hot air you might expect from a furnace and is instead a less intense warmth.

Temperatures rarely fall below freezing in Phoenix—but in the event that they do, or if you prefer to keep your home extra toasty in the winter, you might find that your heat pump doesn’t do enough to keep you warm. In that case, a furnace may be a better choice.

What is a gas furnace?

A natural gas furnace provides quick and powerful heating at a relatively low monthly cost. Furnaces are synonymous with central heating systems, because the heat is generated in a central location and then distributed via ductwork throughout the home.

A furnace is made up of four main components:

  • Burners
  • Heat exchangers
  • A blower
  • A flue

Gas remains the most popular fuel source for furnaces, powering about 57% of American homes.

Pros of gas furnaces

Furnaces are tried and true, and it’s easy to see why homeowners gravitate towards them over other heating options. The pros of gas furnaces include:

Long lifespan

A well-maintained furnace can last for 20 years or more, keeping your home comfortably warm for decades. In contrast, the average lifespan of a heat pump is around 14-15 years.

Lower operating costs

On average, a gas furnace is less expensive to install when compared to a heat pump, if the home has an existing gas line. Gas is also generally a less expensive utility than electricity. Maintenance costs are also lower, as a furnace has fewer components and parts than a heat pump system.

Powerful heat

Gas furnaces provide powerful heat. If you’re sensitive to cold or just like keeping your home very warm, you’ll want a furnace instead of a heat pump.

Cons of gas furnaces

No heating method is perfect, and gas furnaces are no exception. The cons of gas furnaces include:

Requires natural gas line

If your home doesn’t have an existing natural gas line, you’ll need to have one installed, which can be costly. It also may not be possible, depending on the configuration of your home or the part of town where you live.

Loud blower fan

Furnace blower fans have a tendency to be loud. Depending on how sensitive you are to noise, this may be a deciding factor on choosing a heat pump or a furnace.

Fuel emissions

Burning any fossil fuel, like natural gas, raises safety concerns around carbon monoxide (CO) which can be deadly at high levels. You’ll need to ensure you have a working carbon monoxide detector if you choose to heat your home with a gas furnace.

The best of both worlds: a heat pump and gas furnace system

A heat pump can be used in conjunction with an existing gas furnace. This is known as a dual-fuel system, and in a sense it allows you to get the “best of both worlds”. When temperatures are mild, the heat pump will act as your home’s primary heating system. In the event that temperatures drop, the furnace can take over until it’s warm enough for the heat pump to work effectively.

Heater questions? Ask Chas Roberts

When the days get shorter and the temperatures fall, even the mild Arizona climate can get a little chilly. When the time comes to turn on the heat, we want to make sure you have everything you need to keep your family safe and comfortable all winter long. Contact us with all your heater questions and problems.