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Heat Pump vs Gas Furnace: Which Is Better For My Minneapolis-St. Paul Home?

Stuck choosing between a heat pump or gas furnace?

We’ll help guide you.

In our area, a heat pump by itself is not usually ideal. The reason is that heat pumps are not very effective or energy-efficient when temperatures drop below freezing (32° F).

Unfortunately, during the 3 coldest months of the year (December, January and February), the outdoor temperatures in our area are almost always below 32°.

That’s why most homeowners in the Twin Cities area opt for a gas furnace. However, some homeowners prefer a heat pump/furnace combo, called a dual-fuel system. A dual-fuel system essentially gives you the best of both types of heating systems.

To help you better understand your heating options, we’ll explain:

  • The pros and cons of heat pumps vs furnaces
  • The benefits of a dual-fuel system

Want an expert to recommend a heating system for your home? We’ll give you an honest recommendation on which system is best for you, based on your budget and comfort needs.

Contact us today

Heat pumps vs furnaces: Pros and cons

To help you compare each type of heating system, we’ll share the pros and cons of each one below.

Note: For more context about how a heat pump works, it may be helpful to refer to our blog, What is a Heat Pump? before reading this section.

Heat pumps

Pros:

  • A heat pump is a heating system and an air conditioner all-in-one, so it can both heat and cool your home
  • A heat pump is very energy-efficient when outdoor temperatures are above 32° F
  • A heat pump doesn’t use natural gas, which means it doesn’t produce any harmful greenhouse gas emissions

Cons:

  • A heat pump relies on electric resistance heating when outdoor temperatures are below 32°, which leads to higher energy bills (electricity is more expensive than gas in our area)
  • In heating mode, a heat pump blows air in the 90° to 100° range, which heats your home but might feel uncomfortable to people accustomed to the hot air provided by a furnace
  • A heat pump is generally more expensive upfront than a furnace

Gas furnaces

Pros:

  • A gas furnace has a low operational cost because natural gas is the least expensive fuel source in our area
  • A gas furnace provides heat in the 130° to 140° range, making it feel more comfortable than a heat pump to some people
  • A gas furnace usually has a lower upfront cost compared to a heat pump (but only if you’re replacing your heating system, not if you’re replacing your AC as well)

Cons:

  • A furnace only heats your home, so if you don’t already have a working AC, you’ll need to have one installed (which raises the upfront cost considerably)
  • A gas furnace relies on the combustion of natural gas, which produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions

Now that you’ve seen some of their pros and cons, let’s look at how a dual-fuel system gives you the benefits of both a heat pump and furnace.

The benefits of a dual-fuel system

Like we mentioned in the beginning, a dual-fuel system is the combination of a gas furnace with an electric heat pump.

Here’s how a dual-fuel system works: On mildly cold days, when temperatures are above 32° F, the heat pump will warm your home by itself. Then, when outdoor temperatures start to dip below freezing, the gas furnace will kick in to heat your home.

Let’s look at why this dual-fuel setup is beneficial:

  1. Since a gas furnace is cheaper to operate than electric resistance heating (which is what a heat pump would use on freezing days to keep your home warm), you’ll spend less heating your home during the coldest winter months.
  2. On the coldest winter days, a gas furnace will provide maximum comfort by supplying 130° to 140° air to heat your home.
  3. A heat pump is highly efficient on mildly cold days, which means you’ll have low energy bills during the fall and spring. Plus, you’ll have a built-in air conditioner ready to use for the warm summer months.
  4. Since you’re not relying on your furnace the entire winter (only during the coldest months) your system won’t produce as many harmful greenhouse gases.

Because of the energy-saving benefits, some Twin Cities homeowners prefer to go with a dual-fuel system. However, dual-fuel systems cost more to install than a furnace or heat pump would be by themselves.

The heating contractor you consult with can help you determine if the energy savings from a dual-fuel system make sense for your budget and home.

Want a recommendation on the right heating system for you?

Contact us today

We’re ready to help! Our comfort specialists will provide honest, straightforward answers to your questions and will help you choose the system that makes the most sense for your home.

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