Comparing Heat Pumps and Furnaces: Which is More Economical When Installing New HVAC Units?

Comparing Heat Pumps and Furnaces: Which is More Economical When Installing New HVAC Units?

In Charlotte, with the large changes in weather between seasons, one must ask: is a furnace or heat pump a better way to heat my home? Both systems have their benefits and potential weaknesses. Andy Lewis Heating and Air Conditioning has been installing and servicing these heating systems for over 20 years, and we want to pass the knowledge onto you so you can make a more informed decision involving your home’s heating and air units. When it comes to replacing or upgrading your heat pump or furnace, remember these tips before making your purchase decision.

Benefits of Heat Pumps

Lower Energy Use

Heat pumps use electricity to pull heat from the air outside and transfer it into your home. Depending upon energy costs in your area, this can be more efficient than electric heaters or gas furnaces that burn fossil fuels for energy.

Multi Season Use

Heat pumps can be used in the winter to heat your home or in the summer to cool it. The system simply reverses cycle and pulls warm air out of your home in the summer!

Heating Costs

By heating with a heat pump over a furnace, you can save on your monthly energy bills. Natural gas or other fuels can be expensive compared to a small amount of electricity.

Environmental Costs

As a result of the lower energy use and lack of directly burning fossil fuels, heat pumps are better for the environment. This will become even more true as our local power providers, such as Duke Energy, move towards green energy for electricity production.

Heat pumps are a great option to heat your home today.
They function well as a low cost heating source until outdoor temperatures fall to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below outside. Once the outdoor temperature drops to extremely cold levels, there is only so much usable heat in the outside air. This requires the heat pump to use electric resistance or “back up” heat which uses more electricity and increase utility bills. Another option to think about if you are considering a heat pump for your home is using a gas furnace as a back-up for the colder days of the year in Charlotte. This type of system is known as “dual fuel” or “hybrid” system.

Benefits of Furnaces

Fast Heat

By burning fuels, the furnace can heat air to a higher temperature. This is around 120-140F versus a heat pumps 90-120F on average. Higher temperatures provide warmer heat to the touch and faster heating to your desired temperature.

Weather Independent

Whether it is 50F or 15F (we’ve already gotten that low this year in Charlotte), the furnace provides steady and warm air to your home.


Although heat pumps and furnaces both last a long time, furnaces give it a few more years. Heat pumps usually give up to 10-12 years while furnaces can give up to 20+ years of service. This is, of course, with proper heating maintenance and good care on the overall HVAC system.

Economic Costs

Furnaces can cost less than heat pumps for installation or replacement, but can cost more to run if used as the only source of heat.

Some of the negatives associated with furnaces are the burning of fossil fuels, especially in the home. The environmental costs can be high, but they can also build up volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or Carbon Monoxide (CO) in our home if the furnace is not vented properly or maintenanced and cleaned on a regular basis. Check out our indoor air quality page to learn more. Furnaces are also less efficient at using the energy they do consume, in comparison to heat pumps that use heat already in the air versus generating heat through the combustion process.

Hybrid or Dual Fuel Systems

Since furnaces and heat pumps both have their benefits and drawbacks, a combination system of the two is the ideal setup for anyone’s home. When the temperature is above roughly 35-40F, the heat pump extracts usable heat from the outdoor air and is able to heat your home very efficiently. As temperatures drop and the heat pump becomes less efficient, your heating system will switch over to furnace heat. Hybrid HVAC heating systems may have the higher up-front installation costs, but are the most efficient over the long run and save more money down the road.

What Andy Lewis Heating and Air Conditioning Can Do To Help

We can help you decide which of these choices is best for you when replacing or installing your heating system. There are many options of units even after your comparison of heat pumps and furnaces, and we’ve worked with them all. Just fill us in on your situation, your budget, and what you’re looking for and Andy Lewis Heating and Air Conditioning can build the perfect HVAC system for your home. There’s a good reason we’ve been trusted in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, and we will show you why if you choose us.