What costs less to run, a heat pump or gas furnace? The conventional wisdom is that a heat pump is more efficient, so costs less to operate.
However, the facts don’t always support that position. Instead, based on winter temperatures and the comparative costs of natural gas and electricity across the country, the answer varies. Sometimes a heat pump is the right choice; but there are times you’ll save money using a gas furnace.
This post includes the Pick HVAC Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump Cost Calculator that provides running cost and savings comparison.
The calculator is next. Then step-by-step instructions are provided to give you the most accurate information about the right choice for your home – a gas furnace or heat pump.
- Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump Cost Calculator
- Best Practices – Getting the Most Accurate Information
- What Do the Pros Say?
Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump Cost Calculator
It is easy to compare running costs for gas furnace vs heat pump using the calculator.
In addition, it shows you the running costs for each and how much you can save by choosing the more efficient option – at least based on the relative costs of energy today.
While the calculator is fairly self-explanatory, we provide clear instructions next, because important steps are easy to overlook.
Plus, the tips provided will help you get the most accurate results from the calculator based on your specific needs.
And we go through two sample situations, one warm climate and one cool climate example, to assist you in getting precise results for your situation.
Gas Furnace vs Heat Pump Cost Calculator
Box 1: Furnace Size by BTUs
In boxes 1-3, simply type in the numbers or use the Up/Down arrows to enter the right value.
Enter the gas furnace size you currently have or has been recommended to you by your HVAC contractor. The calculator works for furnaces up to 90,000 BTUs.
What about efficiency? It doesn’t matter for our purposes because we use input BTUs vs output BTUs.
But you need to understand the difference in order to get the most precise answer to your gas furnace vs heat pump question. The input BTUs is how much fuel the furnace burns. Output is how much heat from the burn chamber gets transferred into your ductwork and home.
Using the example of an 60,000 BTU furnace and various efficiencies:
- 60K input x 80% efficiency = 48,000 BTUs of output
- 60K input x 90% efficiency = 54,000 BTUs of output
- 60K input x 95% efficiency = 57,000 BTUs of output
Output is the key number. So, determine what efficiency level is right for your home. The colder your climate, the more efficient the furnace should be. Let’s say you need 55,000 BTUs to adequately heat your home.
A 60,000 BTU furnace that is 95% efficient will do the job, delivering 57,000 BTUs.
But if you choose an 80% furnace because you live in a warmer climate, then you’ll have to jump to at least a 70,000 BTU furnace to get 56,000 BTUs.
By the way, if you don’t have a contractor, it makes sense to hire one to do a load calculation to find out exactly what size gas furnace or heat pump you need for your home. Getting sizing right is the only way to ensure your home will be adequately heated without overdoing it and wasting energy costs.
Box 2: Heat Pump Size by Ton
Now enter the heat pump size. It typically won’t be the same as the gas furnace size. Options for residential heat pumps range from 1.5 to 5.0 tons, or 18,000 to 60,000 BTUs. Remember that heat pumps provide AC too, so if you live in a warm climate, you might need a large heat pump, even if you don’t require much heat.
Box 3: Heat Pump HSPF Efficiency Rating
HSPF, or heating seasonal performance factor, is the heat pump efficiency. Today’s split system heat pumps range in efficiency from about 8.0 to 13.0 with 9.0 to 10.0 being the most common and cost-effective.
Guessing isn’t recommended. It’s always best to
Box 4: Your State
The first option is the United States, but since costs vary so much from state to state, you’ll get more precise results by scrolling down and selecting where you live.
“My state has a red background!” That’s an indication that a heat pump isn’t the best fit for your climate. Heat pumps are very efficient and effective in climates ranging from hot to chilly. In cold climates of the North, they lose efficiency and often must rely on auxiliary heat strips that use electric resistance heat and are expensive to operate, raising your operating costs well above what you would pay to run a gas furnace.
Box 5: Yearly Heating Hours
This box will automatically populate based on data from the US Department of Energy for Heating Degree Days using average outdoor temperatures.
Boxes 6 & 7: Electric Rates and Natural Gas Prices
Again, based on the US DOE and Energy Information Agency data, the average rates for your state are automatically entered.
Energy costs have a large impact on which equipment is more affordable to run. It varies widely from state to state.
Tip: Be more precise! Use your energy bill to find the exact price you’re paying for either electricity or for natural gas.
If you don’t have a current bill, the prices should be displayed on your energy provider’s website. Or give them a call for pricing.
The first line gives Yearly Total Savings.
Look at lines 2 & 3 to know whether it is cheaper to run a gas furnace or heat pump given the data you’ve inputted into the heat pump vs gas furnace running cost calculator.
From there, your savings are multiplied over 5, 10 and 15 years, which is about the standard lifespan for HVAC equipment (though many units last 20+ years).
Best Practices – Getting the Most Accurate Information
It is recommended that you have a licensed HVAC contractor/technician do a load calculation on your home to determine what size equipment you need.
Factors in a load calculation are your home size, insulation level, quality of the windows and doors, your climate and other lesser factors.
Additionally, the contractor can give you accurate sizes for the furnace and heat pump you’d need, so you can use this calculator to compare “apples to apples.”
It’s unlikely, as we noted, that if you need a 60,000 BTU furnace, a 60,000 BTU heat pump would be right for your home. For example, a home in a very warm state will need a relatively small furnace, maybe a 40,000 BTU unit. But because a heat pump also provides air conditioning, the heat pump might have to be 48,000 or 60,000 BTU.
Sample 1: Warm Climate
Let’s compare running costs in Georgia for a 40,000 BTU furnace vs a 48,000 BTU (4 ton) heat pump. The heat pump is bigger because it also has to cool the house in a hot, humid Georgia summer! When we use the calculator, here are the results:
- Gas Furnace Annual Running Cost: $1192
- Heat Pump Annual Running Cost, 10.0 HSPF: $849
In this example, you’ll save $344 per year using a 10 HSPF heat pump vs a gas furnace.
In 15 years, your savings would grow to more than $5K!
Sample 2: Cool Climate
OK, let’s move north to Chicago, or Illinois in general.
And the example compares an 80,000 BTU gas furnace with a 60,000 BTU or 5-ton heat pump. Chicago, by the way, is about as far north as we recommend using a heat pump vs a gas furnace. The colder the climate, the less efficient a heat pump is – and the more likely it will use the backup/auxiliary heating strips, which drive up operating costs.
Here are the results:
- Gas Furnace Annual Running Cost: $2,133
- Heat Pump Annual Running Cost: $1,644
Note that the costs given are for heating only. The calculator doesn’t factor in AC.
The heat pump wins here too, by $469 each year.
What Do the Pros Say?
Since sizing your home’s HVAC equipment is vital, it makes sense to ask a pro to do the load calculation.
If you use our free, no-obligation service, you’ll get quotes from several certified, licensed heating contractors in your area. They’ll provide equipment size recommendations, guidance, answers to your questions and free estimates. It’s the best way to ensure you get the right equipment for your home, and that you keep your running costs under control while providing outstanding indoor climate comfort all year.