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Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner and Gas Furnace for Georgia Homeowners

Posted 07-08-14 in Air Conditioning, Heating

Heat pump vs. Air conditioner & Furnace in AtlantaHere’s a common question from homeowners in Georgia looking to replace their heating & cooling system, “Should I get a heat pump or an air conditioner/furnace system?”

Here’s the rule of thumb for heat pumps vs. the typical AC/furnace line-up:

  • If you live in a warmer climate (like Georgia’s) with lower electric rates than gas rates, highly consider the heat pump.
  • If you live in a climate with sub freezing winter temperatures and higher electric rates than gas rates, go for air conditioner/furnace combo.

Simple, right? The climate and the rates your utility companies charge will determine which HVAC system works for you.

We’ll explain why these 2 factors matter, and how they apply to Georgia homeowners.

Why climate is a deciding factor

To understand why climate is a deciding factor, you need to understand how a heat pump works.

Here’s a simple explanation:

  • In the summer, the heat pump works just like an air conditioner: It uses refrigerant to absorb heat out of your home’s air and move it outside.
  • In the winter, it works in reverse to extract heat from the outside air and moves it into your home. (This is different from a gas furnace that produces heat from burning fuel.)

OK, here’s where climate comes into play. When weather gets into 40°F or lower, the heat pump can’t heat your home to the thermostat’s temperature setting. So it needs a backup heating system to kick on and help out.

There are 2 backups heating options a heat pump typically uses:

  • Electric resistance coils built into the indoor unit (this is the default choice)
  • A gas furnace

The electric coil is less efficient than a gas furnace. So many homeowners opt to pair their heat pump with a gas furnace to create a “dual-fuel heating system.”

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, why should I buy a heat pump with a furnace when I could just get an air conditioner with a furnace?”

The answer lies in how often the heat pump has to rely on the backup heating system.

For Georgia, the heat pump would need to rely on the backup gas furnace on only a few extremely cold winter days.

So, while a heat pump and furnace combo may cost more upfront than an air conditioner and furnace combo, the former can save you more than the latter through lower utility bills each year.

Of course, we’re implying that a heat pump’s heating rate is less expensive than a furnace’s. The next section covers that topic.

Why gas rates vs. electric rates is a deciding factor

There’s no difference between the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner and a heat pump. A 13 SEER air conditioner cools as efficiently as a 13 SEER heat pump.

This simplifies things for you. You only need to compare the cost of using a heat pump vs. the gas furnace. In the end, this comes down to the cost of gas vs. cost of electricity.

According to Georgia Power, heat pumps can help you save about $300 year. So heat pumps are the more cost-efficient heating option for Georgia.

Georgia Power makes it easy to switch over to a heat pump with rebates and incentives up to $550.

Find a quality Georgia HVAC contractor

Regardless of which heating/cooling system you get, the quality of the installation will strongly affect how efficient they work.

According to ENERGYSTAR, “Estimated savings potential with [a quality installation] ranges from 18% to 36% for air conditioners and heat pumps and 11% to 18% for furnaces.”

Looking for a quality heating & conditioning installer in the Atlanta area? Coolray has been in business since 1966 and has the experience to ensure a smooth HVAC system installation. We have installed HVAC systems in Roswell, Marietta, Alpharetta, Lawrenceville and homes all over the Atlanta metro area.

Got questions? Ask an expert for help or call us directly at (770) 421-8400.

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