A/C vs. heat pump: Which is best for Kansas City homes?

Here’s the thing: ACs and heat pumps are literally the same thing when it comes to cooling. The only difference between the two is that a heat pump can also provide heating.

So really, if you’re stuck between getting an AC or a heat pump, you need to compare that heat pump to whatever heating system you would potentially pair with your air conditioner. And in Kansas, the most common heating system is a furnace.

Which brings us to the real question you should be asking: Which should I choose for my Kansas home—a heat pump or a furnace?

Our professional suggestion? Both. Combine a heat pump with a gas furnace to get a “dual fuel” system. 99% of the time, this is the most cost effective way to heat your home (more on how this system works later).

BUT…there are 2 specific instances when you shouldn’t choose a dual fuel system:

  1. If you can’t add a gas line to your home
  2. If you like your hot air…HOT

We’ll explain more below….

A “dual fuel” system is more efficient than an AC + furnace

A “dual fuel” system refers to a heat pump that is paired with a gas furnace. With a dual fuel system, the heat pump provides all of your cooling and most of your heating—the gas furnace is only used as a “backup” heating source on very cold days.

And, when compared to a straight AC with a gas furnace, dual fuel systems are a lot more efficient.

Why? Well, a heat pump literally just moves heat from one place to another—heat is absorbed from the outside air and moved into your home. And remember—air is free! On the other hand, a gas furnace creates heat by burning gas (and gas costs money). So, in the winter, the more a heat pump runs, the more you save on your heating bill.

To give you an idea of just how much you’d save in heating bills, consider that most dual fuel systems switch from heat pump heating to gas furnace heating when temperatures drop below 25° to 35° F. But, on average, temperatures in Kansas dip below 25° only 3 months out of the year.

That basically translates to:

  • Paying for maximum 90 days of gas heating with a dual fuel system
  • Paying for 150 days (5 months) of gas heating with an AC + furnace

Note: These numbers aren’t exact and are only meant to give you an understanding of how a dual fuel system works. For example, you’ll still have to pay for electricity with a heat pump. But when in full heat pump mode, (i.e. not in emergency heat or AUX heat) the unit consumes very little electricity.

Now, don’t get us wrong: a dual fuel system isn’t the best option for everyone. Let’s look at certain situations when a dual fuel system isn’t the right fit for your home.

When a dual fuel system ISN’T the best option…

1. When you can’t add a gas line to your home.

If you can’t add a gas line to your home, we suggest going with a heat pump that has built in electric resistance heaters.

You see, these units work exactly the same as the dual fuel system except, when temperatures drop too low, the system automatically switches to electric resistance heaters that are added into the air handler (the indoor unit).

The downside to this system is that electric resistance heating is 50% more expensive than heat pump heating.

2. When you like your hot air HOT.

A heat pump blows air that feels a lot cooler than a furnace’s hot air.

A quick look at the output temperature differences:

  • Gas furnaces deliver air between 120° to 125° F
  • Heat pumps deliver air between 90° to 100° F

We get it—comfort is a huge factor. So if you are particular about feeling the hot air from the vents, you may want to consider investing in an air conditioner with a furnace instead of a heat pump.

But before you make up your mind, know this: lower temperatures don’t mean that the heat pump isn’t heating your home. In fact, because of the lower air output temperature it produces, a heat pump heats your home at a steady pace which means more even, consistent temperatures throughout the home. A gas furnace, on the other hand, blasts higher temperatures which means faster heating and hot/cold spots throughout the house.

Have questions or want an estimate?

If you live in the Kansas City area, we can help.

Just contact us with your questions. If you’re ready for a heat pump or AC installation estimate, we’ll send out a professional who will inspect your home and provide a fair estimate.