Do Heat Pumps Replace Central Air Conditioners?

Do Heat Pumps Replace Central Air Conditioners?

Can you replace a gas furnace/air conditioner system with a heat pump? That’s a question many homeowners ask as they consider the next heating and cooling system for their home. Heat pumps do replace air conditioners frequently. Here’s how it is done and why it is worth considering in your home.

Heat Pump HVAC Systems

A heat pump produces both heating and cooling. It’s built like a central air conditioner, but with a reversing valve. In warm months, the refrigerant captures heat inside your home and carries it outside. In cool months, it collects heat outside and carries it indoors, releasing it to warm your home. This action is why this type of system is called a heat pump – its moving of heat from one location to another.

In most climates, instead of a furnace, the system uses an air handler to circulate heated and cooled air. It’s a cabinet that can house the system’s indoor coil as well as a blower motor and fan. There’s no burner, and it doesn’t make heat. Most air handlers in heat pump split systems do contain one or more electric heat strips that produce heat like a space heater does. They make extra heat to assist the heat pump when temperatures outside are quite cold. By themselves though, the heating strips don’t make enough heat to fully warm your home.

Standard heat pumps work in all but the coolest climates. Once the temperature outside falls into the low 30s – it varies slightly from heat pump to heat pump – they become inefficient in their collecting of heat, and eventually ineffective altogether.

The solution to this problem is a type of unit known as a dual fuel heat pump. It works in a split system with a gas furnace. The heat pump does the work when temperatures are in the 40s or above; the system is programmed to switch to the gas furnace for heat when outside temperatures fall into the 30s and below. It switches back to the heat pump when outside temps rise again.

The Advantage of a Heat Pump Split System

The primary reason to consider a heat pump versus a gas furnace is that these systems heat much more efficiently, so they cost significantly less to operate. Depending on how efficient the system is, it may produce 20% to 40% lower heating bills than a gas furnace. Even in a dual fuel system, it is cost-effective to run the heat pump as much as possible. Depending on how cold the climate is, heat pumps do 70% to 85% of the heating in dual fuel systems.


Yes, heat pumps replace central air conditioners and gas/oil furnaces. They are a comfortable way to heat any home and to keep utility costs down throughout the year.

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