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Heat Pump vs Central AC: Which Is Better For My Tucson, AZ Home?

In terms of their cooling capacity, a heat pump and central AC are exactly the same.

The difference is that a heat pump can also heat your home during the cold winter months, while a central AC by itself cannot. That means if you opt for a central AC, you’ll also need a furnace to heat your home.

So the question is this: Does a heat pump or AC/furnace combo work best for Tucson homes?

Because of our warm climate, heat pumps are ideal for most Tucson homes. If you’re looking for a heating and cooling system all in one unit, a heat pump is the way to go.

That said, there may be some scenarios where it’s better to replace your old air conditioner with a new one instead of installing a heat pump.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the following common scenarios to help you determine which system is best for you:

  • Scenario #1: Your furnace needs to be replaced
  • Scenario #2: Your home doesn’t have access to natural gas
  • Scenario #3: You prefer being as warm as possible on cold days
  • Scenario #4: You’re installing an HVAC system for the first time

Want a Tucson pro to recommend a heating and cooling system for your home? We can help!

Scenario #1: Your furnace needs to be replaced

Generally, air conditioners and furnaces are replaced at the same time to reduce installation costs.

So if you know you need to replace your AC, chances are your furnace is also near the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced as well. If you find yourself in this situation, you might consider purchasing a single heat pump system, which is usually less expensive than replacing both an AC and furnace.

Besides saving money upfront with lower installation costs, you’ll also likely save money in the long run if you choose a heat pump over a furnace/AC combo.

The reason?

Heat pumps use less energy to heat your home, making them cheaper to operate than furnaces, since heat pumps don’t have to create heat from scratch like furnaces do. The result is that a heat pump can deliver 1.5 to 3 times more heat energy than the electrical energy it consumes. This increased energy efficiency translates into lower monthly utility bills.

Scenario #2: Your home doesn’t have access to natural gas

If your home doesn’t have natural gas, it can be prohibitively expensive to add a gas line. So, your most cost-effective options for a heating system are either an electric furnace or a heat pump.

Between an electric furnace and a heat pump, you’re better off going with a heat pump because you’ll have lower energy bills. According to Energy.gov, a heat pump can cut down your energy usage by about 50% compared to an electric furnace.

Scenario #3: You prefer being as warm as possible on cold days

We’re lucky to have very few cold days here in Tucson. But when temperatures drop into the chilly 40° F-range, some homeowners want to feel the extra-hot air a furnace can provide.

You see, a gas furnace can heat air to 120° to 125°, while a heat pump delivers air between 90° and 100°. While 90° air is still hot enough to reliably heat your home, some homeowners are used to feeling the warmth a furnace can provide.

If feeling the hottest air possible is most important to you, you may want to stick with the AC/furnace combo.

Scenario #4: You’re installing an HVAC system for the first time

If so, we usually recommend going with a heat pump because it is less expensive to operate and costs less to install than a furnace/AC combo.

Besides a central heat pump system (which requires installing ductwork), you can choose to install several ductless (mini-split) heat pump units instead.

Example of an indoor and outdoor ductless heat pump units

The indoor and outdoor units of a ductless heat pump system

Installing ductless units eliminates the need for ductwork, which cuts down upfront costs considerably. Plus, some experts believe that ductless mini-split heat pumps are the most cost-efficient form of heating in our area.

Want a recommendation from a Tucson HVAC pro?

We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about heat pumps, air conditioners or furnaces. Our trained specialists can recommend an HVAC system that will match your comfort needs and budget.

For more information about each system we install, visit the following pages on our website:

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