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Heat Pump vs. Gas Furnace – making the right choice for your home

Are you in need of a new HVAC system, and trying to choose between an air source heat pump and a gas furnace? We’re here to explain why going with a heat pump is a no-brainer. In comparison to their gas counterparts, heat pumps are…

Learn more about each of these points in a deep dive comparison of air source heat pumps and furnaces below:

Drake meme: "when someone tells me gas furnaces are fine" vs. "when I learn what a heat pump is"

Gas furnaces vs. heat pumps: which is the right HVAC system for me?

Let’s start with the obvious – we know it can be pretty overwhelming to replace a heating and cooling system in your home. Oftentimes, it happens during a literal make-it-or-break-it moment – your house needs heating or cooling as soon as possible because your current system has broken. And, let’s be honest, it’s expensive. For the average homeowner, their HVAC system is the third largest investment they’ll make, behind their home and car. It’s important to get this right, and we’re here to help.

First, we recommend making a plan so you don’t find yourself in this stressful situation. Second, let’s dive in – why would you want to switch from a gas furnace, the system you’ve always known?

Simple: heat pumps are the best and most efficient technology you can get your hands on, they’re good for your wallet and the climate, and there are loads of incentives (we’re talking federal, state, local, and utility) that defray the upfront cost of installation…and that free money won’t be available forever. There’s no time like the present.

Heat pumps are a smart investment

The first question when replacing any large equipment in your home is probably, “how much is this going to cost me?” 

Heat Pumps Furnaces
Functionality Heating and air conditioning, gentle and evenly distributed Just heating, blasts hot air on and off
Upfront installation costs $7,500-20,000 (after incentives, see table below) $6,000-24,000 (no incentives)
Available incentives At least $2,000 tax credit, and depending on where you live, often more that are stackable.
Colorado and Massachusetts, see links for more information.
Operating costs Lower – on average, our customers save hundreds, and in some cases more than $1,000 per year on utility costs  Higher
Energy efficiency 300% more efficient than furnaces Less efficient
Lifespan 15-25 years 20 years

These general costs cover a wide range of numbers, mostly dependent on the size of your home and its heating and cooling needs.

All in all, thanks to the robust rebates and tax credits available to offset the costs of these systems (we’ll explain more below), in most instances, installing a heat pump today is less expensive than installing a new furnace and air conditioner/central air system, and it will help you save on operating costs in the long run, too.

Tax credits and rebates and incentives – oh my!

The great news about heat pumps is that unlike their fossil fuel-emitting counterparts (looking at you, gas furnaces), heat pumps are being adopted due to the cost benefit to the user across the board (amongst all of the other benefits listed on this blog, of course). In fact, for the past two years, heat pumps have outsold gas furnaces!

In 2022 the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in the U.S. It created a “wallet” that gets refilled every year that you, as an American homeowner, can use to offset the cost of installing climate-friendly upgrades. But, this wallet won’t refill forever. This is a sooner-rather-than-later moment for those looking to take advantage of the heat pump tax credit, which is $2,000 for qualified heat pumps. Plus, this credit has no lifetime dollar limit, meaning you can claim the maximum annual credit every year that you make other eligible energy efficiency improvements through 2033.

As for the average 1,500 square foot home (for example, we’re using the costs for a home in Denver, CO), below are the cost savings post-incentives:

Cost Explanation
$23,000 Cost of Cold Climate Heat Pump + Electrical Upgrades, before incentives
($2,200) Xcel Rebate (upfront to Elephant Energy)
Denver CARe Heat Pump Rebate (upfront to Elephant Energy)
Denver CARe Electrical Rebate (upfront to Elephant Energy)
($2,000) Federal Tax Credit from Inflation Reduction Act
($1,200) State of CO Heat Pump Discount
= $10,100 Total incentives
= $12,900 Total cost, after incentives

Beyond this federal powerhouse, many states and cities have adopted rebates and incentives for installation of heat pumps in homes. In the greater Denver area, there are multiple options to choose from (and they can be stacked with energy utility rebates, too!) For the Boston Metro, Mass Save is a fantastic program with super robust rebates for heat pumps (up to $10,000 for single family homes!). A quick internet search of your city’s name + “heat pump incentives” may find you more money back than you were expecting.

Health and safety for you and your family

A recent study found that children living in a home with a gas stove have a 42% increased risk of experiencing asthma symptoms. When it comes to your family’s health, it makes a difference to switch from a gas stove to an induction stove, a gas furnace to a heat pump, and a gas-burning water heater to a heat pump water heater.

Why? A heat pump runs solely off of electricity. This is safer than burning gas, which in turn releases fossil fuels into your home – and impacts the air you’re breathing every day. (And yes – the same goes for the gas stove and your fuel-burning cars, too.)

The best modern tech in the HVAC market

As we explained in our introduction to heat pumps blog, heat pump technology has been around for many years, but it’s improved tremendously over the past ten years. This means you’re selecting an advanced piece of equipment to join your home appliance lineup that is better for the environment, better for your wallet, and going to last you in the long run. With natural gas beginning to be phased out, you won’t want to be delayed in making the switch!

With the push made by federal, state, and local governments to make the transition to energy efficient appliances and away from fossil fuels, you can trust that you’re investing in the best tech for your home today. Plus, homes that install heat pumps see a 4-7% increase in home value. Not too shabby!

Along with the smart investment of great tech comes the promise of a better user experience when you’re choosing a heat pump over a gas furnace. Heat pumps are much quieter than a gas furnace, which blasts on any time your home is not at the set temperature on your thermostat. Then, when it reaches that temperature, the furnace kicks off. It repeats this pattern all day and all night – on, off, on, off. In contrast, the heating and cooling produced by a heat pump are much more gentle and even, because they run quietly on a low setting in the background at all times.

If you had to choose between a late 90’s desktop computer you had to lug around everywhere you went or a new laptop, you’d almost certainly choose the latter. Beyond it being kind of embarrassing to be sporting outdated tech, the ease of use, convenience, and affordability over time of a desktop pale in comparison to a modern day laptop. We trust that you get where we’re going here.

In this round of heat pump vs furnace, it’s heat pump all the way. Your future self will thank you!

Energy efficiency meets environmentally friendly

For years, we burned stuff to make heat. We burned stuff to drive cars and cook our food, too. But we’re here to tell you – you don’t need to burn stuff anymore to heat your home.

Did you know that our homes account for 20% of climate-related emissions each year? Most of that is from heating and cooling. Yikes! By electrifying your home and using clean energy (like solar), it’s possible to completely eliminate those emissions. Pretty cool, right?

What about the impact of simply installing a heat pump, though? Research shows that in all 48 continental states, replacing a gas furnace with a heat pump will reduce emissions within the very first year of installation and across the 15-year lifespan of the product. While the exact amount of emissions reduction varies by state, in many places, the reduction is up to 93% over the lifetime of the heat pump. You can read more about this research and see the specific projections for the state you live in here

Either way, the proof is in the pudding — if you care about reducing your footprint, installing a heat pump is the way to go.

Heat pumps: the clear winner when it comes to choosing HVAC for your home

Going for a heat pump over a furnace? Smart move. You’re getting cutting-edge tech that saves you money in the long run, thanks to incentives and lower energy bills. Plus, it’s a win for comfort and health at home – steadier temps and cleaner air. It’s a solid choice all around.

If you’re wanting to embrace climate action on a personal level, heat pumps are also a great option for that. Check out this personal climate calculator to see how much your heating and cooling makes a difference in your home.

Ready to get started? Join us in building a brighter future by electrifying everything, starting with homes. Your choice today shapes our collective tomorrow!

General HVAC Maintenance for your Seasonal Cleaning

We’ve all heard of March Madness, of course we’ve all heard of spring cleaning, and if we own a home, we know what an HVAC system is. Here at Elephant Energy, we’ve decided to combine the three into one perfect mashup: March Maintenance!

Our appliances are kind of like us – they need a seasonal checkup. Regularly maintaining your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (commonly referred to as HVAC) systems ensures that they will live a long, quality life before it’s time to replace them. Beyond hosting a retirement party for your furnace (or maybe you’re more into the festive idea of a second line funeral a la New Orleans? We’re not here to judge!), doing some basic check-ups will make sure your home is safe and healthy. And when it’s time to replace your gas furnace, air conditioner, or central air, remember that we’re here to help with the all-in-one powerhouse of a cold climate heat pump!

If you haven’t yet electrified, read on to find instructions on how to do basic maintenance of your HVAC systems. Performing this maintenance in the spring and fall will help you feel more comfortable working with your HVAC systems (and may clue you in on when it’s time to say goodbye to gas and upgrade to electric instead!)

Jump to:

Gas Furnace Maintenance:

Gas furnace parts, image from Technical Hot and Cold Parts

  • Safety First: Step one in all of the processes we’re about to share is to turn off power to each appliance. This will prevent any accidental starts and will ensure your safety as you get down to business.
  • Replace Air Filters: A simple task that is often overlooked (yes, even if your smart thermostat reminds you!) is replacing the air filters for your gas furnace. Clogged or dirty air filters can block airflow, decrease your gas furnace’s efficiency, and even lead to serious system malfunctions. Your filter type should be visible on the one already inserted, so be sure to buy the same size. They’re recommended to be changed at least every three months, so don’t skip it. (An easy way to remember – change it on each “first day” of a season.)
  • Clean Vents and Ducts: Your vents and ducts are what move heat from your gas furnace around your house. Ensuring proper airflow is important for the furnace’s function. You can use a simple vacuum with a hose attachment or even a soft brush to remove dust and debris from the vents and ducts. They can be screwed on and off if you want to reach a little deeper. This will both improve air flow and ensure good air quality. Don’t skip this step, especially if you’ve got pets! Their fur will find a way to get into every nook and cranny.
  • Inspect and Clean Burners: Did you know your gas furnace has burners? (This is why we recommend switching to a heat pump – we prefer to not burn fossil fuels in our homes!) Back to cleaning – over time, the burners in your gas furnace may accumulate debris or develop rust, affecting their performance. Referring to your gas furnace’s manual, you can carefully remove the burner assembly and look closely for any signs of corrosion or blockages. Use a soft brush to clean the burners gently, making sure you see no obstructions or broken parts, then put back on.
  • Check Pilot Light: If your gas furnace is equipped with a pilot light, ensure it’s lit and burning steadily. If the pilot light keeps extinguishing, it may indicate a problem with the thermocouple or gas supply, which requires professional attention. Don’t try to fix the pilot light yourself!
  • Inspect Flue Pipe: The flue pipe’s job is to vent exhaust gasses safely out of your home. You definitely want to be sure this is in working shape. The flue pipe is often on the top or rear of most gas furnaces. Inspect the flue pipe for any signs of damage, corrosion, or blockages. If you see any obstructions, clear them out of the way with a soft brush and be sure to wear gloves. This will ensure proper ventilation and prevent the risk of carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Inspect and Lubricate Blower Motor: The blower motor plays a crucial role in distributing heated air throughout your home. It’s usually located next to your gas furnace’s air filter. Inspect the blower motor for any signs of wear and tear, which can look like worn bearings or loose belts. If necessary, lubricate the motor according to the manufacturer’s instructions (check your gas furnace’s manual) to ensure smooth operation.
  • Check Thermostat: Finally, test your thermostat to ensure it’s functioning correctly. Replace the batteries if needed, and calibrate the thermostat to ensure accurate temperature readings. We’re big fans of smart thermostats that are programmable for greater energy savings. Hey! That’s a good step toward a Climate-Friendly Home.

Window Unit AC Maintenance:

Window unit air conditioner, image from How Stuff Works

  • Safety Precautions: Just as we promised above, before beginning any of your maintenance tasks for your window AC unit, be sure the power is turned off and the unit is unplugged from the electrical outlet.
  • Clean or Replace Air Filter: Similar to gas furnaces, window unit air conditioners rely on clean air filters for efficient operation. Remove the filter from the unit and inspect it for dirt, dust, and debris. If the filter is washable, rinse it with water and mild detergent, then allow it to dry completely before reinstalling. If the filter is disposable, replace it with a new one according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Clean Evaporator and Condenser Coils: Over time, dirt and debris can build up on both the evaporator and condenser coils, blocking heat exchange which reduces cooling efficiency. Carefully remove the front cover of your window unit AC to access the coils. Use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to gently remove dirt and debris from the coils. Be careful not to bend or damage the delicate fins of the coils during cleaning.
  • Check and Clean Drainage Holes: Proper drainage is essential for preventing water buildup and potential damage to your window unit AC. Inspect the drainage holes located at the base of the unit and use a small brush or pipe cleaner to remove any blockages. Ensure the drainage channels are clear to allow condensate to flow freely away from the unit. If you see a lot of leakage from your window AC unit, it can actually mean your filter needs to be cleaned. Good thing we’ve taken care of that already!
  • Inspect Window Seal: A tight seal around the window unit AC helps prevent warm air from entering your home and improves energy efficiency. This rule goes for your doors and windows in general – maybe it’s a good time to check those out, too! Inspect the seal between the unit and the window frame for any signs of damage or gaps. Replace worn-out weather stripping or use foam insulation tape to create a tight seal and prevent air leaks.
  • Inspect and Tighten Screws: In general, window unit air conditioners can vibrate and move. That’s normal, don’t worry! But those vibrations can cause screws and bolts to loosen over time. Check the screws and bolts securing the window unit AC to the window frame and tighten them as needed to prevent rattling and ensure stability while it’s on.

Central Air Conditioning Maintenance:

Central Air Conditioning Unit, image from Guardian Home Experts

  • Safety Needs: That’s right, you guessed it! Before you get started on your central air conditioner’s spring maintenance, turn off power to the unit. We recommend doing this at the main electrical panel as well as power to the outdoor condenser unit – this will prevent any accidental starts while you’re working on the unit.
  • Replace Air Filters: Central air conditioning systems use air filters to trap dust, pollen, and other airborne particles, preventing them from circulating throughout your home. Similar to your gas furnace, you’ll want to check these filters at least quarterly. Make a party of it – filter check day!
  • Clean Outdoor Unit: The outdoor condenser unit of your central air conditioning system is exposed to the elements and can accumulate dirt, leaves, and debris over time. Did you know that you can use a garden hose to gently rinse off the exterior of the unit? Pretty cool! You’ll want to be sure you’re removing any visible dirt and debris. Be careful not to use high-pressure water, as it can damage the delicate fins of the condenser coils.
  • Inspect Refrigerant Lines: The refrigerant lines carry refrigerant between the indoor and outdoor units of your central air conditioning system. We recommend inspecting the refrigerant lines for any signs of damage, such as cracks, kinks, or leaks. If you notice any issues, contact a qualified HVAC technician to assess and repair the problem, as working with refrigerant requires specialized equipment and training.
  • Check Thermostat: Just as you did after servicing your gas furnace, test the thermostat to ensure it’s accurately reading the temperature and cycling the central air conditioning system on and off as needed. Of course, we’ll recommend you replace the batteries if necessary and calibrate the thermostat to ensure precise temperature control throughout your home.
  • Inspect Ductwork: Leaky ducts both waste energy and reduce the efficiency of your central air conditioning system. You can self-inspect the ductwork for any signs of damage, such as tears, holes, or disconnected joints. Seal any leaks with duct tape (hey, THAT’S where the name comes from!) or mastic sealant to improve airflow and energy efficiency. If you’ve got a lot of ductwork issues, call an expert to come take a look.

Remember, regular maintenance of your HVAC systems is what helps you elongate the life of your appliances. With proper maintenance and care, you’re guaranteeing the length of your appliance’s life. However, when you’re ready to make the transition to #ElectrifyEverything, we’ll be here to get you started on your journey. If you finish servicing your systems and think now’s the time to throw a retirement party for your furnace or AC units, get started on Your Electrification Roadmap today!