Is a Gas Furnace Cheaper than a Mini Split?

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, the choice between a gas furnace and a mini-split system can have a significant impact on your energy costs and overall comfort. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the technical details, cost considerations, and performance factors to help you determine which option is the most cost-effective for your specific needs.

Upfront Cost Comparison

The upfront cost of a gas furnace and a mini-split system can vary widely depending on the size of your home, the complexity of the installation, and the specific features and efficiency ratings of the equipment.

Gas Furnace Upfront Costs

  • Gas furnaces typically range in price from $2,000 to $5,000 for the unit itself.
  • Installation costs can add an additional $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the complexity of the project and whether new gas lines need to be installed.
  • The total upfront cost for a gas furnace system can range from $3,000 to $8,000, on average.

Mini-Split Upfront Costs

  • Single-zone mini-split systems can cost between $3,500 to $5,000 for the unit and installation.
  • Multi-zone mini-split systems, which allow for independent temperature control in multiple rooms, can range from $8,000 to $17,000 for a whole-home setup.
  • The higher upfront cost of mini-splits is often offset by their increased energy efficiency and zoning capabilities.

Energy Efficiency Comparison

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When it comes to energy efficiency, mini-split systems generally have the advantage over gas furnaces.

Mini-Split Energy Efficiency

  • Mini-splits use electricity to power their heat pump technology, which can be highly efficient, with SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings ranging from 16 to 30.
  • The efficiency of mini-splits is further enhanced by their ability to provide targeted heating and cooling to specific zones, reducing energy waste.
  • In regions where electricity rates are lower than natural gas prices, the energy savings from a mini-split system can outweigh the higher upfront cost.

Gas Furnace Energy Efficiency

  • Gas furnaces have AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings ranging from 80% to 98%, with higher-efficiency models costing more.
  • While gas furnaces can be efficient, they still rely on the combustion of natural gas, which can be more expensive than electricity in some areas.
  • Additionally, gas furnaces typically provide whole-home heating, which can lead to energy waste if certain rooms or zones are not in use.

Installation Considerations

The installation process for both gas furnaces and mini-splits can have a significant impact on the overall cost and complexity of the project.

Gas Furnace Installation

  • Gas furnaces require the presence of natural gas lines in the home, which can add significant costs if they need to be installed or extended.
  • The installation process typically involves connecting the furnace to the existing ductwork, which can be challenging in older homes or those with complex layouts.
  • Proper venting and safety considerations are crucial for gas furnace installations, adding to the complexity and cost.

Mini-Split Installation

  • Mini-split systems do not require ductwork, as they use individual indoor air handlers connected to an outdoor compressor unit.
  • The installation process is generally less invasive, as it involves mounting the indoor units and running refrigerant lines to the outdoor unit.
  • Mini-splits can be more flexible in their placement, allowing for customized zoning and temperature control in different areas of the home.

Maintenance and Lifespan Comparison

Both gas furnaces and mini-splits require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity, but the specific requirements can vary.

Gas Furnace Maintenance and Lifespan

  • Gas furnaces typically have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, with proper maintenance.
  • Regular maintenance, such as filter changes, cleaning, and tune-ups, is essential to maintain efficiency and prevent potential safety issues.
  • The combustion process in gas furnaces can also lead to the buildup of soot and other byproducts, requiring more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

Mini-Split Maintenance and Lifespan

  • Mini-split systems have a lifespan of 15 to 25 years, with proper maintenance.
  • Maintenance tasks, such as cleaning the air filters and outdoor unit, are generally less frequent and less intensive than for gas furnaces.
  • The lack of ductwork in mini-split systems can also reduce the accumulation of dust and debris, further simplifying the maintenance process.

Noise Considerations

The noise level of the heating and cooling system can be an important factor, especially in homes with open floor plans or bedrooms near the equipment.

Gas Furnace Noise Levels

  • Gas furnaces can produce moderate to high noise levels, especially during the startup and shutdown phases.
  • The noise level can be influenced by the age and efficiency of the furnace, as well as the quality of the installation and ductwork.

Mini-Split Noise Levels

  • Mini-split systems are generally quieter than gas furnaces, with the indoor air handlers producing noise levels typically between 19 to 49 decibels (dB).
  • The outdoor compressor unit can be slightly louder, but modern mini-split designs have made significant strides in noise reduction.


When comparing the cost of a gas furnace and a mini-split system, there are several factors to consider, including upfront costs, energy efficiency, installation requirements, maintenance, and noise levels. While gas furnaces may have a lower upfront cost in some cases, the long-term energy savings and increased comfort provided by mini-split systems can make them a more cost-effective option, especially in regions with higher electricity prices. Ultimately, the decision will depend on the specific needs and circumstances of your home, as well as your personal preferences and budget.

References: – Cost of Mini Split vs Furnace & Central Air
John Cipollone – Mini Split vs Gas Furnace in Radnor, PA
Garage Journal – Mini Split vs Hanging Natural Gas Heater
Sense Community – Minisplits vs Gas Furnace – Heat Pump vs Gas Furnace