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Gas Pack Buyers Guide 2016

If you’re considering a gas package HVAC system, this buyers guide will help you evaluate your options and compare gas packs to split systems. We look at gas pack:

  • Efficiency ratings of the gas furnace and central air conditioner
  • Climate control including staged heating and cooling, blower speed and comfort features
  • Gas pack price range based on the package’s features
  • How to save money on a gas pack HVAC system in 2016

What is a Gas Pack HVAC System?

You likely know what a gas pack is, since you’re researching them. However, if they’re new to you, here’s an overview.

Gas packs is the short name for gas/electric package units. They contain:

  • A furnace with a blower and a coil
  • A central air conditioner or a heat pump

Breaking down the gas/electric designation:

  • The furnace is a gas furnace that burns natural gas, though the fitting on the gas valve can be changed to accommodate liquid propane (LP)
  • The AC or heat pump is powered by electricity (as is the furnace blower motor, of course)

As the name implies, both components are housed in a single package. This differentiates them from a split system with a condensing unit (AC or heat pump) outside the home and a gas furnace inside.

Gas packs can be installed on the ground or on the roof. They are connected to ductwork that pushes treated air (heated or air conditioned) into the home while drawing untreated air to the package unit to be treated.

During air conditioning cycles, both heat and moisture are removed from the air, so the treated air forced into the home is cool and dry to optimize indoor comfort.

Dual Fuel Gas Packs

We’ve mentioned gas packs with a gas furnace and a heat pump. These are dual fuel models since both the furnace and heat pump are capable of heating.

In such an arrangement, the heat pump does most of the heating. When air temperatures drop into the mid-30s and below, heat pumps can’t draw enough heat from the outside air to adequately heat your home. At those times, the unit switches to heating with the furnace until outside temperatures rise.

Dual fuel gas packs cost more than standard gas packs, but they provide superior energy efficiency because a heat pump heats using far less energy than a gas furnace.

Gas Pack Pros and Cons

Gas packs are not as common as split systems, and the reasons are borne out in the gas/electric package pros and cons.

Gas Pack Pros:

  • The package is put together in a climate-controlled factory by experienced technicians, so mechanical defects are uncommon
  • Installation often costs less than installation of a split system since it is less complex in that there is only one unit to install and there are no refrigerant lines to run
  • Repair is easier to a gas pack than a split system because the entire unit is easy to access
  • The entire unit is located outside, so you won’t hear the draft fan or blower fan as you sometimes do with a gas furnace installed indoors

Gas Packs Cons:

  • While efficiency has improved significantly in the last two years, the most efficient gas package units still aren’t as efficient as the most efficient split system gas furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps
  • Gas packs are housed outside (as a condensing unit is in a standard split system), so there is concern about damage from weather and rodents, and gas packs don’t last as long as split systems

What’s New in Gas Packs for 2016?

There are two trends to note about the 2016 crop of gas/electric package units.

1. Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Efficiency is on the Rise: As mentioned, they still use more energy, on average, than split systems, and this works against their popularity.

However, a few on the market are quite impressive. For example:

  • The Maytag PPG2GI iQ Drive M1200 offers 20 SEER cooling (as the first variable-capacity gas pack)
  • The Trane XL16c Earthwise Hybrid & American Standard Platinum 16 Hybrid package contain heat pumps with 16.6 SEER cooling and 9.0 HSPF heating
  • Models from Heil, Rheem and Ruud deliver 16 SEER cooling

To compare, the most efficient split system air conditioners have SEER ratings above 24. The most efficient split system heat pumps have HSPF ratings of 10 or above, with 13 HSPF currently the highest.

Where Gas packs lag behind is in furnace efficiency with ratings of 80% or 81% AFUE (annualized fuel usage efficiency). This is compared with many gas furnace models with AFUE ratings from 95% to 98.5% efficiency.

2. Dual Fuel Gas Packs are Hot

Gas package units with a heat pump instead of an air conditioner are selling very well. We mentioned the Trane XL16c Earthwise gas pack as a definite winner. Others impressive dual fuel heat pumps are:

  • Carrier Performance 15 Hybrid 48VR-B
  • Bryant Preferred 677E-A
  • Armstrong PRPDF14
  • Amana ADP14 & Goodman GDP14

These units are ideal for regions where winter temperatures can be very cold. This is because heat pumps aren’t effective in freezing weather, and a gas furnace becomes the choice for heating.

In milder climates where freezing temperatures aren’t common, your most energy-efficient choice in package HVAC systems is a heat pump package unit. This is because a heat pump in the 8.0 to 9.0 HSPF range uses far less energy than an 80% or 81%. Most of the largest HVAC companies – Carrier, Trane, Lennox, Heil, Goodman and others – make heat pump package units.

Gas Packs and Climate Control

There are two ways to get the best indoor comfort when choosing a gas pack: Staged heating & cooling and a variable-speed blower.

Staged heating and cooling: Top gas packs have two-stage furnace gas valves and two-stage compressors. They heat and air condition using the low-capacity setting most of the time. This leads to:

  • Longer, gentler cycles
  • More consistent temperatures
  • More energy-efficient operation
  • Better dehumidification when the AC is running

Variable-speed blower: The blower fan comes on low when the unit is just starting, so you don’t get cold blasts of untreated air in winter and the opposite in summer.

The blower ramps up when the burner or compressor hits high capacity to evenly distribute treated air throughout your home. It slows down again as the unit stops heating or cooling to gently push out treated air without the same unpleasant blasts of cold or warm air.

Most of the units in our Top Rated Gas Packs 2016 Guide include these climate-control features.

2016 Gas Package Prices

Single-stage gas packs with a single-speed or multi-speed blower are the most affordable. Those offering either staged heating or both staged heating and staged air conditioning cost more.

Here are prices you can expect when you get gas pack estimates. The ranges reflect that gas packs come in various capacities from 1.5 ton cooling to 5.0 ton cooling with heating from less than 60,000 Btu to more than 120,000 Btu.

  • Single-stage gas packs: $2,200-$3,500
  • Two-stage heating only: $2,800-$4,400
  • Two-stage heating and air conditioning: $3,600-$6,000

These prices are for the equipment only. Installation typically costs $2,000-$4,000 depending on the specifics of the installation project.

How to Save Money on a Gas Pack in 2016

Following these tips for saving money on an HVAC system can lead to savings of 25% or more.

  • Choose a standard gas pack instead of a gas pack with a heat pump – which will save money on equipment but lead to slightly higher energy bills
  • Choose a single-stage gas pack instead of one with staged heating and cooling
  • Buy the gas pack and installation during the slow season for HVAC contractors where you live – typically late winter to early spring and again in late summer to early fall—because they’ll give more competitive estimates during those times
  • Get estimates from several contractors who know they’re competing for the work

Finding a gas pack installer with the right combination of experience and low cost is a challenge. You might have to call 7-10 to get estimates from 3 or 4 of them.

We can reduce the hassle and the time it takes. Simply click on the estimates button on this page, and fill out the quick, convenient form. You’ll receive 3 estimates from some of the best HVAC installers in your area. It’s the easiest way to find a qualified contractor to properly install your gas pack at a competitive price. There is no cost or obligation for using the service.

 

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