In Philadelphia, where the weather ranges from hot and humid summers to bitterly cold winters, selecting the right supplemental heating system for your heat pump is crucial. Heat pumps are efficient for both heating and cooling your home, but during the extreme temperatures, they may need a little help. This is where supplemental heating—either through a gas furnace or an electric heater—comes into play.

Gas Furnace as a Supplemental Heater

A gas furnace as part of a dual-fuel system works in tandem with your heat pump, providing powerful heating when temperatures drop below the heat pump's efficiency threshold (typically around 35°F). In Philadelphia's harsh winters, a gas furnace can effectively and quickly heat your home, maintaining comfort even in sub-freezing temperatures.


  • Efficiency in Cold Weather: Gas furnaces provide high levels of heat output, which is ideal for Philadelphia’s coldest days.
  • Cost-Effective: Natural gas is often less expensive than electricity, depending on local utility costs, which could mean lower heating bills in winter.


  • Installation Cost: Initial setup can be more expensive, as it involves installing gas lines and ventilation if not already in place.
  • Carbon Emissions: Gas furnaces emit carbon monoxide and other gases, requiring good ventilation and regular maintenance to ensure safety.

Electric Supplemental Heaters

Electric supplemental heaters, such as baseboard heaters or electric furnaces, work with your heat pump by providing additional heat via electricity. This can be a simpler and sometimes more cost-effective solution, particularly if your home does not have existing gas service.


  • Simplicity: Easier and generally cheaper to install, especially if there is no existing infrastructure for gas heating.
  • Safety and Maintenance: Electric heaters do not emit harmful gases and typically require less maintenance than gas furnaces.


  • Higher Operating Costs: Electricity costs more than natural gas in many areas, which can lead to higher utility bills during peak winter months.
  • Less Effective in Extreme Cold: Electric heaters may struggle to keep up on the coldest days without significantly increasing your electric bill.

What's Best for Philadelphia?

Considering Philadelphia's climate, a dual-fuel system combining a heat pump with a gas furnace is often the most effective choice. This setup allows the heat pump to operate efficiently during milder conditions and switches to the gas furnace for heavy lifting when the temperature plummets.

For homes without access to natural gas, electric heaters can be a viable alternative. They are particularly useful in areas where the electricity is cheaper or for households looking to avoid fossil fuels.

Professional Installation and Advice

Whatever option you choose, professional installation is key. A local expert can provide valuable insights tailored to Philadelphia's unique climate and your specific home needs. Companies like McCorry Comfort specialize in such installations, ensuring that your heating system is optimized for both efficiency and comfort.

In conclusion, balancing the pros and cons of each system with the specifics of your local environment and personal preferences is crucial. In Philadelphia, the flexibility and efficiency of a dual-fuel system often outweigh the simplicity of electric heaters, particularly for handling the diverse challenges of the local climate.