How Hybrid and Dual Fuel Heat Pumps Work

Dual Fuel and Hybrid Heat Pumps Explained   Have you seen the terms dual fuel and hybrid heat and wondered what they mean? They refer to the same concept – a heat pump that can be installed in a system with a gas furnace instead of an air handler.

How a Dual Fuel Heat Pump System Works

In a standard split system, an air conditioner does the cooling and a gas or oil furnace does all the heating. In a hybrid heat system, for a few hundred dollars more, you can upgrade the AC unit to a heat pump. Keep in mind that a heat pump uses the same technology as a central air conditioner, but reverses it when in heating mode. In warm weather, it captures heat indoors and dumps it outside. In cold weather, the action of the refrigerant is reversed and it absorbs heat outside and pumps it indoors.

A condensing unit is the core of both a central air conditioner and a heat pump. The only difference is that the heat pump uses additional parts including a reversing valve in order to do double duty as a source of heat.

Benefits of a Dual Fuel Heat Pump System

There are several reasons to consider a hybrid dual fuel system, especially in cooler climates. In very warm climates, a standard heat pump system with and air handler remains the most cost-effective heat pump, comfortable way to heat and cool your home and you may not need a dual fuel system with a furnace. The one drawback to a heat pump is that it won’t be effective once outside temperatures drop into the mid-30s. So in very cold weather, a furnace must be used.

The first and most important benefit of a dual fuel system is lower utility bills. An efficient heat pump can heat up to 3 times more efficiently than even a high-efficiency gas furnace. Therefore, when outdoor temperatures allow, you’ll save significantly by heating with a heat pump. Depending on your climate, 70% to 90% of your heating can be supplied by the heat pump in a dual fuel system. The extra expense for a hybrid heat system is usually paid back through lower utility bills in 2-4 years, depending on your climate.

Secondly, dual fuel systems don’t dry out the air when heating like gas furnaces do. You’ll have less need of a humidifier when heating with a heat pump, making your indoor climate more comfortable.

Finally, with 2 sources of heat, you’ve got a backup if one of them stops working effectively. If the heat pump breaks down, the furnace won’t be affected. If the burner on the furnace goes out, you can use the heat pump even in sub-freezing weather as long as the furnace blower is working. It won’t heat efficiently, but it may provide enough heat to keep your pipes from freezing or causing you to have to relocate until the furnace is repaired.

If you are considering heating with a gas furnace, take a close look at a dual fuel, hybrid heat system. It will cost $500-$800 more, but your utility savings will begin to pay you back immediately, and you may find your home is more comfortable too.

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