Many Americans are turning to electric heat pumps to provide ultra-efficient heating and cooling in their homes. However, standard heat pumps tend to struggle to heat a home comfortably during extreme cold. That’s why many homeowners in cold-weather climates are considering adapting their heat pump to a dual fuel or hybrid heating system . They’re a practical option for homeowners living in areas where extreme cold occasionally occurs (and yes, Cincinnati qualifies).
The traditional residential set-up in cold-winter climates uses two technologies – a central air conditioner for cooling and a combustion (usually natural gas) furnace for heating. The two units share an air distribution system, and frequently the furnace blower will double as the air handler for the AC. While it’s more practical to use one system, an electric heat pump, to provide both heating and cooling (as is customary in southern climates), that can get expensive when the heat pump has to resort to an internal emergency or auxiliary electric heating coil to provide supplemental heat.
Hybrid Heating Systems and Heat Pump Limitations
Heat pumps provide heat by extracting heat energy from the outside air, via refrigerant running through coils in an outside unit, and then transferring that heat inside. However, a key disadvantage of many electric heat pump systems is that they struggle to draw sufficient heat energy from the air when temperatures are extremely cold. This may result in chilly indoor areas during cold days, with the system having a hard time achieving the thermostat setting.
A dual fuel heating system solves this problem by matching a gas furnace with the electric heat pump. When the temperature falls below a certain level, the furnace kicks on, providing supplemental heating. This is cheaper than the standard “emergency” or auxiliary heating contained in electric heat pumps, an electric heating element that requires ample electricity to operate. With electricity generally more expensive than natural gas, this can get expensive. These dual fuel heating systems also may offer the homeowner the option of choosing which type of fuel to use, depending on what’s cheaper to use in your area.
Dual Fuel Heating Offers Benefits
Using the best heating source for the current temperatures outside – whether electricity during moderate winter temperatures or gas when it gets colder – increases efficiency and reduces your winter heating bills.
Another benefit of a system using dual fuels is that when the weather turns warm, your air-source heat pump is ready to take on a new role, efficient home cooling.
If you’re uncertain about whether to switch to a dual fuel system, consider taking a Jansen Home Comfort Survey that will identify the best system for your home. You’ll answer questions about home use, comfort requirements, health and safety requirements, and property and financial requirements of your home.