The Dual Fuel Heating System – the Best Of Both Worlds

sleeping babyMany Americans are turning to electric heat pumps to provide ultra-efficient heating and cooling in their homes. However, standard heat pumps may struggle to heat a home comfortably during extreme cold.

That’s why many homeowners in cold-weather climates are adapting their heat pump to a dual fuel or hybrid heating system. These solutions are a practical option for homeowners living in areas that stay cold for much of the winter (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.

Heat Pumps are Practical, Except When…

While it’s more practical to use an electric heat pump to provide both heating and cooling (as is customary in Southern climates), that choice can get expensive when the heat pump has to resort to an internal auxiliary (or “emergency”) electric heating coil to provide supplemental heat. Working similarly to electric space heaters, these coils consume a lot of electricity.

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 outside air when temperatures are extremely cold for an extended period.

This may result in chilly indoor areas during cold days, with the system having a hard time achieving the thermostat setting. In some homes heated by electric heat pumps, occupants complain that they never feel completely warm.

A two-fuel heating system solves this problem by matching a gas furnace with the electric heat pump. When the outside 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. With electricity generally more expensive than natural gas, auxiliary heating can get expensive.

Dual fuel heating systems also may offer the homeowner the option of choosing their type of fuel, depending on what fuel is cheaper to use in your area or personal preference. Some homeowners find that furnace heating feels more comfortable than heat pump heating.

Dual Fuel Heating 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 two fuel sources is that when the weather turns warm, your electric heat pump is ready to take on a new role: efficient home cooling.

Unsure? Take a Home Comfort Survey

If you’re uncertain about whether to switch to a dual fuel system, consider taking a Jansen Home Comfort Survey (offered by Jansen Heating & Cooling) that will identify the best system for your home.

You’ll answer questions about:

  1. home use,
  2. comfort requirements,
  3. health and safety requirements, and
  4. the property and financial requirements of your home.

Don’t Forget Preventative Maintenance

Whatever system you choose for heating and cooling your home, it’s important that it gets proper maintenance. This means both simple homeowner maintenance (keeping air filters fresh, keeping vents and registers clean and clear of obstruction, etc.) and regular professional maintenance by a trusted Cincinnati HVAC company.

Most HVAC experts recommend two maintenance visits per year, one for the heating system and another for the cooling system. It’s customary to schedule these visits for just before the high-use season for that system (fall for the heating system; spring for the cooling system).

A well-maintained heating and cooling system will:

  • run more efficiently,
  • provide better comfort,
  • operate more safely,
  • experience fewer breakdowns and
  • last longer.

One otherwise unnecessary repair for a broken AC, heat pump or furnace likely will cost substantially more than what you would have paid for a preventative maintenance visit. 

Whatever help you need with your home’s heating and cooling system, it pays to work with a respected, locally-owned Cincinnati HVAC contractor such as Jansen.