In this article, we will examine what modern dual fuel heat pump systems are and what options are available for you to buy. We will look at the features and benefits and what the best choice for your circumstances may be.
With modern super-efficient heat pumps available and considerable advances in furnace design and technology, the combination of these technologies could provide the lowest running costs compared to all other forms of heating and cooling systems.
Thanks to the greater comfort and efficiency, these HVAC systems are certainly worth considering, so let’s take a look and get into some details.
Dual fuel heat pumps combine an electric heat pump and a furnace, usually fueled by natural or propane gas. These systems switch between electric and gas heating based on the outside temperature, providing reliable and energy-efficient operation. They broadly compare with a traditional heat pump and air handler, or an air conditioning system plus a furnace.
During the warmer period (spring and summer), the heat pump operates as an AC - cooling the space while the furnace is off. When the weather gets colder in the fall and wintertime, a furnace takes over and heats the space efficiently.
According to the manufacturers, as long as the outside temperature is above 35 F, heat pumps can pull the heat from the outside air. This is what makes them ultra-efficient. If the temperature is lower than that, heat pumps become inefficient and expensive to operate. This is where a backup system such as a furnace takes over.
Some things to consider with dual fuel heat pumps or hybrids are:
With the low cost of natural gas today, a furnace combined with an AC or heat pump unit for cooling is still an attractive proposition. A single unit, often roof-mounted, delivers cooled and heated air year-round through a ducting system in your home.
So why change?
Dual systems are efficient – Combined operation of the electric heat pump and a gas furnace helps you save energy and reduce the bill. Only the heat pump operates during the summer months – moving the cold air from one place to another. In the wintertime, heat pumps will again move the warm air from the outside to inside (it does not generate it), and as long as the temperature of the outside air is above 35 F. If it cannot satisfy the temperature set on the thermostat, the furnace kicks on.
Dual systems help you save: Dual systems cost more, but due to their superior efficiency over AC and furnace combination, they will save more, and the payback period is shorter (3-4 years). Such systems where both units can operate alternately tend to last longer.
As we mention, dual heat pumps can save you in the long run, but it is also important to say that such units may qualify for energy saving tax breaks and rebates.
These systems are also very reliable - one operates using natural or propane gas while the other uses electricity, all widely present.
Eco-friendly – When operating in warmer regions, dual fuel heating systems utilize mostly electric heat pumps to move warm or cold air from the outside atmosphere to inside space. In colder areas, the use of heat pumps drops. So, as the gas is not burning constantly, dual systems can heat and cool with a lighter carbon footprint than those systems that are installed as separate units.
With the electric-powered heat pumps, you will have a clean and sustainable source of heat for your household.
Versatile – A dual system can automatically change the settings, depending on the weather, to provide the most comfortable environment and maximize savings. When it comes to heating, you have options: gas and electricity. If the outside temperature is moderate, the heat pump brings the warm air from the outside and provides a sufficient heat load. But, if it is freezing cold, the heat pumps shut down, and the furnace takes over. This transition is automatic, but you can also activate either system manually. The options you have, give you more control over your house climate.
Homeowners have options to buy high-performing systems, including two-stage or variable speed models providing better performance, temperature distribution, efficiency, and lower noise.
Comfortable – Both heat pump and furnace have disadvantages when operating as a single unit. But, when combined into one system, you will get the best of each. There will be no more; low performance, insufficient heating, or temperature fluctuation. The temperature control is in your control. Dual systems are also quiet as the loudest part of the system – the air compressor is located outside your home.
While dual fuel heat pumps can deliver the most economical running costs of all heating and air conditioning systems, they are more effective in areas where the winters are freezing cold and where single heat pumps may struggle. In those circumstances, they cost the least to run and provide the most effective winter heating.
With dual fuel systems, the heat pump handles the load almost 90% of the time when the outdoor temperature is above 35 F. However, if the temperature drops below 35 F, the furnace seamlessly kicks in and takes over the heating load.
Of course, there are modern heat pumps that are designed to cope with low temperatures because of new technology. However, they cost a great deal more than a standard unit and still struggle in real extremes of cold.
So, the bottom line is, it very much depends on where you live and what winter temperatures you experience in your area. But perhaps the central consideration is what your required level of comfort is because that’s the most important thing. Comfort means something different to each of us, so you know what your ideal level is.
The cost of the dual heat pump or any other system depends on many factors, and two are the most important; unit cost and labor expenses. Check with your local hardware store or HVAC contractor, or even better, do it online by filling out a form to get a few free estimates.
A dual fuel heat pump will deliver excellent cooling in summer and a high level of winter comfort too, but when the real cold strikes and the heat pump is not quite doing it for you, then a furnace will lift the comfort level several notches up. It could be the very best of both worlds.
If your family’s comfort is your top consideration, then a dual fuel heat pump is an excellent option. When the ultra-efficient heat pump is combined with a powerful gas-fired furnace, you will have the best of both worlds and guaranteed comfort all year round, no matter what the weather does.
You also don’t need to be on the grid; propane fired furnaces are equally efficient today so that you can rest easy throughout the year.
Dual fuel heat pumps can be cheaper to run if it gets cold enough in your neck of the woods, but the cost to buy and install is higher, so they may not work with everyone’s budget. So, consider both initial expenses and operating costs, including all the utility rebates and government grants, to get the most cost-effective solution.
Additionally, if your home doesn’t already have ducting, you need to factor in the cost of that, which will push your installation costs up.
According to the Propane Education & Research Council, the efficiencies of dual fuel systems are clear in the comparison below; it illustrates the time to recover your costs would be only 37 months.
|Annual Running Cost
|Standard Split Heat Pump
|Dual Fuel Heat Pump
Of course, this is based on current gas prices, and these can and do change, so you should factor that into your calculations.
Comfort is subjective, but it’s important to do what is right for you and your family.
Gas prices have crashed in recent times, which is good news for customers because it’s never cheaper to use gas for home heating than today. But of course, that could change, and prices could rise again.
There are several incentives and tax credits available from local, state, and national schemes that are worth a little research. In the US, check out the US Department of Energy Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at dsireusa.org.
|16 SEER / 9 HPSF
|17.5 SEER / 9.5 HPSF
|16 SEER / 10 HPSF
|16 SEER / 9 HPSF
Costs are estimated and based on using existing ductwork. If new or replacement ductwork is required, the typical cost is between $35 and $55 per linear foot for labor and material. $1000 to $5000 for an average house.
Several manufacturers make dual fuel heat pumps, including:
You can check out the specifications and full product details on their excellent websites, and they will also put you in touch with a local distributor.
There are also a number of large retailers who specialize in packaged systems, including dual fuel heat pumps, here are two:
As we said above, if you live in an area that suffers extremely cold winters, then a dual fuel heat pump system will deliver outstanding levels of year-round comfort, with the benefits of efficient, cost-effective cooling and heating from the heat pump for most of your year.
If you live in a more temperate region, then the additional cost may make a hybrid system prohibitive unless comfort is at the very top of your wish list and cost a low priority.
Linking a top-class, efficient heat pump and the energy savings they offer with an efficient gas furnace does make sense, but only if you have existing ducting, or you can justify the cost.
As is always the case, the choice will, of course, be yours and will depend on your own circumstances and wish list, but dual fuel heat pumps make a lot of sense if your circumstances are right.
With the superior energy efficiency of heat pumps and the reliable operation of a gas furnace, dual fuel heat pumps are worth the investment.
Now that we know that dual heat pumps are worth the investment, it is better for your budget if it lasts longer and is backed by a decent warranty. Since these units cost a lot, including high labor costs, it is well worth having them installed and serviced professionally, including maintenance. The weather elements, climate, and how often you use it can impact not only its performance but longevity as well. The brand and quality of built-in features also matter, so start by comparing popular ones, such as Lennox, Trane, Rheem, Carrier, Goodman, and others.