Many homes rely exclusively on a heat pump system for both heating and cooling. Making the switch to a dual-fuel system could substantially improve the efficiency of heating your home, especially on the coldest days, while also saving you money.
Reduce System Burden
Heat pumps generally have a shorter lifespan than a system with AC and a furnace. This is because the heat pump takes on the year-round burden of heating and cooling your home. Reducing some of the burden by switching to a dual-fuel system could potentially add years of life to your current heat pump. Additionally, when some of the burden is reduced, you may see a decrease in costs associated with maintaining your system and repairs, especially if your system is older and nearing replacement. On the coldest days when you expect your heating system to work the hardest and when it may be on for all or most of the day, the furnace can take over the work from the heat pump.
Better Handle Extreme Winters
If you live in a milder climate, switching to a dual-fuel system is not always necessary since a heat pump with a traditional electric air handler is usually sufficient. People who live in extremely cold climates will find a heat pump is costly and not efficient as the weather approaches the freezing mark. With a dual-fuel system, the system switches from the electric air handler over to the gas furnace as the weather nears freezing. Since gas is considered more cost-effective than electric, the change from the electric heat pump to the gas furnace is also more efficient in terms of the amount you pay to heat your home. Even if you live in an area where winters are not routinely harsh, you may prefer the option to switch to the gas furnace periodically when unexpected winter weather occurs, even if it is for only a few weeks per year.
Flexible Furnace Options
Although you may think switching to a dual-fuel system means you are stuck with a single type of furnace, this is untrue. Just like people who rely on a furnace for all their heating needs, you can choose to install one of several types of gas furnaces in your system. This allows you to increase the efficiency of your heating beyond the conversion from electric to gas. A traditional furnace is a single-stage system, which means the furnace is only on or off. This is considered the least efficient furnace since the system does not change based on demand. In areas where the winter is near or below freezing for most of the winter, the difference between a single-stage furnace and other types might be negligible.
For more efficient options, you can choose either a two-stage or variable-speed option. Two-stage furnaces can run at low or high, which makes them ideal for climates where the winter temperature can vary dramatically. On milder winter days, the two-stage system may only need to run at a lower capacity to keep the household temperature comfortable. Variable-speed furnaces are the most efficient option since they can run as low as 25% capacity all the way to 100%. Both two-stage and variable speed furnaces are better at keeping the temperature comfortable during the winter since they can emit a steady stream of warmth rather than sudden blasts of warm air that often occur in a single-stage furnace, which may create hot spots in your home.
If you experience harsh winters or if the temperature only nears freezing for a few weeks each year, you should consider whether a dual-fuel system is right for your household needs. In some households, the long-term savings, both in terms of repairs and operational costs, can more than make up for the initial investment.
For more information on keeping your heat pump in good condition, contact an HVAC contractor.