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Is a Dual Fuel Heating System Right for You?

Based on your location, you’re likely to use either a furnace or a heat pump for heating your house. But you might not be aware that using both gas and electric heating can save on your utility bills! So, what exactly is a dual-fuel heating system? The concept is simple: when the weather is mildly cold, the heat pump handles the heating, and when the temperature drops below freezing, the furnace takes over. With California and other states encouraging electrification (using electricity for heating where possible instead of fossil fuels), dual-fuel heating has become an increasingly popular trend.


Here are a few suggestions to help you decide if a dual-fuel heating system is right for you, keeping your home warm while also reaping the benefits of energy efficiency.


Heat Pump and Gas Furnace: Two Heating Methods

Although they share a name, a heat pump serves a dual purpose for your indoor environment. When the weather is warm, it operates like an air conditioner, cooling your home and removing humidity. As temperatures drop, it reverses its operation to provide heat, typically emitting air around 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit from the vents. Since a heat pump uses electricity rather than burning fossil fuels, it’s considered an eco-friendly heating method.


In moderately cold temperatures, the heat pump offers ample and cost-effective heating, making it well-suited for spring, fall, and mild winter days. However, as outdoor temperatures plummet, the heat pump’s heating capacity (measured in BTUs per hour) and efficiency also decrease.


heat pump installation

In contrast, furnaces burn natural gas or propane to generate heat and circulate it throughout your home. They can deliver abundant, steady heat quickly and efficiently, maintaining indoor comfort even during extremely cold outdoor conditions or sub-freezing temperatures. In fact, the air expelled from vents can reach temperatures as high as 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.


How Dual-Fuel Heating Achieves the Best of Both Worlds

Combining a heat pump with a gas furnace allows you to take full advantage of the efficient operation of both systems. In lower temperatures, the heat pump’s energy efficiency is slightly higher than that of the gas furnace, and it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases. In fact, under ideal conditions, a heat pump can transfer more than 300% of the energy it consumes.


However, as mentioned earlier, the heat pump’s efficiency decreases as temperatures drop. When the temperature reaches zero degrees or below, the dual-fuel system automatically switches to the furnace to generate the higher heat required. The good news is that modern high-efficiency furnaces can have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating exceeding 97%, meaning 97% of the fuel you pay for is converted into heat.


If you’re interested in a dual heating system, there are two basic options: the first is installing a split-system where the heat pump and furnace are separate. The second option is installing a packaged dual-fuel HVAC system, which integrates both fuel sources into one convenient unit.

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