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What Is The Best Backup for A Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are an efficient and eco-friendly heating and cooling solution. However, during power outages or extreme weather conditions, having a reliable backup heat source becomes essential. In this article, we will explore various backup options for heat pumps, with a focus on electric furnace backup, to ensure uninterrupted comfort and warmth in your home. Additionally, we will touch upon alternative backup heat sources and discuss the best options for backup heating.


Does my heat pump need a backup heat source?

Different heat pumps are designed and operate differently. Some heat pumps are designed to operate without relying on a backup heating system, while others may not function properly without a backup heat source. It all depends on the type of heat pump you have.


Even if your heating system is set up to use a backup, you may not need it if your local climate is warm or if your house doesn’t require much cooling. You can also avoid the need for a backup heat source by installing an EVI cold-climate heat pump.


Providing a Backup Heat Source for Your Heat Pump:

How does a heat pump work?

Heat pumps have become increasingly popular, with many people using them year-round. To make the most of your heat pump, you need to understand the various types of backup heat sources you’ll get from it. When using a heat pump (HP), you’ll get both the heat pumped and backup heat. To understand the backup heat, you should know how the heat pump operates.


When the heat pump is functioning correctly, it provides you with pump heating. This is where the compressor operates to generate heat. In this system, the compressor pumps refrigerant to convert it into heat. This is how an air-source heat pump transfers heat from outside air to ensure optimal indoor temperatures. However, as the outside temperature drops, it can lead to a decrease in the temperature level inside your house. Consequently, the efficiency of the pump’s heating will decrease.


The decrease in external heat doesn’t mean there’s no heat available. As the temperature drops, it becomes challenging for the pump to transfer heat into the house. When this situation occurs, you’ll need to use the backup heat source.


Types of backup heat sources for heat pumps:

Supplemental Heat Source:

As the outdoor temperature drops, the heating capacity decreases. When this happens, the heating load of your house increases. That’s when the supplemental heat source comes into play. This is also known as strip heating; electric resistance provides the heat. You can also opt for a dual-fuel setup using a boiler along with the heat pump, or you can use supplemental heat by placing a coil in a handler.


Emergency Heating:

Most people have limited knowledge about emergency heating. Some know that it’s used when the temperature is very low to set up their pump. HP’s thermostat has four options: heating, cooling, off, and emergency. When you use the emergency setting to set up your pump, it shuts down the compressor and uses an additional heat source. You should note that using the emergency option to heat your home will significantly increase your electricity bill. If possible, you should avoid using this heating option unless necessary.


Which backup heat source is best for your heat pump?

When selecting a heat source for your heat pump, it’s essential to understand that no one option suits everyone’s situation. That’s why you need to research and choose what’s right for your home. When choosing a heat source, you might have options such as a furnace, dual-fuel, or propane.


If you have a furnace as a backup to your heat pump, you can convert it to dual-fuel. This will help ensure you get warmer heat on cold nights. If you live in an area without natural gas, you can opt for propane. Another option is strip heating. The best part is, it can be staged or sequenced, or you can get it all at once.


Another option you can use is oil. However, this choice is becoming less common as fewer companies offer it.


When selecting a backup heating option, it’s best to get one that’s easy for you to set up, use, and cost-effective. The last thing you need is to choose an option that puts a financial strain on you.


The efficiency of a heat pump with a backup power source:

If a heat pump has a power backup, it will operate effectively and use the compressor to boost it when the temperature levels are too low. However, the challenge with this option is that it will result in higher electricity bills. If used continuously, the bill can be quite high. It’s only recommended as a last resort or in rare cases where no other options are available.


Heat Pump with Electric Furnace Backup:

A heat pump with electric furnace backup is a popular choice for reliable backup heat. In this setup, the heat pump serves as the primary heating source, utilizing its energy-efficient operation to heat your home. However, during power outages or extremely cold temperatures, the electric furnace acts as a backup heat source. When the heat pump is unable to operate, the electric furnace kicks in, providing immediate and consistent warmth to keep your home comfortable.


Electric Heat Pump with Gas Backup:

For those who prefer a hybrid approach, an electric heat pump with a gas backup system can be an effective solution. In this setup, the heat pump operates as the primary heating source, leveraging its energy efficiency. However, when outdoor temperatures drop significantly or during power outages, the gas backup system, such as a furnace or boiler, takes over to provide reliable heat. This combination ensures efficient heating and peace of mind during adverse conditions.

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Alternative Backup Heat Sources:

Apart from electric and gas backups, there are other options to consider as backup heat sources:

1. Traditional Backup Furnace: A traditional gas or oil furnace can serve as a reliable backup heat source when coupled with a heat pump. This setup allows seamless transition to the backup furnace during power outages or extreme weather conditions.


2. Mini Split Heat Pump with Electric Backup: Mini split heat pump systems are highly versatile and efficient. They can be paired with electric backup options, such as electric resistance coils, to provide supplemental heat during emergencies.


Best Backup Heat Source Options:

When selecting the best backup heat source for your heat pump, consider the following factors:


  • Efficiency: Look for backup options that are energy-efficient and align with your sustainability goals.
  • Capacity: Ensure the backup heat source can meet your home’s heating requirements during outages or extreme weather.
  • Reliability: Choose a backup system that is known for its reliability and can seamlessly provide heat when needed.
  • Affordability: Consider the initial installation cost, maintenance requirements, and operating expenses of the backup heat source.


Other Backup Heating Options:

In addition to the discussed backup heat sources, there are alternative options worth considering:


  • Portable Electric Heaters: Portable electric heaters can serve as temporary backup heating sources in specific areas of your home during power outages. However, they are not designed to heat the entire house efficiently.
  • Wood or Pellet Stoves: Wood or pellet stoves can provide backup heat when electricity is unavailable. However, their installation, maintenance, and safety considerations should be carefully evaluated.
  • Propane Heaters: Propane heaters can offer backup heat but require a propane supply and proper ventilation.


Can solar panels power the heat pump?

With the popularity of solar energy options, you may wonder if they can power your pump. The fact is that solar energy is an eco-friendly option and can serve as an alternative power source for your pump. Solar energy is not only a renewable resource but also allows you to save money when you utilize this option. You can have all the electricity needed for your pump generated by solar panels. However, you need to ensure that the size of the solar system matches the requirements of your pump.



Having a reliable backup heat source for your heat pump is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and warm home during power outages or extreme weather conditions. Heat pumps with electric furnace backup, electric heat pump with gas backup, or alternative backup heat sources like traditional furnaces, mini-split systems, and portable heaters can provide the necessary warmth when your heat pump is unable to operate.


Consider the efficiency, capacity, reliability, and affordability of backup options to choose the best solution for your specific needs. With a well-planned backup heat strategy, you can ensure uninterrupted comfort and peace of mind, knowing that your home will remain warm even during challenging circumstances. Remember to consult with HVAC professionals or heating specialists to assess your specific requirements and determine the most suitable backup heat source for your heat pump system. By investing in a reliable backup solution, you can enjoy the benefits of your heat pump while having a dependable source of heat during emergencies.


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