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What is a dual fuel heat pump?

Views: 79     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-10-30      Origin: Site

What is a dual fuel heat pump

A dual-fuel heat pump is a system designed to operate both as an air source heat pump and a gas furnace when conditions require it. Unlike a one-heat-one-cool setup, this system typically features a gas furnace in the interior of the building and an electric heat pump on the exterior.

On milder days when you need heat, the electric heat pump provides efficient and cost-effective heat than burning gas. But as conditions get colder and colder during winter months, most systems have a set point that they’ll then burn gas. This allows for efficient and low-cost heating of a home all year round.

Dual fuel heat pumps are an example of hybrid heat setups designed to provide both heating and cooling. Some, like dual fuel heat pumps, are even designed to use both gas and hot outdoor air as fuel sources, depending on the season of the year.


Why go dual fuel instead of a one-heat-one-cool system?

A dual fuel system offers the advantage of switching between two fuel sources depending on the prevailing weather conditions making it more efficient than a traditional gas furnace or electric heat pump.

Generally, costs less to transfer heat than actually make it and modern air source heat pump technology has become super-efficient, operating even in conditions as low as 35F. Depending on your system, you may be able to generate up to 3kW of heat per every kW of electricity then switch to the gas furnace when the weather gets freezingly low.

Having a dual fuel system result in cost savings right away. As already mentioned, the ability to alternate between different fuel sources is convenient. It allows you to take advantage of hot outdoor air during mildly warm seasons to heat your home for cheap. This is advantageous, especially, during times of fluctuating gas prices. Typically, producers have to shut down production when transitioning from winter to summer. With a dual fuel heat pump, you can just switch to the air source unit when gas prices skyrocket during the summer and fall months.

In addition to long-term savings, there may be rebates and tax credits that accompany this upgrade as part of global efforts to reduce harmful emissions. Now why do such incentives matter? Well, these heat pumps are more than one-heat-one-cool systems.  Therefore, one may need their home’s electrical wiring upgraded in order to install some sort of system to have control of the unit. If you don’t have huge savings, this can be a scary project overall.

Rebates and tax cuts help alleviate the initial costs. Different regions have different rebate programs to incentivize the transition to dual fuel heat pumps. Ask your HVAC guy or utility company to learn more about the rebates available in your location.


Components of a dual fuel heat pump

As already mentioned, a dual fuel heat pump is a combination of a gas furnace and electric heat pump for efficient space heating and cooling depending on the outdoor temperature. Such systems typically feature a controller that allows them to alternate between the two sources of fuel (gas and hot outdoor air). Here’s a look at the functions of the different parts:


Electric heat pump

The electric heat pump is the part of the system that’s installed on the outside of the building to act as an air source heat pump. It’s set to operate as long as external conditions remain above 35°F.

Basically, it pulls heat from the air and transfers it to a coolant, which is then pushed through a compressor which heats the air to a higher temperature vapor which then moves through your indoor unit to distribute heat.

Using the electric pump during mild spring and fall conditions results in lower utility costs than you’d pay to keep the gas furnace running. In fact, air source heat pumps have an efficiency of up to 300%, producing 3kW of heat per every kW of electricity consumed. But actual efficiency will depend on the size of your house, the level of insulation and the overall local climate.


Gas furnace

The gas furnace takes over when outdoor temperatures fall below 35°F and the electric pump can no longer extract enough heat from the air to heat the house sufficiently. Basically, the furnace heats air, which then goes through the home’s duct system with the help of a blower motor.


Controller

The operation of the dual fuel heat system depends on the controller. This is a device that decides when to switch between the air source heat pump and the gas furnace depending on the indoor and outdoor temperature.

In the old days, you’d need to install dual fuel kits on the system, but nowadays smart thermostats will do it for you via the internet or indoor temperature sensor and decide when to switch based on your settings.


Dual fuel heat pumps vs other healing systems

Compared to other heating systems, dual fuel heat pumps are designed for increased functionality, eco-friendliness, longevity and significant cost savings.

A traditional gas furnace, for example, is designed to perform heating only. It burns propane or natural gas to produce heat which is then combined with the air inside the home and distributed through the duct system with the help of a blower motor. You’ll need a separate air conditioning system to provide cooling. But with a dual fuel system, you have two units in one, allowing you to obtain your heating and cooling from the same system.

Switching to the air source part of the system during warm months results in significant savings and reduced harmful emissions. A typical furnace is only roughly 95% efficient while dual fuel heat pumps can be up to 300% energy efficient.

Additionally, dual fuel systems last longer than classic gas furnaces because the different units only switch on when conditions are optimal.

On the other hand, dual fuel heat pumps and traditional heat pumps offer the same flexibility allowing you to get your heating and cooling from the same system. They’re both adaptable systems that operate according to the prevailing weather conditions but dual systems offer the advantage of year-round functionality.

You can switch to gas heating when the outdoor conditions aren’t hot enough. Traditional heat pumps work only when there’s heat in the air outside the house. When conditions get freezing, you won’t get much out of them and might even waste your electricity. Additionally, the lifespan of a typical traditional heat pump is around 15 years compared to 20-25 years for dual fuel systems.


Who should install dual fuel heat pumps?

If you are still on the fence about dual fuel heat pumps, here’s a look at times and settings for installing such a system.


Your local climate varies between the temperature extremes

Dual fuel HVAC systems combine an air source heat pump for warm months and a gas furnace for cold seasons. If you live in a place that experiences high temperature in one part of the year and cold temperature in the other it makes sense to utilize such a system to take advantage of this variation in meteorological conditions.

It doesn’t make sense to install a dual heat pump in homes in climates that remain hot year-round because you’ll never need to use the gas furnace unit.

The same is true for homes in climates that remain freezing throughout the year, the air source part of the unit may not offer the performance you want to generate savings. If you want to generate savings and reduce harmful emissions, ground source heat pumps are the best for colder climates


Presence of substantial incentives

As already mentioned, a dual fuel system will cost you extra to purchase and install. However, you may be able to alleviate part of the cost by taking advantage of available rebates and tax cuts. If such incentives are available and you’ve already done the analysis and found that a dual fuel system will result in savings, don’t let the opportunity go to waste.


You use propane gas

Most customers with natural gas tend to have lower utility bills and are usually not open to spending extra to switch to a dual fuel system. Natural gas is not that expensive so it may not be worth getting a dual fuel system, unless you prioritize climate protection (which is a great motivation, too). On the other hand, we have seen fluctuating prices when it comes to propane, sometimes even heating extreme marks. In such a case, it makes sense to spend the extra money and switch to a dual fuel system.

To summarize, a dual fuel heat pump is a HVAC setup that switches between two heat sources, usually gas and outdoor air depending on the season and personal preferences. It allows you to take advantage of outdoor heat during hot months to heat or cool your house for cheap and switch to a gas furnace when the former is no longer optimal.

It generates immediate savings in the form of tax cuts and rebates, long term savings in the form of a lower utility bill and reduced harmful emissions. Plus, the equipment lasts longer because each part switches on only when optimal.

If you want to learn more about dual fuel heat pumps and other types of heating and cooling systems, speak with our technicians. We manufacture and supply heat pump solutions to clients all over the world and will be glad to discuss more about dual fuel heat pumps with you to help make the right choice.


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