Can (And Should) You Install a Furnace and a Heat Pump Together?

Heat pumps aren't a new technology, but they are becoming more commonplace in the United States. Despite the name, these units do more than just provide heat. A heat pump uses refrigerant as an energy transfer medium, just like an air conditioner. However, a heat pump can operate in "reverse" to provide heating and cooling.

There's a significant amount of heat energy in the air, even on cold days. Heat pumps take advantage of this energy to warm your home efficiently, but they do have limitations. This article will help you understand why you may want to consider a heat pump for your home and why hybrid systems that include both a heat pump and furnace are sometimes an even better option.

Who Should You Use Heat Pumps?

From a physics perspective, it takes less energy to move heat than to generate it. When you heat your home using a gas or electric furnace, you're converting fuel into heat. Since gas furnaces also generate hazardous exhaust gases, modern furnaces require careful design and engineering to capture valuable heat while expelling harmful byproducts.

On the other hand, a heat pump works just like an air conditioner, making it highly efficient. The downside is heat pumps lose some efficiency and capacity as the temperature drops. The cut-off will vary between models, but many can struggle to provide adequate heating when temperatures begin to fall well below freezing.

This drawback meant that heat pumps were traditionally best for homes in relatively moderate climates. Houses in frigid areas don't see the same benefits from heat pumps alone and may even lose some comfort and heating ability as the temperature drops too far. Hybrid systems offer an alternative that's viable even in icy climates.

What Are Hybrid Heat Pump Systems?  

Hybrid heat pump systems utilize a traditional furnace along with a heat pump. Hybrid systems typically use either a natural gas or a propane furnace, either of which can supply plenty of heat on days that are too cold for the heat pump to operate efficiently. These systems are the best of both worlds performers, providing efficiency from the heat pump and raw heating power from the furnace.

A hybrid system works by using the heat pump alone as long as the outdoor temperatures remain within the unit's optimal operating range. As the heat pump's efficiency begins to fall off, your HVAC system will switch to the gas furnace. Once temperatures start to climb again, the heat pump will come on to provide efficient heating for your home.

Hybrid systems can cost more upfront, but they may be a good option if you're looking for an advanced and energy-efficient way to heat your home. Since heat pumps can also work as air conditioners, you may even save money by using a hybrid heat pump for all of your home's HVAC requirements.

Contact an HVAC contractor if you have any questions about heat pump systems for your home.