Combining a highly-efficient heat pump with a gas- or oil-fueled furnace, a hybrid system ensures optimal energy efficiency regardless of the temperature outside. Aris Parviz of Able Air-1, Inc. is an expert on all types of HVAC systems, and here, he explains what a hybrid heating system is and why it is of great benefit to both the environment and your pocketbook.
When used in relation to cars, the term “hybrid” refers to a vehicle that uses both a gas-fueled internal combustion engine propulsion system and an electric one. This combination is intended to improve fuel efficiency, ultimately saving drivers money and reducing emissions. Hybrid heating systems are based on the same concept as hybrid cars. These new heating systems are dual fueled, which usually involve the combination of a gas- or oil-fueled furnace with an electric heat pump.
Heat pumps represent a significant advancement in home heating and cooling. Depending on the type installed, a heat pump will use 30% to 40% less energy than its traditional counterpart, offering the homeowner a reduced carbon footprint and substantial cost savings. Even greater efficiency can be achieved by geothermal heat pumps, which use heat from the ground or a nearby water source to heat the home.
Older types of heating systems usually attempt to heat and re-heat cold air, however, heat pumps simply pull heat into and out of your home, depending on the outdoor temperature and desired indoor temperature. Heat pumps help maintain a more even temperature than older systems, and they also help control indoor humidity, so your family doesn’t have to contend with the effects of dry winter air.
At temperatures below 40 degrees, however, heat pumps become less effective and efficient, and this is the point at which the benefits of a hybrid system come into play. When temperatures outside dip below 40 degrees, the system automatically switches into gas- or oil-burning mode. This ensures that your home is kept at a consistently comfortable temperature, and that your system is always operating at its highest efficiency level.
One of the most environmentally friendly heating options available to homeowners today and certainly the most efficient, hybrid systems are an important part of the green building movement and are increasingly common in newer homes. Not only do these systems reduce fossil fuel consumption, they can also greatly lower utility bills. And thanks to the electric heat pump component, this innovative type of heating system can even help cool the home in warmer weather.
Automatic controls in a hybrid system provide the flexibility to switch between fossil fuel and electric consumption. Under moderate outside temperatures, the control initiates the heat pump outdoors which uses electricity as its energy source; however, when conditions outside are much colder and the use of the heat pump becomes inefficient, the control automatically shuts off the heat pump and starts the furnace inside.
While the initial cost of a hybrid heating system may be slightly higher than that of a traditional one (about $600 to $1,000 more), the long-term savings will more than make up the difference. Although the total cost savings will depend on the climate and overall efficiency of the system itself, hybrid heating systems can reduce some homeowners’ energy costs by up to 30%.