Because electric rates are regulated and constantly monitored by a State Regulating Authority, they are far more stable and are not expected to increase as much this year as that already being experienced in gas and oil prices. This makes the heat pump even more attractive than normal.
I mentioned in the last newsletter, how, with the sharp increase in heating costs this winter, how often some of our personnel are asked the question “which is the best HVAC system available in today’s market”. I also remarked that the answer is, “there’s really no best system” for the obvious reason, that if one system could be proven to be “the best”, no one would want any other.
I also tried to make the point that not only do different people have different requirements…but that we are always careful to state the obvious “that the worst system made, properly installed, is better than the best system made, improperly installed”.
Having said all that, I forged bravely ahead and detailed the HVAC system that I think best suits my concept of providing the optimum in full house comfort…one that not only just keeps out the cold in winter and the heat of summer but that by the use of a programmable thermostat and other controls, can sanitize the air, control the moisture in the air and with the use of zoning if necessary, eliminate unwarranted hot and cold spots throughout the house. I also cautioned that: Just as a Cadillac or Lincoln is not for everyone, neither is this “top of the line” system. You can review that “dream system” by clicking here.
Today, with energy prices soaring…the threat of scarcities very real, there is a tendency to reevaluate the whole approach to what constitutes an “ideal heating system” as these problems are likely to be with us a very long time. One approach that is very popular today is called a “dual fuel” heating system.
Before we can talk intelligently about a dual fuel system, we should first define what a dual fuel system is. Simply stated, a dual fuel system is combining the installation of a gas or oil furnace with a heat pump.
And before we continue, let’s be sure we understand what a heat pump is, as some people still have difficulty understanding just how a heat pump works…how an air conditioner can provide heat.
The simplest definition of heat pump that I know is to say that in the heating mode, a heat pump is a reverse air conditioner. In the summer, a heat pump or an air conditioner, extracts heat from within your house and discharges it outside, thereby leaving the air within the structure, cooler. In the winter, by reversing the flow of refrigerant and it’s process, it extracts heat from outside of the house and brings it inside where it is discharged into the house through ductwork.
How can it do that? Well all air has heat in it. If you take 70 degree air and remove 10 degrees of heat from it, you now have left, 60 degree air. That’s what a heat pump does. Through reverse refrigeration, a heat pump can extract heat from the outside air by extracting (absorbing) it into the refrigerant via the compressor and it can do this more efficiently and cleaner than any other type of system…that is, until the outside temperature gets to about 32 degrees.
The follow up question then must be “What is the advantage of a Dual Fuel System?
Well, notice the reference to the outside temperature. While no other system operates more efficiently and cost effectively for heating than a heat pump within certain temperature ranges; a heat pump's capacity decreases when the outside temperature falls below 32 degrees… when it typically has to use electric strip heat to provide the supplementary heat needed at these times.
By combining the efficiency of a heat pump during it's peak operating period with an high efficiency gas furnace, oil furnace or boiler for the times when it is less efficient, a Dual Fuel System provides the maximum efficiency, payback and comfort level of both fuels and systems available.
Who is installing dual fuel heating systems? The first group are customers who already have furnaces and boilers in their homes and whose central air conditioners need replacing. When their air conditioner goes bad, some consumers are upgrading with a heat pump to work in conjunction with their existing furnace or boiler heating system. This gives them the advantage of a new air conditioner for better cooling comfort and a heat pump (they are the same unit), which can be used most efficiently for heating on those days when the temperature is above 32 degrees.
The second and largest group of homeowners interested in dual fuel systems are those that have watched oil prices rocket to record highs these past months, and which are predicted to rise even higher this winter…people who have read various consumer reports like the Energy Department report last Wednesday that stated “ Winter heating bills will be a third to a half higher for most families across the country, with the sharpest increases expected for those who heat with natural gas, the Energy Department forecast Wednesday.
The Department said natural gas users can expect to pay an average of $350 more during the upcoming winter compared to last year, an increase of 48 percent. Those who heat their homes with fuel oil will pay $378 more, or 32 percent higher than last winter.
How do I benefit? If you have an oil or gas system, you can benefit by adding an electric system (heat pump). If you presently have an electric system (heat pump) you can still benefit by adding oil or natural gas. Dual Fuel heating enables you to add a second heating system to your current system and gives you an appealing alternative to the roller coaster pricing of fuel oil and most gas heating systems because Dual Fuel rates are most likely to remain stable year round.
WITHOUT OBLIGATION, OF COURSE, our experienced representatives are available to provide you with answers to any additional questions you may have…including (1) the feasibility of installing a dual fuel system in your home and (2) an estimated cost. Simply click here.
Generally speaking, A dual-fuel unit costs about $600 to $1,000 more than conventional heating and cooling systems because you’re getting essentially two systems in one. But the amount you'll save in the next two to three years from lower heating costs will more than make up the difference you'll spend on a better system.