Here in Nanaimo, BC, every homeowner knows that a dependable heating system is a must-have. However, heating costs can be quite burdensome on the average family’s bottom line. That makes efficiency a close second to dependability when it comes to choosing a heating system. That reality has recently made heat pumps a popular choice in this area. However, older heat pumps had a reputation for struggling on some of the coldest winter days here. As a result, HVAC manufacturers began selling a new system type that combined the reliability of a gas furnace with the efficiency of a heat pump. But are these hybrid heating systems the most efficient option? Here’s what you need to know.
All About Heat Pump Efficiency
Overall, when it comes to heating efficiency, nothing beats a heat pump. The reason for this is the fact that, unlike other heating system types, heat pumps don’t consume energy to create heat. Instead, they collect existing heat energy from the outside air and transport it inside to heat your home. This is possible because all air, even at very low temperatures, still contains heat energy, even if you can’t feel it yourself.
To collect that heat energy, heat pumps use advanced refrigerants that reach extremely low temperatures in a liquid state. In some heat pump models, refrigerant can be as cold as -50 degrees Celsius when it travels through the system’s outdoor heat exchanger. At that temperature, it can absorb heat energy from the outside air, even when it’s extremely cold outside. This works because heat naturally migrates to colder areas. So, a heat pump will continue collecting heat energy until its refrigerant’s temperature reaches that of the outside air.
Since they’re collecting already-existing heat, heat pumps can achieve energy efficiency levels approaching 400% under ideal conditions. By comparison, even the best gas furnace can only reach 98.5% efficiency. And the average gas furnace hovers around 80% efficiency. That’s because furnaces rely on combustion to convert fuel into heat directly.
Heat Pump Cold-Weather Performance
The problem with most heat pumps is that they begin losing efficiency as outdoor temperatures drop. It happens because there’s less and less heat energy in the outside air to collect, and the heat pump must work harder to collect it. As a result, most heat pumps start losing efficiency once the outside temperature reaches about 4 degrees Celsius. By the time the outside temperature reaches -4 degrees Celsius, the average heat pump becomes less efficient than the average gas furnace.
In some cases, a heat pump will also need to turn on a backup heat source, which typically includes the use of electric resistance heating strips. This ensures that your heat pump can always meet your comfort demands, even when it’s very cold outside. The trouble is that operating in that mode is quite inefficient and will result in higher-than-normal energy bills. Depending on the difference in your electricity rates and your natural gas rates, the additional costs can be significant. That’s where a hybrid system can provide a more efficient option.
How Hybrid Heating Systems Ensure Efficiency
A hybrid heating system is a combination of a heat pump and a gas furnace. It’s designed to use the furnace as a secondary heat source for times when the heat pump is the less efficient option or isn’t capable of providing enough heat to meet your demands. Ideally, this should ensure that you’re always heating your home in the most efficient way regardless of the conditions outside.
With most hybrid heating systems, you can pre-program the temperature at which the system will switch to its furnace instead of running the heat pump. When you work with one of our expert HVAC technicians, they can advise you on the ideal settings for your particular environment. Also, hybrid heating systems allow you to turn on the built-in furnace manually whenever you want. It’s a handy feature for times when you wish to raise the temperature in your home faster than the heat pump alone could achieve.
So, Is a Hybrid Heating System the Efficiency Champion?
All things being equal, hybrid heating systems are capable of delivering efficient heating for your home. However, there are several things you should consider about them. The first is that they require you to have a natural gas connection to your residence. If you don’t already have one, it can add significantly to the expense of installing a new hybrid heating system. Plus, you’ll have to pay base charges for your natural gas service, even if you never end up using it to heat your home.
You should also know that there are now heat pumps capable of working efficiently down to as low as -26 degrees Celsius. With such a system, the threat of needing inefficient electric resistance heating is greatly reduced. Plus, they remain at least 100% efficient, even at sub-freezing temperatures. Those advances all but eliminate the rationale for hybrid heating systems, except in a few specific situations.
One such situation is if you prefer the high-temperature air produced by a gas furnace over what you’d get from a heat pump. A furnace will provide air that’s between 60 degrees Celsius and 77 degrees Celsius, depending on the starting temperature of your home’s air. However, even an advanced low-temperature heat pump will only produce air that’s about 38 degrees Celsius on very cold days. While that’s hot enough to heat your home, it’s only a few degrees above your body temperature. As a result, some people dislike the drafty feeling you might get from a heat pump when compared to a gas furnace.
Another situation is if you’re concerned with up-front costs. A hybrid heating system may cost you less than a suitable cold-weather heat pump. And there’s no way to cut corners with the decision, since a cheaper heat pump may fail to give you the required performance or cost you far more in energy costs over its lifetime.
The Residential Heating Experts
If you’re interested in installing a new heating system in your Nanaimo home, Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas can help. We’re experts when it comes to furnaces, heat pumps, and hybrid heating systems. Our knowledgeable staff can help you choose the type of system that fits your needs and budget. Then, our experienced HVAC technicians can install it for you. We offer the best HVAC installation, repair, and maintenance services around. And you don’t have to take our word for it. Instead, check out our countless five-star reviews from local customers just like you. Plus, we’re a full-service plumbing company, too. So, we can handle any modifications you need to your gas supply lines if required as a part of your heating installation. We even offer financing options on approved credit if you need help affording the new heating system your home requires.
When you need a new heating system for your Nanaimo home, contact our team at Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas right away.