By now, you’ve probably heard all about hybrid cars and the benefits they provide for drivers, both in terms of fuel efficiency and cost savings. These benefits are achieved by marrying traditional gas fuel systems with electrical power, hence the term hybrid.
Hybrid heating and cooling systems operate in a similar manner. While traditionally, your home is heated by one system and cooled by another, a hybrid system brings the two together. Just like with a hybrid car, the system is alternately powered by a combustible fuel source or by electricity.
How Does It Work?
Alternative methods of heating and cooling the home are becoming more common, due to the need to move away from combustible fuel sources and homeowners’ desire to find ways to save money on their energy bills. One of the most popular new methods of heating and cooling the home is the heat pump. This method utilizes a system of refrigerant to transfer heat from place to place. In this way, it can use ambient heat from outdoors to warm your home. It can also move heat to outside the home to cool it down on hot days.
A hybrid heating and cooling system combines a heat pump with a more traditional furnace, powered by some sort of combustible fuel source, such as natural gas. It switches between the two methods of heating depending on which one is more fuel-efficient at the time. It’s able to determine when to do this by the use of sophisticated computer technology.
What Are the Benefits of a Hybrid System?
The primary benefit of a heat pump is its increased energy-efficiency. Heat pumps don’t require combustible fuel to generate heat. They only need electricity to transfer heat energy from place to place. This means that they’re significantly less expensive to run than other heating and cooling methods. There are also environmental benefits of utilizing heat pumps. An article from Scientific American explains the advantages of this heating method with regard to the reduction of fossil fuel emissions.
On their own, however, heat pumps aren’t perfect. This is because they tend to struggle when the weather becomes extremely cold. If the temperature drops well below freezing, the heat pump will find comparatively little ambient heat from the environment, which it requires to warm up your home. During snowstorms or after freezing rain, the outdoor unit of a heat pump may even end up freezing over. It then won’t be able to effectively warm your home until it has thawed. If it can warm your home at all, it will be a difficult process. The system will have to remain on for a long period of time, negating some of the benefits of energy savings.
A hybrid heating and cooling system bypasses this problem by automatically switching on a gas furnace when it becomes too cold for the heat pump to be effective. A gas furnace burns extremely hot, which means it won’t struggle to heat a home, even during the coldest winters. While running the furnace is more expensive than running the heat pump, a hybrid system will only do so when it’s absolutely necessary to get the home to your desired temperature in the most efficient way possible.
How Do I Have One Installed?
If you’re interested in having a hybrid heating and cooling system installed in your home, you first need two things: access to electricity and access to an alternative fuel source such as propane or natural gas. Most homes already have both. However, if you don’t have a gas main connection to your home, you can have one installed by a certified professional. Note that this can be a costly process. Be sure to research whether it’s the most cost-effective way to heat your home when you factor in the expense of installing a gas line.
Installing the hybrid heating and cooling system can be an expensive prospect as well because they utilize multiple systems to operate. Because they make use of advanced technology, they tend to cost more to purchase and more to install than other heating and cooling technologies. To ensure that you’re not overpaying and that your cost savings over time will pay for themselves, contact a reputable HVAC company such as Watts Heating and Cooling.
Getting the Most Out of Your Hybrid Heating and Cooling System
If it’s properly maintained, your hybrid HVAC system should last you for many years. Regular maintenance and care from an HVAC professional is a must. Particular attention should be paid to the effective functioning of your thermostat. This is because, no matter how well the systems in your hybrid heating and cooling system are functioning, a faulty thermostat will end up costing you money. It may cause your system to turn on when it doesn’t need to. It may turn it off too early or leave it on too long. To avoid problems such as these, make sure your HVAC professional does a thorough check-up of all the systems in your heating and cooling unit, including the thermostat. This check-up should be performed at least once a year, ideally in the off-season, when your HVAC pro is less likely to be busy.
To really get the most out of your hybrid system, you should also research tax credits for homeowners in your area. In many cases, homeowners who make use of more energy-efficient heating and cooling systems are eligible for a tax break. This can lead to even greater savings, beyond just what comes from the increased efficiency of the system. Tax credits vary from place to place and often change over time, so you need to research current ones for your area. A good place to start is the government’s ENERGY STAR website.
Hybrid heating and cooling systems can also increase the value of your home should you decide to sell. More energy-efficient systems that will save money for the new owners can lead to your home being in much higher demand. Discuss this with your real estate agent for further information.