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...ALL-ELECTRIC-Life - Part IV – What are Dual Fuel (Hybrid) Home Heating/Cooling Systems?

By Allen Hibner: In 2000, I finally had a central air-conditioning unit installed in my home. Like many Penfield residents out there, adding central A/C usually means (or meant) installing a condenser unit outside and a heat-exchanger unit inside the existing natural gas forced air furnace, connected by refrigerant lines running between them. During summer months, only the furnace’s blower unit runs to blow air across the A/C heat exchanger unit to be cooled and then carried throughout the home’s ductwork to all rooms. That is my current heating/cooling system; natural gas (only) for winter heating and electricity (only) for summer cooling. Here’s the problem. My A/C unit is now approaching 21 years old. This is pretty “long-in-the-tooth” for such a system. Its SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is also nowhere near the efficiency of newer units. It might be time to replace it before it fails altogether in 95+ degree heat some unbearably hot day in August.

Yeah Saul, I get it. Done. I’m on board. I want to use the 100% clean, renewable and carbon free electricity that will enter my home when Penfield’s Community Choice Aggregation program is implemented in 2021 to power a brand-new whole house heating/cooling system powered by that clean electricity. So, in keeping with my desire to electrify my home heating/cooling systems as much as possible with new, highly efficient technology, I will explore one possible option in this blog article, the fourth in this series. That option is a, Dual Fuel (Hybrid) Home Heating/Cooling System.

Let’s start by defining exactly what such a “hybrid” system is. I found an excellent article online from the PickHVAC Cooling and Heating Guide website. Click the link that follows if you would like to read their entire article on the subject. The article is titled: Dual Fuel Heat Pump Reviews, Cost and Buying Guide 2020.”

Here is a quick quotation from that article:

This has my undivided attention! This might be a perfect “Goldilocks” solution for the replacement of my old A/C system. Why? Let me list the ways:

  • Let’s start with this: a, “two-fer…” If I add a heat pump to my existing 95.5% efficient (AFUE rated) Amana natural gas furnace (installed in 2009 – see EnergyGuide sticker below) I get all-electric cooling AND all-electric heating from a new, high efficiency heat pump, down to a very cold outside air temperature. Nice… I’m now using much, much less natural gas to heat my home and taking much more advantage, year-round, of the 100% clean, carbon free and renewable electricity flowing into my home from Penfield’s CCA program.

  • “Best of breed home heating source.” The heat pump will provide heat down to a pre-determined outside air temperature set point, let’s say… 20 degrees Fahrenheit, just for a possible example. After that point, the natural gas furnace comes on to provide heat down to much colder temperatures where the heat pump is less efficient. In essence, therefore, the natural gas furnace runs very little and becomes a de-facto “back-up” heat system for extremely cold weather. I think I can live with that.

  • Global warming in the Finger Lakes Region… Let’s face it folks. Our own local climate is getting warmer. Over time, a hybrid solution like the one being contemplated here will need to use natural gas backup heat less and less as winters warm on average. Looking ahead, this might just work out perfectly!

  • Minimal disruption to my existing system. We are really just swapping out the outdoor condenser and indoor heat exchanger units if a new heat pump will install properly in my current high efficiency natural gas furnace. I think I will find out if that can happen. I think I will get a quote.

  • Cost savings. We will have a price on carbon soon at the national or state level. Fossil fuel costs, therefore, will rise steadily going forward. They must. A super-efficient hybrid heating/cooling system using electricity most of the time throughout the year will save the Hibner’s money over time compared to heating with just natural gas.

  • This will substantially reduce the Hibner’s carbon footprint! That’s a given.

  • More reasons? I could go on and on…

Here are some more quotations from: Dual Fuel Heat Pump Reviews, Cost and Buying Guide 2020.”

OK! I’m interested. Writing this article has convinced me to get a quotation for a Dual Fuel “Hybrid” Heating/Cooling System for my own home. Looking at the chart below, I’ve got my eye on the Carrier system with a SEER of 17.5 or higher and an HSPF (HSPF = Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) of 9.5 or higher. As stated above, while those stats don’t quite match my Carrier mini-split heat pump’s (SEER of 22.5 and HSPF of 12), which I wrote about last month, they are still pretty phenomenal overall.

Stay tuned to this blog. In my next article, I will continue the exploration of these dual fuel hybrid systems by reporting back to you the results of the quotation(s) I get for systems for my own home. Remember, my goal is to keep my high efficiency natural gas furnace as is, use it as a “backup” during the absolutely coldest weather, and get a quote for “plunking” a brand-new high efficiency heat pump right into my existing system. This will be fun! I learn so much from writing my own blog articles. Thanks for taking this “ALL ELECTRIC-Life…” journey with us!

Again, the chart that follows is from: Dual Fuel Heat Pump Reviews, Cost and Buying Guide 2020.”

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