Is a dual fuel heating system right for you?

Depending on where you live, it’s likely you heat your house with a furnace or a heat pump. What you might not realize is that it’s possible to save on utility bills by using both gas and electric heat! What exactly is a dual fuel heating system? The concept is simple: The heat pump handles the heating tasks when it’s mildly chilly, while the furnace fires up when temperatures drop below freezing. With California and other states encouraging electrification—using electricity for heat when possible, rather than fossil fuels—dual heating is a trend that’s becoming more popular.

Here are a few tips to help you decide if a dual fuel heating system is right for you: keeping your home toasty while making you feel good about energy conservation, too.

Heat Pumps vs. Gas Furnaces: Two Routes to Creating Heat

Despite the name, a heat pump does double duty for your indoor climate. When the weather is warm, it works like an air conditioner to cool your home and remove humidity. Once temperatures begin to drop, it runs in reverse to provide heat, generally creating air that’s about 90 or 95 degrees Fahrenheit coming out of the vents. Because a heat pump uses electricity rather than burning fossil fuels, it’s considered an environmentally friendly heating choice.

In moderately cold temperatures, a heat pump provides adequate and cost-effective heating, so it’s ideal for spring and fall and warm, sunny winter days. However, heat pumps decrease in heating capacity (measured in BTUs per hour) and efficiency as outdoor temperatures get colder.

In contrast, furnaces burn natural gas or propane to generate the heat that circulates through your home. They provide ample, consistent heat quickly and efficiently to keep temperatures just right indoors even when it’s freezing or subfreezing outside. In fact, the air coming out of the vent might be as warm as 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Dual Fuel Heating Provides the Best of Both Worlds

Pairing a heat pump with a gas furnace allows you to capitalize on the most efficient operations of both systems. During milder temperatures, a heat pump is slightly more energy-efficient than a furnace, in addition to not emitting any greenhouse gases. In fact, under ideal conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300% more energy than it consumes.

As noted above, however, heat pumps get less efficient as the temperature drops. When it gets freezing or below, a dual fuel system automatically switches to the furnace to create the greater volume of heat that’s needed. The good news is that a new, high-efficiency furnace can have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) greater than 97%, which means that 97% of the fuel you pay for is converted into heat.

If you’re interested in dual heating, there are two basic options: The first is installing a split system with separate heat pump and furnace components. The second option is to install a dual-fuel HVAC such as a Trane EarthWise Hybrid Dual Fuel Packaged System, which conveniently includes both in a single unit.

A smart thermostat, such as the Trane ComfortLink XL1050, can be programmed to optimize which fuel to use based on your electric utility rate. (They never run at the same time.) And, of course, a smart thermostat also allows you to control your heating from anywhere as well as to set energy-saving heating schedules—ensuring cozy comfort no matter what the weather’s like outside.