When Does a Heat Pump Need a Backup Furnace?

November 20, 2013

One of the most efficient HVAC systems available is a heat pump system—they function as air conditioners in the spring and summer and provide heat to your home like a furnace in the winter! They are a great way to save on annual heating and cooling costs, as they pull from the outside air temperatures to control the comfort of your home indoors.

But many customers ask us, when do they need a backup furnace or energy source to supplement their heat pump system?

The quick answer is that it depends on where your home is located. We strongly recommend a backup furnace—or dual fuel heat pump—to our customers in the Ohio area, because heat pumps can become somewhat ineffective in climates where the outdoor air temperature falls below freezing for an extended period of time or on a regular basis throughout the winter. To understand this recommendation, let’s first look at how heat pumps work.

How Heat Pumps Work

Heat pumps move the air from one area to another in order to regulate the temperature in your home. In the hotter summer months, the heat pump system pulls heat from your house and pushes it outdoors, leaving your home with cooler air. In the winter, a heat pump pulls warm air from the outdoor air to put into your home and warm it up. So very simply, a heat pump moves warm air from one place to another depending on where it is needed—reversing which direction (in or out) the warm air is moving from your home.

Heat Pumps in the Winter

When it is below freezing outside, there is little heat in the air for your heat pump to pull from. While there will always be some heat energy the system could use, it is often either not enough to heat your entire house comfortably or enough but requires your system to work in overdrive to pull the heat indoors and the system becomes less energy efficient than a furnace—thus a backup furnace or traditional heating system is recommended by HVAC professionals.

In Ohio, the temperatures often drop below freezing at night, especially from December to February. At Rick’s Heating & Cooling of Morrow, OH, we recommend an Armstrong furnace to supplement our customers’ heat pump systems.

Dual Fuel Heat Pump

A dual fuel heat pump is an electric heat pump that uses a backup fuel source, such as gas or oil, when needed (sometimes called an add-on heat pump (AOHP). When the temperature is above freezing, the heat pump operates like normal to keep your home comfortable via heat transfer, but when the temperature drops below a certain point, the backup fuel source will kick in and provide heat.

The combined use of electric heat transfer and an alternate fuel source make heat pumps exceptionally economical.

Heat Pump Installation & Services in Morrow, Ohio

That said, heat pumps and dual fuel heat pumps are still a great investment for homeowners looking to save money in the long run on their energy bills—they can comfortably and efficiently cool your home all summer long and do most of the heating in the cooler months. Heat pumps also increase the resale value of homes!

Looking to install a dual fuel heat pump in the Ohio area? Since a heat pump works hard year round, it’s crucial that your heat pump is installed properly and inspected seasonally by a reputable HVAC company. If you need any heat pump services in Cincinnati, Maineville, Morrow, Lebanon, or Mason, Ohio (OH), contact Rick’s Heating & Cooling today!

Our heat pump services include: