Reduce the use of a more expensive fuel source while still maintaining a warm home.

As the price of fossil fuels continue to rise, it is wise for consumers who must use fuel oil or propane for heating to consider wise energy alternatives. And something for them to consider, especially in northern climates, is the combination package of dual-fuel heat pumps.

The problem with regular air-to-air heat pumps is that in colder northern climates they require the use of electric strip heaters as a backup to supplement heat-pump output as temperatures drop below freezing. And electric resistance is not only a costly energy alternative, but it usually requires extensive rewiring of older homes and commercial buildings, which isn’t always financially viable. So, why not just leave the old oil or propane furnaces in place to handle cold weather extremes, and change out the split-system air conditioners to heat pumps?

Realize that heat pumps are a far more cost-effective heating source than either fuel oil or propane, usually operating at a third of the other’s energy costs. If you check with your local electric utility and ask for a breakdown of what it calls its local “degree days,” you’ll come to realize how few hours in each winter month that the outdoor temperatures actually drop below 32 degrees F, which is the point where heat pumps lose their efficiency. It’s usually just a small percentage of the time. So, use of the more expensive fuel source can be greatly reduced while still maintaining a warm home, store, office, etc.

Of course, nothing worth doing is ever simple. You can’t just replace the existing split-system air conditioner with an electric heat pump and expect the furnace to be brought on whenever second-stage heat is required. That’s because you can’t blow hot air through a heap-pump coil when the pump is operating without damaging the compressor. So, only one heating source can operate at a time.  

There is also the problem of the heat pump defrost cycle. For, whenever the heat pump kicks into its defrost mode and starts blowing cold air inside the structure to warm and defrost the outdoor coil (just a few minutes), the other heating source must be brought on to temper the air, but not so much as to overload the heat pump.

Check with your equipment manufacturer’s people to see if they already have a package to make such a conversion. If they don’t, then discuss the matter with them since they have an important stake in improving your company’s heat-pump sales. And really, it doesn’t require much of a conversion - not terribly expensive or “rocket science” - just an outdoor thermostat and possibly a relay or two. (Yes, you can quote me.) As a former national service manager for two different manufacturers, a controls trainer for McQuay, a trainer and service manager for a Carrier distributor, and a contract trainer for engineers and quality-control people at a Carrier plant, I do know what I’m talking about.

If you can pull this all together in your sales region, you will not only increase your sales and those of your contractor customers, but you will help out thousands of consumers who are being caught in the current and growing energy crunch.