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If you’re in the market for a new heating system for your Chicagoland home, you’re like a lot of homeowners who are in a quandary over what type of furnace to purchase. Technology has brought many new things to bear on heating systems and definitely for the better.

A hybrid system combines some of the best things about electric heat pumps and combustion furnaces. Before we get to hybrid systems, however, let’s discuss the two heating systems that combine to make this efficient option for home heating.

gas furnaceNatural Gas Furnaces

Natural gas is the most common fuel used in furnaces today, though fuel oil and propane are still used in areas without natural gas service. The cheapest of the three is natural gas, by far, and most people who don’t live in rural areas are connected, or close enough to connect, to nearby natural gas lines.

A combustion furnace is fairly basic. A pilot light or ignition sparks the fuel that’s fed into the furnace, and flames heat air that’s been sucked into the system via return ductwork. The heated air is then delivered to rooms via supply ductwork. The exhaust from combustion, containing toxic gases including carbon monoxide, is safety expelled from the home via exhaust pipes and a chimney or flue.

A natural gas furnace’s main advantage is the low cost of the fuel. In the past few years, the cost of natural gas has plummeted as a result of a revolution in deep-shale drilling in the United States. A gas furnace can also quickly and comfortably warm a house.

But energy efficiency is the main disadvantage of a natural gas furnace. Even in the most modern furnaces, burning fuel for heat can never achieve efficiencies greater than around 98 to 99 percent, as measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE. On the other hand, a well-maintained air-source heat pump can deliver three or four times more heat than the energy that goes into it.

Lastly, combustion furnaces pose a greater hazard of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, so annual maintenance is essential.

Hybrid or Dual-Fuel Systems

Deciding between a furnace, heat pump or a hybrid can be difficult for the average homeowner. Increasingly, homeowners are investing in hybrid, or dual-fuel, heating systems that use a gas furnace as the backup instead of the electric heating element. The furnace begins working when outside temperatures drop below a certain level. The gas furnace costs much less to operate than the backup electric heating. With some hybrid systems, you can even manually switch from one type of heat to another to take advantage of lower costs or comfort preferences.

For more information on the pluses and minuses of heating with a furnace, heat pump or a hybrid, please contact us at Climate Masters Mechanical Contractors, Inc. We proudly serve Chicagoland and the surrounding suburbs.

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