Vehicles aren't the only machines that are using hybrid technology. Hybrid heating and cooling systems are proving to be economical, energy-efficient and just as effective as their non-hybrid counterparts. Though these systems aren't new, technological advances have led to lower prices, making them a more affordable choice for those who hope to cut back on their carbon footprint and energy bill.
Despite the name, these systems actually cool your home in a traditional way, using one power source at all times. The reason they are called hybrid heating and cooling systems is because the heater uses hybrid technology, or two forms of fuel, to operate. You don't save money or the environment while using the air-conditioning portion of your system, but you do when using the heater.
Basics of Hybrid Heating
Hybrid heating units alternate between a gas furnace and an electric-powered heat pump. Some units require you to manually switch between the two heating methods, but most allow your system to make the switch automatically based on your predetermined preferences. The latter version is preferable as it requires little effort; just set it and forget it.
The heat pump is what gives hybrid heating systems such high efficiency. What it basically does is act as an air conditioner would but provides the opposite effect. The unit sucks in air from outside and traps the heat in freon, warming your system's refrigerant tubes before expelling the heated air through the vents and into your home. This process works because, even in cold weather, there is still heat to be extracted from air.
When the temperature drops, the hybrid system's gas furnace will kick in and heat your home, but when it's just a little chilly, the heat pump does the job. The heat pump, although efficient, delivers less heat than the furnace, so the change is more gradual and comfortable than a quick temperature change.
Savings and Cost
Though there are no official statistics on the savings or other benefits of hybrid systems, Bryant, a leading hybrid heater manufacturer, claims its hybrid system saves the average Denver, Colorado, resident about $772 annually while heating a 2,000-square-foot home. A good hybrid heating and cooling system will cost you about $1,000 more than non-hybrid units, but the savings you'll accrue should offset the upfront costs after two years of regular use.