Angie explains backup furnace replacement
Dear Angie: Can a gas-fired backup furnace be added to an existing air source heat pump, currently with electric backup, or must one start from scratch with a new system? – John K., Andes, Ny.
Dear John: In most cases, you can replace an existing electric backup furnace with a new gas furnace. However, you might have to replace the heat pump coil as well.
Residential heat pumps are split into two units; an indoor unit installed with the backup and then the unit outside. When the backup source of heat is electric, it is most common for it and the indoor portion of the heat pump to come in a single box as a single unit. If the backup and indoor unit are together as a single unit, there is no separating them. You’ll have to convert the entire unit to gas.
However, if the backup is installed in the duct work, separately from the electric furnace, then you could probably make the switch without converting the existing heat pump to gas.
That said, if the heat pump is older – about 10 years or more – it might be a better investment to replace the entire system with a newer, more efficient unit.
Ultimately, the configuration of your HVAC system will dictate your possible actions. I recommend talking with some reputable heating and cooling companies in your area about the best HVAC system for your particular home, and your options for converting to a gas backup. A consultation is usually free. Before you decide who to consult, though, do your homework to be sure you’re getting advice from the best specialists in town. Look for someone with training in the manufacturer’s brand you already have. Once you decide what you want to do, get at least three estimates you can compare and check that the company you hire is properly licensed and insured.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a provider of reviews you can trust on contractors, doctors, dentists and other service professionals. More than 1 million consumers across the U.S. use Angie’s List to help make tough hiring decisions easier.