What is Heat Pump With Oil Furnace Backup? | How Does It Work?

Are you looking for answers to “what is heat pump with oil furnace backup?” Read along to get detailed explanations.

Heat pumps are one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to cool or heat your home. Unfortunately, they lose their edge when the temperatures dip too low.

As an HVAC technician, this is where I usually see heat pumps with oil furnace backups come in handy.

A heat pump with oil furnace backup is a hybrid ductless HVAC system that activates an accompanying oil furnace for heating when temperatures get too low.

Instead of switching to a heating panel, this kind of heat pump turns off and relies on the oil for heating.

What is Heat Pump with Oil Furnace Backup (How It Works)

Heat pumps work by capturing and transferring thermal energy from one place to another – usually the inside and outside your home.

In hot weather, your heat pump captures heat from inside your home and transfers it outside through a condensing unit.

In chilly weather, the unit reverses this process. It captures heat from outdoor air, compresses it, and releases it inside the house. This is how heat pumps double as air conditioners and home heating units.

In winter, the ability of the outside condensing unit to provide heat declines as the outdoor temperature falls further.

The heat pump has to activate a built-in heating panel to warm the air inside your home when temperatures dip too low.

With time, your home may experience inadequate heating and increased running costs as the system gradually struggles to keep your house warm.

In places that experience significant frosty weather, a heat pump alone may not be sufficient enough to your home comfortable during the cold seasons.

How you Can Benefit from a Heat Pump with Oil Furnace Backup

The inclusion of an oil furnace means that you have a more powerful combustion unit that burns oil to heat your home.

It will not matter how chilly the weather gets; an oil furnace will produce enough power to keep your home warm.

The heat pump with oil furnace backup combines the benefits of a ductless HVAC system and the heating power of an oil furnace.

Ideally, the heat pump component will be pretty much adequate to heat and cool your home as desired.

However, when temperatures hit the negative digits, your heat pump will turn off and activate the oil furnace backup instead of switching to a heating panel.

As such, you may want to revert to using the heat pump without the oil furnace as soon as the weather gets milder.

The backup furnace is pretty costly to run, so you want to keep away from it whenever the weather permits it. You may find this hybrid system to be more expensive upfront to buy and install.

It will, however, help you save money in the long run with reduced running costs.

How Long will your Oil Furnace Last?

The lifespan of an oil furnace is theoretically about 25 years. Whether or not a furnace manages to last this long depends mainly on the preventive and regular maintenance it gets.

Proper and regular maintenance is crucial in ensuring an oil furnace outlasts your expectation. Regularly cleaning and checking the chimney and changing the furnace filter are some of the things that will make it last.

A more sustainable option is to sign up for an annual protection plan. This includes yearly maintenance, parts, emergency repairs, and labor.

It is a good idea to check with your dealer if they offer this kind of arrangement and how much it will cost. This annual protection becomes essential if you have an aging furnace.

An older furnace requires more maintenance compared to a newer one. Whatever the case, keep in mind that the performance of any furnace will diminish with age.

You can expect anything older than 15 years to be down to 70% fuel efficiency, and it only goes lower from there.

What is the Lifespan of an Oil Tank?

An oil tank generally has the same lifespan as an oil furnace. An outdoor tank is considered to be in its sunset years when it hits anywhere from 15 to 20 years of age.

For indoor tanks, the estimated lifespan is 25 years. You should be able to tell the age of your tank by looking up its manufacture date on marked on it.

Should I Replace My Oil Furnace with a Heat Pump?

Replacing your oil furnace with a heat pump will save you money on your energy bills. Heat pumps are some of the most energy-efficient appliances.

Oil prices are constantly fluctuating. Even at the lowest oil prices, it will still cost you more money to heat your home with oil than with a heat pump.

However, as we have mentioned, heat pumps become inefficient in the winter when outdoor temperatures hit the negative digits.

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Oil Furnace?

Oil produces more BTUs per gallon than propane or gas. This is probably the reason why it is very pricy. On average, it will cost you around $1,400 to heat your home with oil each winter.

These costs may be lower or higher depending on your location, efficiency of the furnace, and home size.

How Much Will It Cost to Replace an Oil Furnace?

When installing a new oil furnace, the initial cost includes installing the vents and drains and the tank and oil pipe set-up.

Replacing an existing oil furnace means you do not have to put up with the cost of the tank itself or an oil line. This way, you can expect replacements to be slightly less expensive.

Still, a lot of cleaning happens when replacing an oil furnace, which can always drive up labor costs. On average, you can expect to spend approximately $5,000 in oil furnace replacement costs.

The amount you pay will vary depending on the size and amount of work required.

In any case, you will have to consider replacing your oil furnace if you notice any of these telltale signs:

  1. Lack of hot air when the blower is on.
  2. Consuming a higher than average amount of oil.
  3. Noticing rust on the furnace or noise coming from within it. (check out heat pump noise reduction techniques)
Photo of author
Ronald Watford, the owner of Quality Home Air Care, is a qualified HVACR technician and manages the team of expert writers on this site. He believes that educating homeowners about HVAC systems is one of the most impactful aspects of his job.