A lot of the conversions we do for homeowners are oil to heat pumps. However one unique case we felt should be discussed on it’s own is converting from oil fired forced air to a heat pump system.
The Two Heat Pump Choices
You have two options to convert forced air to a heat pump. The first is to swap your forced air ducted furnace for a central ducted heat pump. These central heat pump units generally connect, sometimes with a bit of modification, to your old ductwork and push heat through the ductwork into your home. A secondary benefit to central systems are they either have an oil or electric backup built in.
The second option to replace the furnace is a ductless mini split heat pump. This option is usually reserved for homes that want to convert off oil entirely and I’ll explain why in a moment.
What Can Sway Your Decision
There are a few things that can sway your decision when converting from forced air. They are your ductwork size and age, electrical service and style of home. Lets look at each one of these.
Ductwork Size and Age
Some older homes have 4” ductwork. This was an inexpensive option 50-60 years ago when the homes were built. With a forced air oil furnace it doesn’t really affect efficiency of heating your home. However a heat pump does not produce the extreme heat of an oil furnace. A heat pump requires more area to push warm air through to heat your home. We usually advise against installing a ducted heat pump in a home with only 4” ductwork.
The age of the ductwork also comes into play. We can only inspect the quality of the ductwork to the point it goes into the wall or ceiling. If there’s a chance of any damage inside the walls or ceilings it can be a bad idea to go central. Why? Because much of the heat pushed by the heat pump will be lost inside the walls and ceilings before ever entering the rooms of your house.
Most homes with oil heat and hot water have 100 or 125 amp service. To install a central ducted heat pump system with electric backup may be difficult with that low of service, but it all depends the other electrical items you have in your home. If an upgrade is required it can often be more worth while converting off oil all together. This conversion generally involves the mixture of an electric thermal storage unit, convection baseboard heaters and a ductless heat pump rather than a central ducted system.
To know for sure if a full conversion is right for you we’d need to visit your home for an assessment.
Style of Your Home
If you live in a bungalow then you’re in luck. With only two levels it’s possible to install a ductless heat pump on the main level and then manually turn on the furnace when you’re in the basement. However if you’re in a split entry, two storey or almost any other form of home you are going to run into what we call zoning issues.
A central forced air system generally has one thermostat on the main level. It’s this temperature that controls the entire house. Installing a ductless mini split heat pump on the main level would keep it very warm and comfortable. However the furnace would not come on to heat the upstairs or downstairs as the heat pump would be “tricking” it into thinking the entire home was warm.
In cases like this the only alternative is to install a ducted system to replace your furnace or convert entirely off oil to electric.
As you can see there are a several variables that can make one option more appealing than another. If you’re serious about converting your forced air furnace to a heat pump then I urge you to call us today or submit the form on the right of this page to arrange an in-home assessment. From there we can review your home, electric service and present you with options.
One key point is that when upgrading Nova Scotia Power will finance the entire upgrade pending it is done by a pre-approved installer, which Sunshine Renewable Energy is. Contact us to learn more today.