PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – U.S. energy experts say home heating costs are going up this year – by double digits for those using natural gas and heating oil.

Many homeowners who want to stay toasty without breaking the bank invest in hybrid furnaces or dual-fuel heat systems. Could this be your best option?

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We all like to keep warm during winter, but we don’t like seeing those high heating bills month after month. A hybrid furnace – one that uses an electric heat pump in conjunction with a gas furnace – costs a little more than a standard HVAC system, but will pay for itself over time by operating more efficiently and lowering those monthly bills.

“If electricity prices are high in your area, then you might want to heat your house with a gas furnace. The same thing applies if gas prices are high in your area and you have low electrical rates, a hybrid system is probably going to be ideal for you,” heating and cooling professional Ryan Robertson said.

The system is designed to use the heat pump until temperatures fall enough to have the furnace kick in. It’s great for moderate climates, but not if it stays below freezing for months on end.

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“A hybrid system or a heat pump are actually best in climates that don’t have extreme weather, so if you’re in an area with extreme hot and cold, you really want to stick with a traditional HVAC system,” Angie Hicks, Angie’s List founder, said.

If you are thinking of going to a dual-fuel system, you may be able to do it in pieces – just adding the heat pump to a furnace that’s still in good shape.

“You can attach simply a heat pump to a gas furnace, although we do recommend at least taking a look at that gas furnace and seeing if the most efficient furnace that you might have is going to be compatible with the heat pump, but most times they are,” Robertson said.

Hicks said to expect a hybrid system to cost about 10 to 15 percent more than a conventional system, but a federal tax rebate is still available through the end of the year. Most systems carry a 10-year warranty, but can easily last twice that long if properly maintained.

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