Smart Cloud-Based Fuel Switching Controller

February 8, 2022 - Hybrid heating systems, also known as “dual-fuel" systems, use a heat pump and gas furnace in conjunction together. This system allows either the heat pump (avoiding the coldest days) or furnace to run when it is most economical. It also supports homeowners to hedge their bets on future natural gas and electricity costs, as the hybrid system can perform using either fuel.

Hybrid heating systems are traditionally controlled by setting a “balance point" temperature where the heat pump capacity is insufficient to satisfy the home heating load. To provide thermal comfort at this point, all-electric heat pumps would turn on (expensive) electric-resistance heating; however, the hybrid heating system triggers its furnace. A thermostat can implement this kind of simple control but typically is not changed after the initial system setup. This simplified control also doesn't consider valuable parameters such as Time-of-Use (TOU) rates or the efficiencies of heat sources.

BKR Energy, based in Toronto, recognized the opportunity to develop smart controls for hybrid HVAC systems to minimize both cost and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This technology can also respond to Demand Side Management (DSM) events for shedding electrical loads. BKR Energy cloud-based SFSC controller looks at current local electricity and natural gas prices, heat sources' efficiencies as well as outdoor temperature rates to make hourly decisions on whether to run the heat pump or the furnace. The system is implemented via a smart wifi-connected thermostat, cloud service, and a phone dashboard app.

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