Canadian Hydronic Furnaces Compatible with Heat Pumps, Boilers, Tankless Water Heaters, Geothermal Systems, & More!

Upgrading to a modern, high-tech heat pump system but want the added security of having a supplemental or back-up heating source for those cold days? Switching to a boiler heating system but want to retain the comforts of a central forced air heating system? No matter your reason for considering a hydronic furnace or AHU, BPH Sales has you covered!

What is a Hydronic Furnace or Hydronic Air Handler?

A hydronic furnace is a forced air heating system that heats or cools the air by passing it over a coil with water flowing through the coil. A hydronic furnace works in the same way as your central air conditioning or heat pump system works, except that instead of circulating a refrigerant (such as R410A, R22, or R32)  through the coil, water is circulated.

Hydronic furnaces are also commonly (but not necessarily correctly) referred to as Water Furnaces, Boiler Furnaces, (Electric) Hot Water Furnaces, Water Heater Furnaces, Heat Pump Water Furnaces, Geothermal Water Furnaces, or an Electric Boiler Furnace.

Why are hydronic furnaces also referred to as Air Handling Units (AHU) or Air Handlers?

Hydronic furnaces can serve multiple functions, which is why they are often also called Air Handlers or AHUs. Hydronic furnaces, as with most other types of furnaces, can be used as an Air Handling Unit paired with a central heat pump system to provide a hybrid heating solution.

In this scenario, the furnace would primarily function as an AHU, and only when the heat pump cannot keep up (such as in cold weather) or loses power, the furnace will start heating. With a hydronic furnace, this heating is provided by hot water being cycled through the furnace coil(s) while air is passed over the coil, transferring heat energy from the hot water to the cooler air. The heated air is then circulated by a furnace blower (fan) throughout your homes duct system.

What are the possible hot water sources for a hydronic furnace?

The options are nearly limitless – if you can heat the water (or cool it for AC purposes, but let’s stay focused on heating), you can use it. Of course, things like salinity, dissolved solids, and pH levels of the water can drastically impact the long term operation of any hydronics system, but for simplicity, if you can supply hot water, the furnace can use it to heat your home.

The most common types of hot water sources for a hydronic furnace include:

  • Electric or Gas Tankless Water Heaters
  • Electric or Gas Water Heater Tanks
  • Gas Boilers
  • Electric Boilers
  • Geothermal Hot Water
  • Solar Hot Water

When should I consider a hydronic furnace?

There are two common scenarios we most commonly see:

  1. A homeowner wants to retain the comfort that comes with a central forced air heating system and doesn’t want to have a gas furnace installed. An example here is to use a combi-boiler system to provide both home heating and DHW, removing the need for additional, often expensive appliances. Another new scenario we are seeing is upgrading to a hot water heat pump for DHW and central home heating.
  2. We typically recommend that for any homeowner in Canada wishing to upgrade to a central heat pump system, they do not buy a dedicated AHU but instead change to what the industry terms a hybrid heating solution.

A heat pump hybrid heating solution will use the heat pump for heating and cooling the home in moderate weather conditions with the added security of a back-up or supplemental heating source for those cold winter days.

The most typical, and simple, solution here is to use a forced air furnace as the AHU and back-up heat source. Hydronic furnaces are a quite common option.

What sizes of hydronic furnaces or AHUs are available?

Our current lineup of iFlow air handlers are available in 3 different sizes:

  • 14 kW (~62,700 BTU/hr)
  • 16 kW (~77,000 BTU/hr)
  • 18 kW (~94,600 BTU/hr)

Where are hydronic furnaces available?

Hydronic furnaces are available across Canada!

Can I use a hydronic furnace for heating and cooling my home?

Yes! Just make sure you have a suitable system for providing cool water to cool with. Alternatively, you can also install an evaporator coil in your ducting (as is the case for most central AC systems).