The cold winter months are almost here. Did you know that heating costs account for about 45 percent of the amount of money spent on energy in an average American home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy? With this much money being spent to heat American homes, it makes good economic sense to choose the most efficient heating system you can afford.
If you are thinking of installing a new heating system, now is the time to act. Installing a new system in the fall season will prevent you from dealing with a heating system that is performing poorly and not operating efficiently, which translates into higher heating bills for you to pay. You can take comfort knowing that a new system should take you through the winter without breaking down. Also, an energy efficient heating system is good for the environment.
Which energy efficient heating system works better for you? To help you make the decision, you should understand how they differ and which ones are the most energy efficient.
Factors that Affect the Energy Efficiency of a Heating System
Before deciding on a system, have an HVAC contractor evaluate the thermal characteristics of your home. What works well in one location may not be the best for another. Here are the factors the contractor will consider in making a recommendation:
Some regions have a more severe winter than others. If you live in an area with long cold winters your system will need to produce enough heat to keep your house comfortable for many cold days.
This term refers to how tightly your home is sealed to prevent the loss of warm inside air and the infiltration of cold outdoor air. You can improve your home’s seal by sealing gaps, holes, cracks, and other openings where warm air can leak out and cold air can get in.
Improve your home’s energy efficiency by sealing air leaks, installing new windows with low-E glass, and installing insulated window treatments.
The Best Energy Efficient Choices
When it comes to saving energy, the most common ways homeowners increase their energy efficiency and spend less on their energy bills are to use natural gas furnaces, regular heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, electric furnaces, and forced air furnaces. All work in different ways to create an energy efficient household with an effective HVAC system. These systems are highlighted below:
Natural gas furnaces are probably the most common type of heating system installed in American households, but the gas lines must be available. Gas is provided by a local utility company that runs a supply pipeline to your home and ensures all hookups are made correctly. Natural gas is a plentiful natural resource and costs are relatively low. A unit with an AFUE of 90 or higher is the most efficient.
A heat pump does not generate heat; instead, it moves heat from one place to another. This technology is the same used in refrigeration and air conditioners. A heat pump is actually a system that can be used to either heat or cool a home. The equipment needed for this type of system typically consists of two parts: an indoor unit called an air handler and a heat pump, which is an outdoor unit similar to a central air conditioner. A compressor circulates refrigerant that absorbs and releases heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor units.
It is strange to think that even in air that is too cold, heat energy is present. When it is cold outside a heat pump extracts this outside heat and transfers it inside. When it is warm outside, it reverses directions and acts like an air conditioner, removing heat from your home. In effect, a heat pump is a mechanism for moving air.
A heat pump is energy efficient because it moves heat instead of generating it. It is powered by electricity, so you do not use fuel. The pump provides more uniform heating for the home than other types of heating systems.
If you live in a climate where weather temperatures dip below freezing in winter, you likely will need a supplemental heating source. Heat pumps are best for moderate climates, though they have been used in cold climates like Canada and other parts of the world for many years.
Geothermal Heat Pump
Geothermal heat pumps capture heat and move it from place to place. They do not burn any fossil fuels but instead rely on electricity to power the heat transfer process. A geothermal system uses a standard heat pump inside your home. Heat is moved via an antifreeze solution, or sometimes plain water, circulating from the indoor heat pump into a series of pipes that are buried in the ground where temperatures stay around 50 to 60 degrees all year long. Geothermal heat pumps are extremely efficient and can be used in almost any climate.
Electric furnaces use electricity to power internal heating elements that generate heat for your home. They are considered high-efficiency heating sources. If electricity costs are high, however, the increased costs can offset any gains in heating efficiency.
Forced Air Furnace
Forced air heating is one of the most common types of home heating in the United States. It is a heating system that carries heated air throughout your house. The heat is generated by whatever type of furnace you have in your home – gas, propane, oil, heat pump, or another heating source. Once the furnace heats the air, a fan or a blower pushes the air through the ductwork in your house and out through vents into different rooms. As the warm air is pushed into each room, colder air is forced out through a second set of ducts, called the cold air return system. The colder air is pushed back to the furnace where it is then heated and pushed throughout the house again. The air will circulate this way until the temperature in the house reaches the temperature you set on your thermostat.
In the summer months, you can operate the blower as a fan in the summer during cooler days without using the air conditioner itself, which can also help you save money. Forced air heating systems are highly dependable and energy efficient.
Contact an Experienced HVAC Contractor to Discuss Your Options
Be sure you work with a qualified HVAC contractor, and schedule a free estimate to evaluate your needs and determine which heating system is most efficient for your home.