maintenance engineer checking technical data of heating system

How to Choose a Heating System

With the brisk cold fronts on their way to sweeping across the country this winter, people are thinking more about adequate, cost-effective heating. Whether you need to replace an old, noisy home heating system or you want to upgrade to a more efficient form of energy, there are several factors that can help you decide how to stay warm and toasty.

Climate

The first thing to consider when shopping for a new heating system is the climate where you live. Those living in a moderate climate with a mild winter will have different needs than someone who shovels several feet of snow every January. Second, it’s a good time to look at the insulation of your home. Improving the energy efficiency of your home by caulking windows and inspecting insulation and ductwork will further define your heating usage and needs. In addition to a new heating system, you may also want to upgrade to a programmable thermostat that will help conserve energy. Finally, determine what type of energy source you want to use. Not all options may be available in your area, such as natural gas, so that will help you narrow the choices between energy sources.

Types of Heating Systems

Forced-Air Systems – The most popular type of furnace heating systems today are forced-air systems, which heat air and then “force” it through ducts into vented rooms. In the US, a number of these are fueled by natural gas, but there are other options including electric, oil, and propane. Electric systems themselves may be less expensive than others, but they consume a lot of energy, which winds up being costly. When looking at any type of furnace, it is imperative to check the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, which represents how efficient the system is in converting the energy in its fuel to heat. High-efficiency systems will also have the Yellow Energy Star sticker on them.

Heat Pump – Another popular option is a heat pump heating system. The most common heat pump is an electric air source system, which actually offers heating and air conditioning in one unit. Simply put, it pulls heat from the outside and pushes it inside to warm the home; conversely, it pulls heat from the inside and pushes it outside to cool it. They are most efficient when it is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, which makes them more ideal for moderate climates. A heat pump system’s efficiency is indicated by the heating season performance factor (HPSF) for heating and the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for cooling. Highly efficient models will also carry the Energy Star logo.

Geothermal – An incredibly efficient geothermal heating system might be an option for those concerned about the environment. These ground-source heat pumps take advantage of the temperature of the earth rather than air to heat a home, which makes it more accurate and efficient. A geothermal system uses a ground loop system, which is buried many feet beneath the surface of the ground, so installation is complex and costly. However, the benefits outweigh the costs over time because they are so efficient, require less maintenance, have an exceptionally longer equipment life, and eliminate noise. If you don’t want to fully commit to a geothermal heating system, a dual-source unit is an option that combines an air-source system and a ground-source system in one heat pump. Those units cost less to install, but still offer excellent efficiency.

Making the Decision

After you have done your research and are ready to purchase a new system and have it installed, the next step is to consult an HVAC professional. For instance, when purchasing a new furnace, it is very important to get an appropriately sized system for your home, because a system that is too large will not be efficient. An HVAC professional can help determine that for you and answer any other questions you might have about choosing a system.

References

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/air-source-heat-pumps

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/furnaces-and-boilers

http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating

http://www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/resources/heating/select/index.shtml

http://www.oregon.gov/energy/cons/pages/res/tax/heat-cool.aspx

http://www.scgh.com/go-green/heating-ventilation-air-conditioning-hvac/efficient-heating-systems/

http://www.homeenergy.org/show/article/year/1996/magazine/96/id/1197

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