There should be no such thing as impulse buying when it comes to heating systems. After all, a heating system represents a major investment on your part, and the comfort of your family depends on several factors that must be carefully weighed before a purchase decision. Space heating is also one of the highest energy expenses in buildings, and a heating system with optimal features and capacity achieves the lowest operating cost.
If you live in areas where subzero temperatures are normal during the winter, a furnace would be perfect, as it generates heat through a standard combustion process.
A heat pump, on the other hand, is just right for those who live in regions with generally mild winters. It warms a building by transferring heat indoors from the outside - its operation is similar to that of an air conditioner, but heat is moved in the opposite direction.
While many heat pump models are not ideal for places with frigid winters, a furnace remains a viable option for those who reside in places where temperatures don’t drop to near or below zero in the winter. Some modern heat pumps are rated for temperatures below zero, but a professional opinion is strongly recommended before the final purchase.
Talk to a trusted HVAC contractor to discuss the fuel or energy options for your new heating system.
- The most common fuels are natural gas, fuel oil, and propane.
- You can also go for electrically-powered furnaces and heat pumps.
Convenience, availability, and cost are the factors you need to weigh before choosing any fuel or energy source, and by extension your heating system. For example, electric heating systems can have a very high running cost in places with expensive electricity.
The rated capacity of your heating system should correspond with your space heating demands. If you buy a heating unit that’s too big for your home, you end up generating more heat than required, which is incredibly inefficient. A heating system that’s too small isn’t going to do you any favors either, as it will have to work harder to heat up your place, and this leads to higher energy use and utility bills.
An HVAC professional can help you find the right-sized heating system for your home. A simple load calculation ought to do the trick, considering the following factors:
- Size and thermal characteristics of your house
- Number of people living in it
- Insulation levels
- Personal preferences
Normally, your HVAC professional will follow the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual J when performing the load calculation.
If you want to keep your heating bills manageable, then it’s important that you buy an efficient heating system.
- The U.S. Department of Energy has set the AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating as the national standard for measuring the combustion efficiency of furnaces.
- For heat pumps, efficiency is described by the HSPF or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor.
- Choose heating systems with higher AFUE or HSPF ratings as they are more efficient.
Keep in mind that the AFUE and HSPF cannot be compared with each other, since they describe efficiency scales that are completely different. You can compare the performance of combustion and electric heating based on operating costs - an HVAC professional can estimate the running cost of each option based on efficiency ratings and local energy prices.
Total Cost of Heating Systems
You must consider not just the sales price of a heating system, but also the installation cost and the expenses you can expect in the long term for operation and maintenance. For example, heat pumps are more expensive than resistance heaters, but they normally achieve electricity savings of 50% or more.
As sturdy as modern heating systems have become, they still have maintenance needs during their service life. Before buying a heating system, you should double check if the manufacturer of the brand you’re considering has certified one or more HVAC repair companies in your area. It’s the best way to ensure that your heating system will have optimal maintenance in case it breaks down.
Always keep these factors in mind when you’re looking for a heating system that will keep you and your family comfortable in the winter. Let them serve as a guide to make sure that the system you’re buying is worth every dollar spent.
About The Author
Michelle West is the Senior Content Editor of Precision Air and Heating, an HVAC repair company in sunny Arizona. Michelle enjoys writing about topics that help people all over the country make their homes more efficient and environmentally-friendly.