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For many people, space heating is the biggest component of their home energy bills. If you select the wrong heating system for your climate or home’s design, you may pay more to heat the house than necessary or be unable to get it to a comfortable, stable temperature in the winter. Here are a few tips on how to pick the right heating system for your home.
How Cold It Gets
For mild climates like the Pacific Northwest, you may not need more than a space heater to warm up your bedroom on the few winter nights where it is cold enough to need any heat. In areas with hot summers but mild winters, a heat pump capable of heating your home in the winter and cooling it off in the summer may be sufficient. If there are occasional freezing nights, a heat pump with an auxiliary electric heater will be good enough. If your area sees several feet of snow in the winter, then you’ll need a dedicated, high-capacity heating system.
The Size of Your Home
Proper sizing is critical to the resident’s comfort. If the heating system is too small, you won’t be able to stay warm though it runs continuously. If the heating system is over-sized, you’ll stay warm, but you’ll have paid more than you had to for the system. In fact, an oversized system may be less efficient than a properly sized one, since the heating system hits peak efficiency after it runs for a while, and an oversized one tends to meet demand rather quickly. HVAC engineers can run a “heating load calculation” that takes the size of your home, insulation levels and climate into effect to determine what size heating system is right for your home.
The Efficiency of the Heating System
New home heating systems have efficiencies somewhere between 78% and 96% AFUE. The basic models of many heating systems have 75-80% AFUE, a step up from the 60%-70% efficiency of older furnaces. Old boilers have AFUE ratings of 55% to 65%, while newer ones have efficiencies over 80%.
As the efficiency of the design increases, so does the cost. This is typically due to the second heat exchangers they have to reclaim some of the heat, more precise control of combustion, and better regulation of air flow.
The efficiency of the new systems will depend in part on the design and in part on who installs it. Only work with HVAC engineers who are familiar with condensing boilers to install a new, high efficiency system. Little deviations in how exhausts are placed, the locations of pipes and the installation process can hurt their overall efficiency.
However, when you live in a very cold climate, the extra cost of professional installation of a high-efficiency system is more than recouped after several years of use due to the lower energy costs you pay while keeping your home warm. You may be able to see a return on the investment when heating a very large home in a mild climate, as well. You may be able to save money too if you install a system that replaces both the old boiler and your hot water heater.
Whether selecting the HVAC system for a new home, replacing a broken furnace or upgrading to a more energy-efficient heating system, you need to take the correct factors into account so that you’re truly comfortable with your choice. Understand everything that goes into the decision so that you make the right one.