The Chronicle Herald (Provincial)
Choose most energy-efficient heating system for your home
Winter will soon be here, with colder temperatures, snow and ice.
To make your home winter ready: be sure your house is adequately insulated, that drafts are addressed and invest in a programmable thermostat. These improvements can help you save money on your energy bill and reduce environmental emissions.
But what if it’s time to upgrade your heating and cooling system? What choices do you have, and which one is right for you? Of course, it depends on several factors like location, resources available, size of the home and budget. So what are the most energy-efficient heating options for homeowners today?
Forced air furnaces work by heating air and circulating it through your home via a duct system and are typically heated by natural gas or propane. If your furnace is 10 to 15 years old, it may not be performing at optimal efficiency, especially if regular maintenance and annual servicing have been neglected.
If you’re looking to buy a new furnace, there are several factors to consider depending on your location. Most urban centres will have natural gas lines, while rural areas will likely have propane, which is more cost-effective than oil or electricity. A gas furnace will range in price between $4,000 and $7,500 and you should choose one with high performance, energy efficiency and ENERGY STAR ratings.
The AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) for furnaces in Canada ranges from 92 to 98 per cent — the higher the percentage, the more energy-efficient the furnace. Many new furnaces, mainly ENERGY STAR models, operate at 95 per cent AFUE and above, which means you use less energy, save money and have less impact on the environment.
HEAT PUMPS AND MINI-SPLIT HEAT PUMPS
Heat pumps use refrigeration and electricity to provide heating and cooling to a home. Heat pumps collect and redistribute existing heat from the air (air-source heat pumps), or the earth (geothermal systems). They move heat rather than generate heat, making them incredibly energy efficient.
According to the Canada Energy Regulator heat pump system, cost savings can be as high as 60 per cent compared to electric baseboard heating, and total energy use can be 50 per cent lower than a natural gas furnace. If you live in an area where electricity is affordable, consider a heat pump.
Heat pumps range from $5,000 to $16,000 including installation and tend to be noisy. However, newer models with extra insulation are much quieter (some are as low as 20 DBA). Look for ENERGY STAR models and SEER ratings of 20.5 or higher. For regions with frigid temperatures, you may require a backup heat source, depending on the size of your system. There are specific dual-fuel systems that include a heat pump and furnace to optimize your energy use based on the time of year.
Heat pumps can also dehumidify the air in your home better than standard central air conditioners. When the heat pump is in cooling mode, it will remove moisture from the air.
Mini-splits work great with boiler or electric baseboard heating systems and warmer climates where ductwork is uncommon. Ductless minisplits are practical options for cottages, condos, in-law suites and smaller homes. They are also a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible.
Boilers are heat exchangers using water or steam, powered by gas, propane, wood or oil.
The hot water then moves through a pipe system to warm your home via radiant piping or radiators in each room.
Heat-only condensing boilers, equipped with a secondary heat exchanger, trap and recycle moisture in the exhaust gases, making them more efficient, reducing heat loss and keeping your home at the perfect temperature for less money.
You want a boiler that can also produce high volumes of endless hot water for your kitchen and bath needs, one that’s efficient and reliable. Condensing combi boilers are an excellent option for homeowners looking to replace an older combi boiler or wanting to replace an aging boiler and water heater with one unit.
Look for boilers with AFUE ratings of 95 per cent or more and extra insulation to ensure quiet operation. Some boilers can be powered by renewable energy, like solar. You also want them to have excellent efficiency ratings, low nitrogen oxide emissions and be ENERGY STAR certified. The average cost of a new boiler is approximately $4,000 to $8,000-plus including installation.
No matter what heating system you choose for your home, make sure you consider your location, size of the home and budget.
More importantly, consult with a licensed HVAC professional and look into the government grants and rebates offered in your area, as that will help you determine the right system for your home.