I am happy to introduce Andrew Lake as a guest author of a series of articles about high efficiency heating and air conditioning. Andrew Lake is a licensed heating and air conditioning technician with Shell Busey’s HouseSmart Heating and Air Conditioning in Vancouver, Canada. Andrew has been working with several leading brands of HVAC equipment since their high efficiency models started being available for home use. Here is Andrew’s first installment.
An introduction to energy-saving heating systems
Natural gas prices have more than tripled over the past ten years. Heating oil prices are skyrocketing as I write this post. This has most homeowners wanting to know how to save money on heating costs. New high efficiency heating systems can cut heating costs by up to 70%. With the high prices of these systems, it is important to research whether the savings will justify the cost.
Get closer to 100% efficiency with new high-efficiency furnaces and boilers
Natural gas furnaces made before 1995 are usually only 60-70% efficient. This means that 30-40% of the energy is wasted and is never used to heat your home. New high-efficiency gas models are 90-95% efficient. These models should use 25-40% less gas than most models that are over 15 years old.
Oil is becoming the most expensive way to heat your home. It is also the most environmentally harmful. Unfortunately, most major manufacturers do not make oil furnaces that are more than 85% efficient. This has many homeowners converting from oil to natural gas (where available) or to electric heat pumps (read on).
Owners of hot water heating systems will also have a harder time saving energy than owners of gas furnaces, as new high efficiency boilers are usually only about 85% efficient. 90%+ efficient modulating boilers are available, but they are very expensive, and are only popular with the wealthy.
For the average homeowner, the additional cost of a high-efficiency unit will be worth it when replacing a failed unit. It will not be a good investment to replace a well functioning system. Replacing a well functioning furnace or boiler will usually only be a good investment for homeowners with larger homes or higher heating costs for some other reason.
Go beyond 100% efficiency with a heat pump
A heat pump is like an air conditioner that can work backwards. It can pump heat into the house in the winter just like it pumps it out in the summer. An air source heat pump operates at about 300% efficiency, meaning that it moves in 3 watts of heat for every watt of electricity it consumes.
An air source heat pump can save some homeowners more than 50% on heating. However, some homes will not be able to save as much with an air source heat pump. These are homes in areas with 1) high electricity rates or 2) very cold and snowy winters where the heat pump has a harder time moving in heat.
Homeowners in areas with cold and snowy winters should look into a geothermal heat pump instead. A geothermal unit will remove heat from the ground where the temperature is much warmer during the winter. It absorbs this heat through a network of hundreds or even thousands of feet of pipe buried under your lawn.
A geothermal unit can cut almost any homes energy consumption dramatically. Unfortunately, these units are priced in the same range as automobiles, so it may still take over 20 years to earn back the initial investment.
The next article in this series will be an in depth look at High Efficiency Natural Gas Furnaces followed by a couple of articles on heat Pumps.
Click here for a free money saving report written by the Energy Boomer titled HOW SAVE MONEY ON YOUR NEXT HEATING BILL