As the temperature plummets, home utility costs usually take off in the opposite direction. This is primarily due to the high costs of home heating. So, is this a necessary evil, to be endured every year, or is there another way?
There is indeed another way! In fact, high-efficiency furnaces are now the norm, which is good news, because high efficiency = lower costs. Plus, high efficiency often = better for the environment.
If your furnace is reaching the end of its life (gas furnaces typically need replacing after 15 – 20 years), or if you’re looking to upgrade now, you will be happy to learn that heating systems have made great technological strides over the past decade.
It’s best not to wait until your furnace gasps its final breath during a deep freeze, forcing you into panic mode. So, get informed, and be proactive!
High Efficiency Furnaces
So how to begin, what are the new features, and what are their advantages?
First of all, you should know that one size does not fit all and not all furnaces are created equal. You need to choose a system that’s the right size, with the right motor. Also, check for Energy Star® certification and a high AFUE (annual fuel utilization) rating. Energy Star® rated furnaces can use up to six per cent less energy than older models.
High-efficiency furnaces provide up to 97 per cent efficiency. Compare this to older models, which averaged around 65 per cent. Wasted fuel means wasted money. So, although a new, high-efficiency furnace may cost more than a less efficient model, remember that your high efficiency furnace will save you fuel and utility costs over time.
You may want to upgrade your entire HVAC system at this time. Humidifiers and air filtration systems can also be changed at the same time. Also, know that replacing a furnace is not a DIY project! Find an experienced, licensed contractor to help you to choose the right furnace and install it correctly.
A new gas furnace can actually help you save on electricity costs. This is because they utilize electric motors, and the new high-efficiency motors can decrease your energy and maintenance costs over time.
Opt for an ECM (electronically commuted motor), which starts your furnace up gradually and allows it to run continuously at a lower output. Older motors turn on and off abruptly, which wears out your furnace sooner.
You may be familiar with programmable thermostats, which you set using a timer method. But the new, smart thermostats live up to their name: they learn your habits and adjust automatically.
You can also connect them to a mobile app, so you can control them remotely via your phone. In addition, they can provide zone heating, allowing you to heat different zones of your home as required.
Electronic ignition replaces the need for the older pilot lights, which require your furnace to be continuously using fuel.
This alternative high-efficiency method foregoes the need for fossil fuels altogether. Instead of using energy to create heat, heat pumps move heat from one place to another, using a refrigerant and a system of coils.
Despite their name, their pump cycle can be reversed in the summer to also provide air conditioning for your home. There are two types of heat pumps: air-source and ground-source (or geo-thermal).
Although initial installation may appear costly, reduced utility bills will offset the price of installation over time. You may save 30 to 50 per cent compared to a system that uses fossil fuels. Add this to longevity (some of the newer systems can last up to 30 years), and you are racking up even more savings.
So, instead of keeping your old fuel guzzler on life support, incurring increased repair and maintenance fees year after year, you might want to make the leap now to a high efficiency furnace.