Posted on: Nov 10, 2015
Heating systems vary according to fuel and efficiency. Getting maximum heating performance and optimal energy conservation means matching the right system to the unique requirements of your local climate and individual home. Generally speaking, heating systems have the longest expected service life of any HVAC component in your household—gas-fired furnaces typically last 15 to 20 years. So, whatever choice you make, you’ll be living with the ramifications for some time, assuming you keep the house.
Here are some heating system guidelines to help you make the best choice for the long-term as well as the here and now:
In parts of the country where natural gas is plentiful—such as here in Oklahoma—gas-fired heating predominates over other fuels. Gas is inexpensive and a wide selection of gas furnaces are available at competitive prices. Even though electric furnaces are technically more efficient for maximizing fuel consumption, the substantially lower monthly cost of natural gas fuel makes it the most economical choice.
Furnace efficiency is expressed by its AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, displayed on the yellow EnergyGuide sticker affixed to every new unit. AFUE represents the percentage of consumed fuel that generates useful heat versus the amount lost in the combustion process. A higher AFUE rating signifies a more efficient furnace and generally lower operating costs.
The federal minimum standard AFUE is currently 80 percent. High-efficiency furnaces that recover spare heat from combustion gases offer AFUE ratings above 90 percent. However, the advanced technology behind high efficiency also comes at an increased upfront purchase cost. While lower operating expenses eventually compensate for the steeper sticker price of AFUE 90 units, your HVAC contractor can evaluate your home and local climate to estimate the likely time frame before payoff occurs and help you make the best choice.
When replacing the furnace, consider upgrading the system blower, too. Older, single-speed blowers use excessive electricity and cycle on/off frequently, producing noticeable temperature swings in the house. A variable-speed blower incorporates advanced ECM technology that runs continuously across a range of output to ensure more consistent heating and eliminate on/off temperature swings. New variable-speed blowers also consume only about one-third the electricity as an old-school conventional blower.