The largest portion of the utility bill for a typical home originates from your heating and or cooling system. Having said that, maybe it’s about time to replace your old furnace or air conditioning unit with a more cost-effective one? How do you know what to look for in a heating or cooling system? In this article we focus on giving you information on how to choose the right heating system.
To select an efficient heating system, you must first determine which fuels are available to you and your area. Most new homes heat with natural gas but electricity, and oil are also popular alternatives. Air-to-air heat pumps provide cooling as well as heating and are the second most common heating systems in general. Gas-fueled forced-air heating is the most common type in the United States.
It is then important to know your own local fuel rates when comparing your heating system options. Look at your current utility bills or contact your current or prospective fuel provider for this information.
Furnaces can be single-stage, two-stage, or modulating. They cycle on and off depending on where you set the thermostat. So the temperature in the house is always vacillating between high and low points.
- Single-stage is like a stove where the knobs only have one setting: high. Since a single-stage furnace can only be on or off, the result is greater peaks and valleys in temperature, and more inefficiency.
- Two-stage has two settings, high and low. They’re better than single stage because they have a low-burning setting that keeps the heat from dropping too far below your desired point. And they’re more efficient because they keep the air temperature from varying as much as a single stage.
- A modulating furnace is more like your real stove; it can adjust the flame to any point between off and high. It constantly adjusts its flame to try to keep the air temperature constant. In theory, this results in greater comfort and better efficiency. In practice, however, modulating furnaces are pretty new and unproven. Every contractor I talked to seemed hesitant about them, simply because the technology and parts are still new.
Remember however that there is not one right heating system that can be universally recommended to fit all homes. Each home has different circumstances that must be considered.