Have a wide variety of maintenance requirements. Some, like forced air systems, require ductwork throughout the home and need regular cleaning to maintain efficiency.
Regarding behavioral assumptions, the effectiveness of policies to decarbonize heating depends on households’ willingness to replace existing equipment with low-carbon technologies. Our model projects that this will only happen once expected savings exceed upfront costs by a large margin.
Boilers transfer heat from a fuel source (natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity) to water. That water circulates through a network of pipes to radiators or radiant floor systems that provide warmth in your home. Boilers can also be used to make hot water to power steam engines or to generate electricity.
A boiler system typically includes a tank to hold cold water and a cylinder for hot water. It can be installed in a garage, basement, or closet. A circulating pump sends the hot water from the boiler through a loop of pipes running throughout your house, heating each room. The pump can also be paired with a thermostat to control each room’s heating.
When choosing a new boiler, look for an Energy Star label indicating the system is highly efficient. A higher AFUE rating translates to lower energy bills.
It is important to have a professional inspect your boiler before the start of the heating season. This lets you catch any minor problems preventing your system from working properly.
While modern boilers are safe and efficient, keeping your system clean and free of any fire hazards is essential. This means ensuring paper, plastics, flammable liquids, clothing, wood, chemicals, and children are kept away from the boiler or in a separate boiler room.
Furnace Compare has compiled consumer reviews and lists the best residential boilers. You can find them in the resources section of this article. In addition, you can check out the top-rated gas and oil boilers on the market today from brands such as American Standard and Bosch.
Furnaces are a common method for heating homes. They warm the air with natural gas, oil, or electricity. They circulate that warm air throughout the house through ducts in the walls and floors. These systems typically cost less to purchase and install than a heat pump or mini-split system, but they usually run at lower efficiency levels.
The most common furnaces use natural gas piped from the local utility company. Their burners ignite a hot combustion gas that raises the temperature of the surrounding air, which fans send through the ducts. They can also be powered by propane, oil, or a combination of these. They are popular in cold climates, where temperatures often dip below freezing.
Most furnaces are rated for energy efficiency with an AFUE rating. However, that number only tells you how much of the furnace’s fuel is heat for your home. Other factors can have a significant effect on your comfort and utility costs.
A good furnace design is important to long-term efficiency. For example, oversized furnaces cycling on and off can wear down components faster and waste energy by overworking the unit. Similarly, poor insulation can allow cool air to leak into the system, which increases your energy bills.
Residential furnaces should be regularly cleaned to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) from infiltrating the air supply. This colorless and odorless gas is produced when furnaces combust fuel, such as natural gas, oil, or propane. If untreated, it can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and nausea that progresses to mental confusion, unconsciousness, and death. Installing a CO detector can help protect your family’s health.
Heat pumps extract energy from the air, water, or ground outside your home and concentrate it inside. These systems save a lot of energy and carbon emissions compared to conventional furnaces, but they are less efficient in cold climates. Some heat pumps use a simple electric heating strip in the indoor fan coil to help deal with extremely cold weather. Others are available as ductless mini-split units (sometimes called “ductless air conditioning”). Neither system requires a central air duct, but they need an electrical outlet and may not be appropriate for older homes with limited electrical service.
CR’s member surveys indicate the median price paid for installing a ducted heat pump is $7,791, though it varies by brand. A ductless mini-split can cost up to $14,500 to install.
In cooling mode, a heat pump operates like an air conditioner, but in heating mode, it reverses the refrigerant flow through an aptly named reversing valve. That allows the outdoor coil to take on the role of an evaporator and the indoor coil to assume the role of a condenser.
The reversing valve also allows the heat pump to operate close to its full capacity for the specific outdoor temperature, reducing on/off cycling and compressor wear and improving efficiency. Many heat pumps, including all ENERGY STAR-qualified models, offer two-speed compressors to improve energy efficiency and comfort.
Unlike furnaces that burn fossil fuels, heat pumps are powered by electricity, which has a lower carbon footprint than most other heating sources, especially from renewable resources such as rooftop solar or a cleaner grid. However, you should be aware that even a highly efficient heat pump still uses some fossil fuel to generate the electricity it needs to operate.
A ductless system, or a ductless heat pump, is an energy-efficient alternative to a furnace or air conditioner. It uses electric cooling by using refrigerant to draw heat out of a room and issue it outdoors. In the winter, a reversing valve allows it to pull heat from outdoor air and distribute it indoors.
Because they don’t rely on ducts, they eliminate the energy losses associated with ducts that can account for as much as 30% of energy consumption. They’re more flexible, too. Their indoor units can be mounted into a drop ceiling, hung from the top or on a wall, and their compressors are located outside, where they’re relatively quiet.
Their small size makes them ideal for homes without ductwork or for rooms that don’t get enough heating or cooling from the main home system, such as garages, sunrooms, basements, additions, attics, and guest rooms. A mini-split system can have up to four indoor air-handling units (for zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. Because each zone has a thermostat, it’s easy to condition occupied areas.
The upfront cost of a ductless system can be high, and they’re often more expensive to install than central systems or window systems with similar capacity. Also, they require routine maintenance, like washing each unit’s air filter monthly to prevent build-up that can shorten its lifespan. Our team can help determine if a ductless system is the best option for your home’s heating needs. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!
The electricity used for heating a home can come from any source, including renewables. Choosing a renewable source’s a good idea, as this will reduce the house’s carbon footprint and help meet climate goals. The carbon intensity of space and water heating in homes has declined by about one-third since 2000 due to more stringent building energy codes, a shift from fossil fuel boilers to heat pumps, and a switch to natural gas. Despite these improvements, most new homes still combust fossil fuels for heating. This makes it important to move to electric heating as soon as we have renewable-only sources of electricity to avoid locking in high fossil fuel use.
This is especially true when considering adding a new room to the house. Extending the existing heating system into the new addition may not be practical or economical, so an electrical resistance system is an excellent alternative. This can be a centralized forced-air electric furnace or a group of individual heaters such as electric baseboards, wall heaters, or electric radiant heat.
Different residential heating systems’ levelized cost of ownership (LCOH) can vary greatly, depending on the initial energy production used to produce the electricity and the transmission losses associated with delivering it to homes. It’s also worth noting that the LCOH of electricity-based systems will depend on where you live, as varying fuel prices can alter energy costs. For this reason, it’s critical to look at energy data for your region to see how the cost of residential heating changes over time. Energy use data for residential heating is collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and is adjusted for cooling-degree days in the summer and heating-degree days in the winter.