Buying a heating system is harder than you think. Furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps are practically the same, and yet each one is not exactly an alternative to another. The same thing goes with wood and pellet stoves, fireplaces, and portable and direct vent wall heaters.
Apart from the wide range of space heating systems, there is likewise a broad variety of brands and models on the market, which further complicates decision-making.
Before you seek for HVAC installation service in Knoxville, St. Paul, Chicago, or any major city, it pays to know the key considerations to remember when comparing products to have an idea about what suits your lifestyle and heating needs.
Below are the factors you should keep in mind:
1. Energy Efficiency
Getting new heating equipment is an opportunity to boost your home’s energy efficiency. If you have an old heater that still works, it gets the job done but wastes a significant amount of fuel.
For instance, a low-efficiency boiler may only convert 57% of the fuel it burns into thermal energy. It means that 44% goes down the drain. In comparison, the most energy-efficient model today, although it’s not entirely green, wastes 10% of fuel at worst and 1.5% at best.
The easiest way to spot a high-efficiency furnace or boiler is to look for the ENERGY STAR logo. This seal of approval means that the product bearing the label meets the energy efficiency requirements set by the government.
Choose a heating unit that runs on a fuel widely available in your area. The logic behind it is to buy its supply at the least possible price and to avoid running out of fuel to keep your house comfortable, especially during the coldest months.
Except for active solar heater, all central heating units have models that run on electricity. Heat pumps can be powered by geothermal energy, which is clean since it originates from the ground. Furnaces and boilers can run on natural gas, heating oil, or propane, but the latter of which may also be compatible with biodiesel blends.
In HVAC, size matters. When the unit is too small, it may hardly move the needle in space heating. But when it is too big, it may still underperform and even break down more quickly.
There is a specific computation that determines the optimal heating unit size relative to the space it serves. You can measure the square footage of your house or room, but leave the task to a qualified HVAC professional to factor the other variables into the equation and to come up with a more accurate estimation.
Any heating equipment needs regular upkeep to stay in good shape, but point-of-use heaters may entail trickier maintenance than central systems. Safety is a major concern when it comes to wood or pellet stoves, portable heaters, and fireplaces, as they are more likely to pollute the indoor space with hazardous carbon monoxide.
5. Distribution System
Central heating units do not always share the same distribution systems. Furnaces and heat pumps are both forced-air units, so they use ducts to send heated air throughout the house. Traditional boilers use radiators, but newer versions use hot water (hydronic heat) to warm the air in living spaces, so they require either radiant heating panels or hot water baseboards.
Heater shopping can give you a headache, but it becomes so much easier if you approach it with the right perspective.