There are many ways to heat your Nashua, NH home, and some are far more economical and efficient than others. If you’re on deck for a heater replacement, it’s important to learn the benefits and drawbacks of each equipment type. Although some options come with lower installation costs and smaller carbon footprints, the costs of running them can prove astronomical over time. Read on to find out how they all stack up to one another.
Key Things to Remember as You Shop for a Whole-House Heating Solution
Finding the most economical heating solution for your budget might seem as simple as comparing different heater types and their annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings. However, before you get to the costs of using a new heater, you must consider the costs of installing it. Transitioning from an oil-powered or gas-powered appliance to an electric one isn’t a simple, “plug-and-play” effort. From having furnace storage areas refined and electrical systems upgraded to capping off gas lines or removing heating oil tanks, there’s lots of additional spending to consider. This is truer in homes that aren’t already set up for central heating. If you don’t currently have HVAC ducting in your home, you will pay a small fortune to have it installed.
Connected to HVAC ducting, central heat pumps offer both heating and cooling. Like air conditioners, they have indoor air handlers and outdoor condenser/compressor units. In summer, heat pumps draw in warm, indoor air and pass it over their cooling coils. The refrigerant within these coils extracts the heat before it gets funneled back inside. This highly efficient heat transfer process works in reverse during winter as heat pumps source heat from the outside air and route it indoors.
If you’re currently relying on an oil-powered furnace, a heat pump will spare you the costs and hassle of both regular and emergency fuel deliveries. In ideal conditions, many of the latest heat pump models can transfer three to four times as much heat energy as they consume in electrical energy. As such, central heat pumps can have efficiency rates as high as 300% to 400%.
According to the International Energy Agency, heat pumps are also three to five times more efficient than gas-powered boilers. Comparatively, they don’t produce harmful greenhouse emissions and they don’t pose the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure or poisoning. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a heat pump can help you lower your home energy bill by as much as $500 annually when used in the right conditions and when used year-round.
Gas-Powered, Oil-Powered, and Electric Furnaces
All furnaces sold throughout North America receive AFUE ratings. These ratings determine how efficiently furnaces convert fuel into usable heat energy. For instance, a furnace with an AFUE rating of 83% converts 83% of the fuel that it uses into heat. The other 17% is lost in exhaust gases that exit the home via the furnace venting system. All furnaces sold and installed throughout the U.S. must have AFUE ratings of 80% or higher.
Low-efficiency furnaces or furnaces with continuous pilot lights have ratings that fall between 56% and 70%. While no longer available for sale, these options were once the norm in many homes, and some households still have them installed. If you haven’t replaced your furnace in almost two decades, its original efficiency rating may be as low as 80% to 83%. These slightly more modern options have electric ignition switches and blower fans to control airflow, but they lack many of the efficiency-related innovations that have been made in recent years.
Currently, mid-efficiency furnaces that use combustion to produce heat have AFUE ratings between 90% and 93%, and high-efficiency models have AFUE ratings between 94% and 98.5%. However, if you opt for an electric model, your furnace will convert all the electricity that it uses into heat energy for an AFUE rating of 100%.
High-efficiency oil-powered and gas-powered furnaces have two heat exchangers. After exhaust gases leave their primary heat exchangers where approximately 85% of their heat energy is extracted, they enter secondary heat exchangers where an additional 10% to 13% is harnessed. High-efficiency furnaces also have tightly sealed combustion chambers for reduced drafts and heat loss, along with other structural upgrades that enhance both their safety and efficiency. While these furnaces certainly cost a lot more than entry-level models, they can pay for themselves over the course of their service lives in cumulative energy savings.
Natural gas furnaces cost more upfront than oil-powered heaters, and their expected lifespans are just 10 to 15 years. However, they’re easily the most convenient and economical of the two. If natural gas is readily available in your area, you can schedule an oil-to-gas conversion and pay for your heating fuel as you use it. To compare, oil-powered furnaces cost less than gas-powered models and can last up to 30 years, but according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average annual cost of heating with natural gas is $732 while the average annual cost for homeowners that use heating oil is just over $2,500.
The life expectancy of electric furnaces is comparable to that of oil-powered models. Many of these appliances last two to three decades. Electric furnaces are also cheaper to install than other options. However, depending on electricity rates, they’re usually a lot more costly to use.
AFUE Ratings and Fuel Sources
Unfortunately, many homeowners in New Hampshire are discovering the hard way that efficient and economical don’t always go hand in hand. For instance, although electric furnaces always have AFUE ratings of 100%, the costs of using them tend to be much higher than the cost of using a gas-powered appliance. Throughout much of the United States, electricity rates are significantly higher than the rates for natural gas.
If efficiency is more important than economy in your household, AFUE ratings make it easy to find options that produce little to no energy waste. With efficiency ratings as high as 98.5%, even fuel-burning appliances take an extremely limited toll on the natural environment. However, when your ultimate goal is cutting costs, it’s best to make side-by side comparisons of electricity, natural gas, and heating oil prices in the region. Often, natural gas is the clear winner when it comes to what is most economical.
Explore Your Options in Radiant Heating
Radiant heating is always a worthwhile option to explore whether you’re interested in cutting the operational costs of your heating system or want to release fewer greenhouse emissions. If you currently have a boiler in your home, having it replaced with a newer and more efficient model shouldn’t come at an excessive cost. Electric boilers boast efficiency ratings as high as 99%. Energy Star-rated oil-powered boilers have efficiency ratings of 87% or higher. Gas-powered boilers with this same distinction have efficiency ratings of at least 90%.
These hydronic heating systems produce clean, even heat. Given that this heat isn’t traveling through long, complex channels of debris-ridden ducting, boilers also promote cleaner indoor air and high IAQs. More importantly, unlike forced-air heating systems, boilers don’t lose up to 40% of the heat energy they produce due to leaky, uninsulated, or inefficient air distribution systems.
Residents of Nashua, NH can count on us for superior workmanship and top-quality heating and cooling products. We offer furnace, boiler, and air conditioner maintenance, replacement, and repair services. We also provide ductless HVAC systems, oil-to-gas conversions, water heaters, and cutting-edge IAQ solutions. For help finding the most economical heating system for your home, get in touch with Joyce Cooling & Heating Inc. today!