Heating your home in the winter and cooling it in the summer is an important feature of any home, and the right system can have a significant impact on your monthly bill. Luckily, we’re equipped with so many options that the right one for your home is out there; it just takes some detective work to figure out which one that is. Even before this step, consider some other factors that will have an effect on
your heat bill; if your home is older, it may be that new insulation may be required. You’ll also want to check seals around doors and windows in any home to ensure that they are still in good working order. Replace anything that looks as if it has seen better days. It pays to take a look around for cracks or holes as well; these will not only let in unwelcome critters, but will allow heat to seep outside.

Your contractor should be able to calculate what’s known as a “heating load calculation”. This takes into account all of the factors that will affect how much heat your home will need to keep it comfortable year round; the square footage, air tightness, insulation levels, and even window orientation. Having this calculation will give you a great idea of what size your furnace should be and avoid the risk of buying too little or too big a unit. Another good thing to grasp is a heater’s AFUE. This stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, and it measures how efficient your heater turns fuel into heat.

Types of heaters

Furnaces come in three different fuel types; gas, propane or oil. Each has its pros and cons, partly depending on where in the country you’re located.

A minimum efficiency furnace has an AFUE rating hovering around 78 or 80%. This furnace will do moststandard sized homes justice in a mild climate.

A mid-efficiency furnace will give an AFUE rating of about 83% for gas and propane, while oil is a little higher at about 87%. The heat exchangers are more efficient and the furnace provides more control over venting. They also typically include what’s known as a high static burner, giving you more heat for the fuel used.

A high-efficiency furnace can enjoy AFUE ratings in the 90 percentiles. They usually include two heat exchangers which help to reclaim lost heat and offer a very efficient option for larger homes or for those living in cold climates.

Boilers are also rated on an AFUE basis, and any boiler that was made after 1992 has to meet an AFUE rating of at least 80% to be approved. If you’re thinking of purchasing a boiler, you’ll want to investigate its ability to supply indirect water heating, check to see that it meets low electrical requirements and that it presents efficient controls.

With an operating cost comparable to that of a gas furnace, an electric heat pump can be yet another viable option for your home. For heat pumps, the rating that is important to note is the HSPF. In order to meet minimum standards, an HSPF rating must be 7.6, and if you’re looking for a high-efficiency model, look for a rating closer to 9.