Energy efficiency is a hot topic in today’s world, and why shouldn’t it be? The more efficient a system is, the more you save on your energy bills. It’s easier than ever before to find something more efficient than a system you had 10 or 15 years ago, whether you’re upgrading a microwave, a dishwasher, or—as we’re here to discuss today—your heater.
Yes, heaters are far more efficient than decades ago, and the standards just keep going up. Here’s what you should know about the state of heating efficiency today: what to look for, what to avoid, and how to keep your heating system efficient.
The AFUE is a great indication of efficiency
You should always look for a heater with an ENERGY STAR seal, first and foremost, when installing a new system. Then, look to the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). This should be a number from 79-100—the closer to 100, the better! An AFUE of 90 means the furnace wastes only about 10% of the energy it takes in (through the flue or by other means). Look for an AFUE higher than this!
Electric heaters may require a different standard
Keep in mind, though, that the cost of electricity is quite high these days. Electric furnaces use a lot of electricity, so the cost to use them can skyrocket quickly. Even with an AFUE rating close to 100, you should remember that an electric furnace may cost quite a bit more to run. If you don’t have access to natural gas, we often recommend a heat pump instead.
Sizing is just as important as AFUE
The fuel efficiency of your heating system means nothing if it is not the right size for your home. This doesn’t mean you should go with the biggest size you can find—it means there is only one size that’s right! Whether too big or too small, an improperly sized furnace can malfunction and become overworked or overheated and use way too much energy. Work with technicians to find your right fit.
Proper installation is key
A huge percentage of the problems we see with heating systems, especially those that are only a couple of years old, have to do with the quality of the installation. Too many heating systems are installed by people who try to make a quick buck by doing a sloppy job, so make sure you choose qualified technicians instead.
It won’t stay efficient forever
Your heating system cannot remain efficient on its own. This requires upkeep on the part of the homeowner, in the form of regular maintenance and filter changes. Once annual professional maintenance ensures that your system is running smoothly and safely. We recommend scheduling this in the spring.
In addition, changing the filter keeps air flowing smoothly. You’d be surprised just how much damage a clogged filter can do, blocking airflow and forcing a heater to become overworked. Change the filter every 1-3 months!