It invariably happens that your old furnace takes its last dying breath on the coldest day of the year. If you’re lucky enough to have known that your furnace was on its last legs you will have been able to do some research ahead of time. If you haven’t, well, maybe we here at HomeStars can help get you started.
There are many different options available to heat your home. The three most common are oil, natural gas and electric. Outside urban areas propane, wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, and geothermal systems are also common, however, this article focuses on the first three.
Forced air Gas and oil furnaces:
In a forced air furnace, cool air is brought into the furnace, heated using either gas or oil, and forced out through ducts into rooms throughout the house.
Efficiency of gas furnaces has increased tremendously over the year and it is now possible to purchase an Energy Star approved gas furnace with an “AFUE” rating of between 90 and 97%. AFUE is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency of the unit. A higher number means less waste during the conversion process from gas to heat. A gas furnace with a 97% AFUE rating converts 97% of the natural gas into heat for your home with only a three percent waste.
An Energy Star oil furnace must have an AFUE rating of 85% or more.
Gas and oil boilers. In many older homes water is heated in a boiler and circulated through a system of pipes to heat the radiators throughout the house. An Energy Star boiler must have an AFUE rating of 85% or more.
Sizing a furnace for your home is a specialized task and only a heating and cooling professional can do it properly. He or she will take into account not just the size of your home, but also the ventilation, insulation, and other factors. When you are ready to buy a new furnace check out reviews in the heating and cooling category for contractors near you.
Electric baseboard heaters. While these are the least expensive heating method to install they have the highest operating costs. As I wrote about in an earlier post, another option is infrared heaters which consume less electricity than electric baseboard heaters and can be plugged into any wall outlet.
Cost: Buying a new heating system is an investment. The Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada has a calculator that will assist you in deciding which is the right furnace for you. Bear in mind that the calculator should only be used as a guide and only a heating contractor or other professional can give you an accurate estimate.
Rebates: There are rebates available through Canadian federal and provincial governments, with the stipulation that an energy audit be performed by an accredited company before any changes are made and the necessary documentation is provided.
Cathy Rust is a Toronto-based LEED Accredited Professional. She writes a weekly column featuring new products from countertops to flooring, energy efficiency and green building products and services. See http://blog.homestars.com for more articles.
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