Energy Efficient Rehab AdvisorHomeAboutHUD Logo

Selecting a New Energy Efficient Heating System

When replacing your heating system, there are several options depending on the type of heating fuel available. When shopping for the right unit for your home, heating efficiencies may be compared according to their AFUE, annual fuel utilization efficiency. The AFUE is a ratio expressing the heat output compared to the energy consumed by the furnace or boiler. A higher AFUE translates into a more efficient appliance.

Points to Consider

When choosing your new heating system consider:

  • What is the home's heating load?
  • What is the condition of the existing duct system or piping?
  • Are the proper insulation levels installed? Has thorough air sealing been conducted?

Installing a system that is oversized (has more capacity than needed) will waste energy. Conduct thorough air sealing and install the proper levels of insulation first. This will reduce the heating load and most likely allow you to downsize your heating system.

  • You may want to have a professional assess your home and its heating needs and recommend the type and size of system you should purchase. Contact the Air Conditioning Contractors of America for a listing of members in your area.

You can find the most up to date information on the types of heating units available in your area as well as any incentives that may come with them through your State energy office or ENERGY STAR.

Gas or Oil

If your heating fuel is gas or oil, opt for a sealed combustion unit, rather than one that releases the gases right into your home. Sealed combustion appliances are vented to the outside so the fumes from fuel burning are delivered to the outside without entering your home and the unit takes fresh air straight from the outdoors as a supply for the combustion process. This eliminates the risk of dangerous combustion gases entering your home and causing health problems.

  • Two of the most important factors to keep in mind are size and efficiency.

Types of Gas or Oil Systems

Forced air systems are the typical heating system in today's American homes, the main components being the furnace, ducting to transport the heated air and supply and return grills.

Hot water systems use boiler heated water which gets circulated through radiators, baseboard heaters, radiant floors or fan forced coils. Steam systems are less efficient than forced air or hot water because they require hotter temperatures to produce the steam. They do not require any pumps or forced circulation as the steam moves itself through pipes. It is essential to use good fiberglass insulation around the piping to avoid delivering heat to unfinished areas of the house. A professional HVAC technician can assist you in your decision on what type and sized system is best for your situation.

Gas or oil space heaters should always be vented to the outdoors. Using unvented propane, kerosene or oil space heaters can be very dangerous and is not recommended.

Electric Heating

You can simplify your system by using an electric heat pump. An electric heat pump can serve both heating and cooling needs. This system is best suited for houses in climates of moderate heating and cooling needs.

In the cold season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your home and heat from your home to the outdoors in the warm season. Heat pumps use electricity to move heat rather than create heat, providing an energy efficient alternative to furnaces and boilers.

  • Electric Air Source heat pumps transfer heat between the air outdoors and the air within your home. ENERGY STAR qualified models have a 12 SEER cooling efficiency and a 7.0 HSPF for heating.
  • A more efficient form of heat pump is the ground source heat pump, which transfers heat between your home and the ground rather than your home and the outdoor air. To learn more about choosing the appropriate heat pump for your home, see the Department of Energy's Building Technologies site.

Post Purchase

After you have purchased your new heating system, you should keep all warranty information, receipts, safety and operation directions, and the contact information of the manufacturer in a central location. Read about maintenance tips.

 Heating System Installation
 Heating System Maintenance
 Cooling System Selection
 Duct Sealing and Insulation
 Water Heater Main
 ENERGY STAR: Furnaces
 Right-Size Heating and Cooling Equipment: DOE Technology Fact Sheet
 DOE's Appliances and Commercial Equipment Standards
 Air Conditioning Contractors of America
 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

Content updated July 27, 2004

Contact Us | PATH | Privacy Policy