What types of fuels or sources of heat are available to your home or building
Before spending too much time researching heating systems, you must determine which fuels or external heat sources are available to your home or building. This will provide the initial list of choices you have.Â For example, if gas is not readily available, gas/electric dual fuel heat pumps are off the list.Â Further, if surrounded by solid rock close to the earthâ€™s surface, then you are much less likely to consider geothermal heating.
Your climate: number of days with high temperatures below freezing
If your location has many days of sub-freezing high temperatures, this will likely cause an all electric heat pump to be in auxiliary heat mode more than you would want. If the source of that auxiliary heat is strip heating (electricity) there may be better alternatives.
Type of construction of your home or building: basement, attic space and existing heating infrastructure
If your home or building has existing piping or ductwork already in a floor, basement or attic and it is in good condition, you will need to factor this in your decision.
We recently were told an account of a homeowner in Montana who had piping for radiant heating in their concrete slab.Â The piping sprung a leak and, assuming it was all bad, the owner got bids to bypass the old piping and a new system.Â A quick excavation revealed a nick in the old piping system that dated back to its installation, not degradation.Â So, uncovering the cause saved an unnecessary expense.
If you are considering the re-use of existing ductwork, be sure that your price quotes or bids address the condition of the existing ducts.Â Include interior condition as well as sealing against air leaks.
Forced air systems vs. radiant heat: personal comfort and preferences
Do you prefer warm or hot air blowing into your rooms fromÂ a forced air system or gradual warming through radiant heat?Â Within the blowing warm air category, if there is an all electric heat pump involved, the air that comes out of the vents into your rooms will not likely be as warm as the air from a gas furnace. If you are cold natured or have respiratory issues or allergies, these factors could also affect your decision.
Length of time you plan to own your home or building, if known
If you know you will be there many years, this could affect the type of system you select. Reason: a future owner might not place the same value on your type of new system as you do.Â With fuel costs mostly going up,Â a higher efficiency system is still recommended, though.
Training, experience and integrity of installation companies you are considering
As written elsewhere on our website, the quality of the installation of your furnace or heating system will likely prove to be a bigger variable to your indoor comfort and satisfaction than the brand of equipmentÂ you select.Â Go here to read a quick list of tips on how to select a heating and furnace contractor.
Four parts to the cost of ownership of the life of a system
Over the life of your new furnace or central heating system, there are four types of costs to consider. You can read our blog post in May 2008 to learn more details about these.
- Initial cost of installed equipment
- Energy efficiency: cost of fuel or energy to operate the system over the life of the system
- Maintenance cost over the life of the system
- Life span and replacement cost at end of life of system
We hope these tips will help you stay warm and enjoy lower energy usage and bills!Â Please post your experiences.