How to Choose a New Heating System: 5 Key Questions to Answer


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If you live in a region that gets cold enough that your home has a heating system, that system will eventually need to be replaced. Even homes with woodstoves often still have a furnace, boiler, or heat pump for really cold weather or when you’re away from home for a while during winter. And while today’s newest furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps are more efficient and reliable than ever, the large variety of options out there can make it challenging to choose wisely.

Want to simplify this challenge? The following answers to five key questions will help you make the wisest possible decision. For even more detailed technical information on choosing a new residential heating system, read through a free copy of The Ultimate Furnace Guide.

When Should I Replace My Heating System?

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Sometimes heating systems break in big and permanent ways. The need for replacement is obvious in cases like thee. Other times, the old system keeps working, so replacement is something you need to decide to make happen. The main thing to understand is that newer heating systems are often so much more efficient than older ones that it’s actually a waste of money to keep an old furnace or boiler going — even though it still works fine for now. Depending on the state of insulation in your home, how old your furnace is, and how cold it gets where you live, a modern heating system can save more than $1,000 per year compared with what you have now. As you shop, look for figures on total heating efficiency for the various models you’re considering. Overall efficiency ratings of 95 percent and higher are now possible with the best equipment.

What Energy Source Makes the Most Sense?

Furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps are all made to use specific forms of energy. Natural gas, propane, oil, coal, and electricity are the most common types of energy input for heating systems. In most places right now, a dollar’s worth of natural gas delivers a lot more heat than a dollar’s worth of electricity. Propane and oil deliver roughly the same amount of heat per dollar (depending on market prices), but oil poses a greater environmental hazard in the event of a leak. Wood pellets offer one of the most economical sources of heat energy in regions where pellets are manufactured. (Learn more about pellet stove installation.)

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