How Much Heating Efficiency Do You Really Need?

Posted on: 5 January 2023


Heating efficiency seems like a straightforward concept, at least at first glance. After all, shouldn't more efficient heating equipment save you money? While the general answer to that question is "yes," there are some notable exceptions. In fact, efficiency can be a bit of a thorny concept, with several potential misunderstandings that may lead to disappointment or poor purchasing decisions.

If you're in the market for new heating equipment for your home, there's no question that efficiency should be one of your primary concerns. However, understanding how much efficiency you need and when it makes sense to purchase more efficient equipment can take a little more time.

What's Meant By Efficiency?

In a strict sense, the efficiency of your heating equipment refers to the conversion ratio between energy and heat. A highly efficient heating system will convert more input energy into heat, while a less efficient system will waste more of that same energy. Unfortunately, this definition is where the simplicity ends, and things become a little more complex.

For gas or oil furnaces, it's easy to make an apples-to-apples efficiency comparison. The AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratio tells you precisely how much fuel the furnace will convert into heat. For example, a 95% efficient furnace will take 95% of the natural gas you give it and turn that directly into heat for your home.

Where things get dicey is when you begin to compare other heat sources. Electric furnaces are particularly misleading since they technically always have an AFUE of 100%. Of course, that high efficiency doesn't mean that they're cheaper. If electricity costs more than natural gas in your area, that high efficiency can still cost you a lot of money.

How Can You Decide What You Need?

There's no correct answer for every household, but it's important to take a holistic picture when looking at the efficiency of a new heating unit. Before you rush out and buy the highest efficiency furnace you can find, you should instead look at the price of various fuels in your area. You can even use a home heating calculator to make a more precise estimate.

It's also important to consider the upfront cost of the unit. Higher-efficiency heaters typically cost more, so you'll need to earn back that initial investment with fuel savings. By spending some time doing a little math, you may be able to find a "sweet spot" for a unit that will save you money on your monthly heating bills without breaking the bank upfront.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is look at the whole picture when considering the efficiency of your new heating equipment. If in doubt, an experienced heating contractor can help you make these calculations so that you can make a detailed and thorough comparison between the different options available for your home.

For more information, reach out to a heating contractor near you.