Energy Efficient Heating Systems

Fast Facts

  • Heating and cooling ("space conditioning") account for 50 to70% of the energy used in the average American home.
  • Older forced-air and hot water boiler heating systems hadefficiencies in the range of 56% to 70%.
  • Modern heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as97%, converting nearly all the fuel to useful heat for the home.
  • Upgrading your furnace or boiler from 56% to 90% efficiency inan average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxideemissions each year if you heat with gas, or 2.5 tons if you heatwith oil.
  • Old coal burners that were switched over to oil or gas areprime candidates for replacement, as well as gas furnaces withpilot lights rather than electronic ignitions.
  • By turning back your thermostat 10-15 degrees for 8 hours atnight, you can save about 5-15% a year on heating costs essentially a savings of about 1 % per degree if the setbackperiod is 8 hours long.
  • Fireplaces should not be thought of as a heating device.Although fireplaces will heat the immediately surrounding area,they will also draw cold air in through the rest of your house anddraw much of the heat in your house up the chimney.

What can I do to save energy in my home?

  • Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable, setting back thetemperature at night if possible. Keep the temperature fairlyconstant, as frequent changes will use more energy.
  • Install an automatic, programmable thermostat to adjust thetemperature setting automatically for you.
  • While setting back thermostats at night reduces energyconsumption in oil or gas furnaces, it is not recommended for heatpumps with a two-stage thermostat.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters once a month or as needed.
  • Oil-fired boilers should be professionally cleaned and tunedonce a year. Gas-fired equipment needs to be checked every otheryear.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators asneeded. Make sure furniture, carpeting, or drapes do not blockthem.
  • Keep draperies and shades on south-facing windows open duringthe heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home; closethem at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Use zone heating: close the door to an unoccupied room or areathat is isolated from the rest of the house and turn down thethermostat or turn off the heat for that room or area. Ask yourlocal heating and cooling contractor about retrofitting your hometo zone heating and cooling.
  • Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans wisely. Turnthese fans off as soon as they are no longer needed. In about 1hour, these fans can pull out a house-full of warmed or cooledair.
  • Check your ducts for air leaks. First look for sections thatshould be joined but have separated and then look for obviousholes. Consult with a professional about repairing duct leaks.Safe duct repairs require a licensed heating, ventilating, andair-conditioning contractor.
  • If your furnace or boiler is old, worn out, inefficient, orsignificantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace itwith a modern high-efficiency model.
  • When shopping for high-efficiency furnaces and boilers, lookfor dependability, and look for the ENERGY STAR label.
  • Before buying your new furnace or boiler, first make everyeffort to improve the energy efficiency of your home, then have aheating contractor run a heat-loss calculation to size your newfurnace.
  • When buying gas and oil systems, specify sealed combustion.Sealed-combustion furnaces bring outside air directly into theburner and exhaust flue gases directly to the outside, without theneed for a draft hood or damper. They generally burn moreefficiently and pose no risk of introducing dangerous combustiongases into your house.
  • In areas where wood is readily available, wood-burning stovesare a possible alternative or supplement to furnaces.
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