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Configuring a Heating System In Your New Home

A heating installation in your new home is about more than just staying warm on those chilly Knoxville nights. It's also about energy efficiency. Fortunately, today’s heaters rate high on both comfort and efficiency. Here are some facts to help you make an informed decision.

Types of Heating Installations

Furnaces: Furnaces convert gas, oil, electricity, or propane into heat. The ductwork that's installed behind the walls delivers warm air to individual rooms through vents or registers. If you like it hot, a furnace installation is the way to go.

Air source heat pumps: Rather than burning fuel, heat pumps remove warmth from outdoor air and use it to heat your home. Like furnaces, they distribute warm air through ductwork. A heat pump will keep you warm in winter, but it won't give you powerhouse heat like a furnace. On the upside, it comes with air conditioning.

Heat pumps are significantly more efficient than furnaces. They work well in regions like Knoxville where temperatures are usually above 32°F. When temperatures dip below freezing, the amount of heat in outdoor air decreases. On very cold days, a heat pump may not be able to keep your home as warm as you'd like.

Ductless mini-splits: Ductless systems are heat pumps that don't require ductwork. Via tubing, an outdoor unit sends heated air directly to indoor units positioned throughout the house. Ductless systems are incredibly efficient.

One reason is that heated air can't escape through leaky ducts. Mini-splits are easily installed in a couple of days with minimal disruption. Like traditional heat pumps, they also provide air conditioning. The only disadvantage is their higher upfront cost.

Ground source heat pumps: These heating systems are by far the most efficient. They work like air source heat pumps and will cool your home as well as heat it. However, instead of extracting heat from the air, they extract heat from the ground where warmth is consistent. Ground source systems can keep you warm no matter how cold it gets, but like ductless systems, they have a higher upfront cost.

Steam radiant heating systems: Boilers powered by fuel or electricity heat water and send it via piping to radiators in each room. Although boilers are more efficient than furnaces, they cost more. Boilers are also forever. They require little maintenance, and once you've installed one, you can't switch to a furnace without tearing your walls apart and installing ductwork. Also, they don't come with AC.

Radiant heating systems: These systems are also powered by boilers. However, they don't use radiators. Instead, boiled water is distributed throughout your home via tubes installed under the floor. Heat radiates upward through the floor and warms the rooms.

Energy Efficiency

How much energy will it take to keep your home comfortable when the weather turns cold? Monthly energy costs depend largely on the type of heater you install. However, there are steps you can take to get more bang for your energy dollar.

AFUE: This stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. If you install a furnace with an AFUE of 85, it will convert 85 percent of the fuel it uses to heat. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the heater.

Smart thermostats: These devices can save up to 10 percent on annual heating bills. They can be programmed to automatically reduce heating output when the house is empty or while you're asleep, and they generate energy reports to help you save more. Learning thermostats maintain your preferred temperature settings by observing your behavior with the thermostat.

Inverter technology: Variable speed heaters have long, slow running times. Instead of running at full blast, they maintain a consistent indoor temperature with incremental adjustments to output. They use only enough energy to maintain the desired temperature. Properly installed, these systems can shave up to 50 percent from your heating bills.

Home zoning: This feature lets you send heat only to the rooms you're using. Depending on the size of your home, zoning can save up to 30 percent on heating costs. Zoning can be combined with a central heating system or a heat pump, whereas ductless mini-splits are zoned systems by nature.

The Importance of Proper HVAC Sizing

An improperly sized system will negate all the benefits of a high-efficiency heater. At The Plumbing Authority, we perform a full Manual J load calculation to accurately assess system size.

A system that's too big will gobble energy and fail miserably on comfort. A system that’s too small will also gobble energy, but it won’t have enough horsepower to keep your home warm.

High-efficiency heaters can’t perform properly if they're incorrectly sized. The only way to fix an improperly sized system is with heater replacement.

The most efficient heaters have a higher upfront cost. However, your monthly savings on energy bills can cover installation costs within a few years.

The Plumbing Authority is a family-owned and multi-generational Knoxville company. We offer a variety of homeowner-friendly financing plans to cover the cost of a heating installation. Visit us online or call us directly at (865) 238-2280 to learn more.