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Choosing an Energy Efficient Heating System
The heating system uses 60% of the total energy used in a typical Canadian household. That means it’s responsible for 60% of your utility bill. So it is worthwhile for you to get the most energy efficient heating system you can afford.
When you research “most efficient heating system”, you will find that a heat pump is the most efficient. However, they are not recommended for Alberta’s cold winters. They would never keep up on a frigid day in Edmonton. So for the purpose of this post, we define the most efficient heating system for your home as the system that reduces your energy use in the most cost-effective and realistic way. As a result, we will focus on how to choose an energy-efficient forced air gas furnace.
The energy efficiency of a gas furnace is rated by its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The AFUE measures how much fuel the furnace converts into usable heat and is expressed as a percentage. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the furnace. The best gas furnaces have AFUE heating efficiency ratings of 95% to 98%. This is an important number to consider when looking at your furnace options.
Canada has a couple programs to help you identify the most energy efficient furnace.
EnerGuide is the Government of Canada’s energy performance rating and labeling program for key consumer items. This black and white label is voluntary for furnaces and includes four pieces of information (sometimes five) about the furnace:
The model’s AFUE rating.
An energy consumption indicator. Shows where this model stands compared with the least and most efficient models in the same class.
The label uses a pointer to show where this furnace’s energy efficiency falls on a scale compared to similar models.
Type and capacity of models that make up this class.
The model number.
If it is ENERGY STAR certified, the ENERGY STAR logo will appear at the bottom of the label.
The label doesn’t include information on the furnace’s electric energy consumption to run fans and controls.
Sometimes you will also find a yellow and black EnergyGuide label. This is the American equivalent of Canada’s EnerGuide label. Canada and the U.S. use similar methods to determine energy efficiency, but the numbers on the scale could be different because of the differences in the type and number of models available in each country.
You should look for an ENERGY STAR certified furnace. All ENERGY STAR certified products are tested to meet strict efficiency specifications and are certified by an independent third party. They perform the same as or better than standard products without compromising performance in any way.
ENERGY STAR certified forced air gas furnaces use on average 6% less energy than standard models. And ENERGY STAR certified forced air oil furnaces use on average 9% less energy than standard models. A key feature of ENERGY STAR certified furnaces is high-efficiency blower motors or fans that modify their speed to meet the air distribution needs rather than cycle on and off constantly.
ENERGY STAR has one more designation, its Most Efficient designation. It identifies the most energy efficient ENERGY STAR certified products. They are the cream of the crop. Products with this designation:
have superior energy efficiency performance;
save even more money and are more energy efficient than regular ENERGY STAR models; and
save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Your furnace is just one piece of your heating system, although the major one. To have a truly efficient heating system, you will also need to ensure your ducts, filters, and vents are in good working order. If any of these aren’t working optimally, they will lower your system’s efficiency. A programmable or smart thermostat is also a great addition to a high efficiency heating system. And don’t forget your furnace must be properly sized for your needs. If it is too big or too small, it will lower your energy efficiency.
Selecting the correct furnace is a big decision and there is a lot of information out there. Using information provided by the EnerGuide label and the ENERGY STAR program will streamline your decision making. Helping you choose the most energy efficient furnace you can afford while keeping you warm and your wallet happy.