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Home Heating Options

Heat pumps, boilers and furnaces are all home heating options. Which is right for your home? First, consider where you live. Is the year-round climate mild or cold? Heat pumps are usually sufficient in milder climates. However colder climates require units that can produce more heat. Something else to consider is energy-efficiency. Home heating consumes a lot of energy; oftentimes accounting for 35 to 50% of annual energy costs. Even gas furnaces need energy. Besides costing more, energy inefficiency damages the environment by releasing harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Finally, know the size of the area to be heated. Heating systems in many homes are too large resulting in energy inefficiency.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is ideal for year-round heating and cooling in mild climates. When it’s warm outside, they cool. When it’s cold outside, they provide heat by reversing the cycle. Heat pumps move heat rather than generate it so they’re more efficient than electrical furnaces. It’s also why heat pumps aren’t good options in colder climates. Besides SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), heat pumps have an HSPF or Heating System Performance Factor. The heat pump you choose should have a SEER of at least 14.9 and an HSPF around 9.0. Be mindful of compatibility. When using a heat pump, there’s an indoor system and an outdoor condensing unit. Make sure both are compatible operationally and in terms of SEER and HSPF.


Natural gas-fired, forced-air heating systems are common in American homes. Unfortunately, older models are very inefficient, using only about 50% of the fuel burned. In an effort to end waste and curb greenhouse gasses, new federal guidelines took effect in 1992. Now units must convert into heat 78% or more of the fuel used. To check a furnace’s fuel utilization and seasonal performance, look at the unit’s Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. Today, models range from 78% to 96%. Units with ratings higher than 90% are the most energy-efficient because they recapture wasted heat by condensing water vapor that escapes. If you live in a cold climate, consider an AFUE rating of 90% or more. To save even more money, choose a unit with a variable speed fan.


Gas and oil-fired boilers are an ideal, energy-efficient home heating option. They’re quieter than forced air systems and don’t have draft issues. They too have an AFUE and like furnaces, a higher AFUE means more energy efficiency. The AFUE on older units ranges between 55% and 65%. Newer models begin at 80%. An AFUE of 85% or higher is ideal.Condensing models are ideal in extremely cold climates. Boiler controls help reduce heat loss and are usually integrated in the system or purchased separately. Boilers can also work indirectly as water heaters. If you’re still confused, contact a reputable heating contractor to help determine the ideal heating configuration for your home.

Hybrid Heat

Hybrid heat systems combine a heat pump with a gas furnace, giving you even more options for heating and energy use.

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