Reducing your Winter Heating Costs Part 2 – Furnaces

Replacing your old furnace does require a capital outlay, but new, energy efficient furnaces will pay themselves off and have you saving money in no time! Winter heating costs can add thousands of dollars to your utilities bill every year. There are a number of ways to reduce these costs and still keep you and yours cosy this winter.

Condensing Gas Furnace

Efficiency in furnaces refers to the amount of energy that is lost when it is converted from one form to another, such as the embodied energy in natural gas, to heat energy output in your home. Condensing gas furnaces are the most energy efficient choice when it comes to residential heating. With an amazing energy efficiency of 90 to 97%, these babies sure beat the hell out of your struggling, noisy, old furnace from the 1980’s which weighs in with an unimpressive efficiency of around 60%. That makes condensing gas furnaces 10% more efficient than other energy efficient models and a massive 30% more efficient than those ancient denizens of Ontario basements. If you are the not-so-proud owner of an old furnace, you could be saving as much as $300 a year by switching to a condensing gas furnace. Not to mention the favourable impact you will be making to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

If you do want to switch to a more efficient furnace, you don’t need to replace your entire HVAC system; you can install it in the same place as your old one, using the same ductwork.

Most modern furnaces come with an efficiency rating called the EnerGuide rating. This will tell you how efficient the furnace is. If the furnace sports an Energy Star symbol, you can rest assured that it is 90% efficient or higher.

If you need to replace your furnace, why wait? The sooner you install your new energy efficient furnace, the sooner you can start saving on utilities bills and recover your investment. The government is offering a federal grant for measures taken by homeowners who reduce their use of energy. The ecoENERGY program encourages home owners to install energy efficient systems by reimbursing some of the initial instalment costs. You can see a table of federal grants for furnaces here.

Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats regulate the heat in your home throughout the day, decreasing temperatures during the day when you are at work, and turning up the heat so that your home is nice and toasty when you return. Turning your furnace off is not a great idea as you will expend an enormous amount of energy reheating your home when you get in. Instead, reduce the temperature by a couple of degrees when you are away from home. As a rule of thumb, you save 2% on your energy bill for every 1°C that you lower your thermostat. Don’t get too carried away though, keep your thermostat above 17°C to prevent having to heat your home too much. Programmable thermostats also crack the nod from ecoENERGY. Check the table for your federal grants.

Does your fan blow?

Permanent split-capacitor motors (PSC) power the fans in your HVAC system. Over the course of a year, these fans can use as much electricity as a refrigerator (about 800 kilowatts a year). Energy efficient furnaces utilize variable speed fans run by electronically commutating motors which are able to save a considerable amount of electricity annually. They have longer lifespans and require less maintenance than their PSC counterparts. They distribute heat more effectively and create less noise.

Your options are not yet exhausted!

Install an Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system. This system dehumidifies and cools outside air before pumping it into your house in the warmer months and reverses the process in the cooler winter months. In the winter, this system removes heat from the furnace exhaust system and uses it to pre-heat outdoor air. Most ERV’s recover between 70% and 80% of the heat from the exhausted interior air, but the efficiency improves in areas of extreme temperatures. The system is able to keep indoor humidity at a pleasant 40% to 50%.

No matter what furnace you have, always keep up with the annual inspections by a furnace professional. Keep filters clean to ensure that your furnace is functioning efficiently. Do not block furnace vents and check ductwork for leaks.

Missed Part 1 of this article where we discussed heating water? read it here.

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