When talking about your home heating system, it is important to understand the relationship between energy efficiency and energy costs. For example, the most efficient home heating systems, according to energy ratings, may not actually be the most affordable.
By federal law, all home heating systems are required to display a value known as the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating, or AFUE, so that consumers can more easily compare models. A heating system with an AFUE of 87% will convert that percentage of fuel into heat for the home, while the remaining 13% escapes through chimneys or other exhaust ports. This leads one to believe that the higher an AFUE rating, the lower your energy costs. But there is another factor… what kind of fuel does the system use, and how much does that fuel cost?
Going by the AFUE, the most energy efficient home heating systems are electric, with anywhere from 95% to 100% of their fuel being converted into heat for the home. But nationally, the cost of electricity far outpaces the cost of fossil fuels (such as natural gas and propane), so even with the increased efficiency, your heating bills will likely be higher than with a gas furnace or boiler.
Combining energy efficient home heating systems with cost efficient energy is the best way to maximize your comfort and minimize your bills. Solar energy offers a possible solution, with some systems providing heat directly to the home and others providing pure energy for heating and cooling as well as other electrical needs.
Consumers can also combine electrical and fossil fuel powered systems, depending on their needs. And many outdated systems can be retrofitted rather than replaced entirely, for added cost benefit without expensive overhauls. Maintaining efficient ductwork and clean ventilation can also increase the efficiency of your system and ease the burden on your monthly budget.