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Furnace Versus Heating Boiler: Which System Saves You the Most?

sock feet by radiator

Heating boilers are particularly common and popular in colder climates that are farther from the equator, such as what we experience here in Canada.

Then again, forced air furnace systems are popular in the same types of climates for the same reasons.

You may have more familiarity with one system over the other depending on where you have lived and in what climate you grew up.

In this post, we take a look at the similarities and differences between a heating boiler and a traditional furnace system so you can learn more about each to help you decide which you should have.  

Meet the Forced Air Furnace

If you are used to having warm air blowing down onto your head or up at your feet, chances are good the appliance doing all that blowing is a forced air furnace.

A forced air furnace uses a heat exchanger to blow (“force”) air into a duct network to keep you warm.

This heating system heats the air, which in turn raises the temperature in the room and heats you.

A furnace can run on electricity, natural gas, propane gas, oil or wood.

Meet the Heating Boiler

A heating boiler uses hot water or steam to send heat energy through a distribution system. That heat then radiates out into the room (hence the term “radiant heater”) to warm you up.

Heating boilers can work with radiant flooring, wall pipes, hydronic air handlers (a type of duct system) or old-fashioned radiators to do their work.

A heating boiler can run on electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, coal or wood.

In some cases, heating boilers can also accommodate your hot water needs.

The Forced Air Furnace & Heating Boiler Go Head to Head

Now let’s take a closer look at each system and see how they stack up in terms of initial cost, ease of installation, maintenance and more!

Initial purchase and installation costs

There is no doubt that the forced air furnace wins hands down in the initial cost department—that is, as long as you have an existing central duct system already in place and you have ready access to your chosen fuel type.

A recent survey showed that the cost for a new furnace plus installation ranges from $1,950 to $5,780.

However, heating boilers can also deliver your hot water, which can make them look like the real bargain if you need to replace the water heater too. The national average for purchasing a new heating boiler plus installation ranges from $3,418 to $7,672.

Overall energy efficiency

The energy efficiency of a forced air furnace or heating boiler is expressed as an AFUE number. AFUE stands for “annual fuel utilization efficiency.”

A new forced air furnace will generally deliver anywhere from 80 to 97.5 percent energy efficiency, not counting losses due to duct transmission, which can add up to 35 percent or greater.

New heating boilers can deliver between 87 and 90+ percent energy efficiency depending on the fuel source and extra features such as an electric pilot light and sealed combustion to minimize wasted energy.

In most cases, you will realize slightly higher energy efficiency by choosing a heating boiler since you won't face energy losses as air passes through the air duct network.

Required space

The amount of space your new system requires will depend on what type of system you select. If you opt for an outside-only unit, the only inside space you need will be whatever is required to install a distribution system (ducts, pipes, etc.).

Inside-outside furnace systems typically install the interior component in the basement, attic or crawl space.

A multi-purpose heating boiler equipped with a tank for hot water may be wall mount-equipped to conserve floor space.

If either system requires interior floor space inside your main living area, typically the minimum floor space required is equivalent to what a free-standing floor washer and dryer system would need.

Maintenance

Both a furnace and a heating boiler will need at least once-annual maintenance and safety inspections for both energy efficiency and safety reasons.

Maintenance for the typical forced air furnace is slightly more costly and labour-intensive because there are simply more components to maintain.

You will need to change the furnace filters regularly (typically every month during winter). Other needs include cleaning your air registers and exhaust vents, and periodically having your indoor air duct system cleaned and maintained.

Heating boilers have fewer components to inspect and maintain. Boilers don’t use filters and most don’t have any ductwork at all. However, if your boiler has a tank, you will need to drain and clean it once per year along with its annual safety inspection.

Life expectancy

New models of forced air furnaces and heating boilers have the same average life expectancy of 15 to 30 years.

What can impact the useful life of your new system is how well you maintain it, plus your use patterns. A well-maintained furnace or boiler can last into the triple decades.

What About Air Conditioning?

A forced air furnace system is still the most popular heating system because the presence of a duct system makes it easy to deliver both warm and cool air throughout your space.

However, it is relatively simple to install air conditioning via a new energy-efficient ductless mini-split, which uses a zone system to help you control your costs for cooling each zone in your home.

And if you have an existing air duct system but you want to convert over to a heating boiler system for heat, the air ducts can still come in quite handy for delivering cool air.

Get in Touch

Do you need expert guidance to choose between a new forced air furnace system or a new heating boiler system? We can help!

Give us a call at 1-613-967-1066 or visit us online.

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Different Types of Heat Pumps: Pick the One That Is Right for You

air heat pump

Heat pump technology is not new, although it is still lesser-known to many. In fact, it is the same technology your refrigerator uses to keep your food cold, safe and fresh!

In past decades, heat pumps have been less common in colder climates like Canada’s.

Today, this is starting to change. Heat pumps have a lot to offer, from lowering your heating and cooling bills to lessening your impact on the environment.

In this article, we review the different types of heat pumps and what each has to offer so you can pick the one that is best for you.

Switching to a Heat Pump Can Save You a Lot!

According to the Department of Energy, a heat pump has the ability to provide the same basic heating and cooling for as little as one-quarter of the cost of what you pay to have a traditional air conditioner and furnace system do that job.

What might that look like in terms of annual cost savings? Let’s take a look!

According to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario, the average Ontario-area homeowner pays $2,358 per year for energy.

Natural Resources Canada reports that, on average, heating consumes around 61 percent of household energy use and cooling consumes 3 percent of the same, adding up to 64 percent.

What this means is the typical Ontarian spends around $1,509 annually for heating and cooling. If this is true for you, imagine now that you have switched to a heat pump for your heating and cooling needs. This trims three-quarters of your costs, leaving you with an annual bill of just $377.

Now it is easier to see why heat pumps are starting to catch on in a big way here in Canada!

3 Main Types of Heat Pumps

There are three main types of heat pumps in use for residential spaces today. They are the air-to-air heat pump, the water source heat pump and the geothermal heat pump.

While each type of heat pump does the same basic thing, how they get the energy to do their work is slightly different. This difference can make one type of heat pump a better fit for certain spaces than the others.

Air-to-air heat pump

The air-to-air heat pump, as its name suggests, “pumps” or moves heat energy in the air from one place to the other.

For example, in summer, an air-to-air heat pump moves heat energy out of your home to keep it cooler. In the winter, the process reverses: the heat pump moves heat energy from outside air into your home to pre-warm the air and keep your house warmer.

Air-to-air heat pumps are the least efficient of the three types of heat pumps, but they can still trim a whopping 50 percent off of your annual heating and cooling bills. Another perk is that this type of heat pump can help to move excess humidity out of your home to reduce the threat of mould and mildew.

Another advantage to this type of heat pump is that it comes in a ductless mini-split version.

Water source heat pump

The water source heat pump comes in two forms. One type is an air-to-air heat pump that heats and cools water rather than air. This type is called a “reverse cycle chiller” and can be used with existing radiant floor heating systems.

A second type of water source heat pump is a geothermal heat pump designed to move energy to and from a water source rather than the ground (hence the name).

A water source heat pump is going to be more efficient than an air-to-air heat pump, trimming up to 60 percent off your annual heating and cooling bill.

Geothermal heat pump

A geothermal heat pump moves energy to and from the ground. Sometimes called a ground source heat pump, it can trim your energy bill by 60 percent or more and also help with balancing indoor air humidity levels year-round.

There are two basic configurations to choose from with a geothermal heat pump: horizontal or vertical. The latter is best for residences where land space is at a premium.

What About a Heat Pump + Hot Water Heater?

Today’s heat pump technology is evolving quite rapidly and exploring many new ways to recycle energy that might otherwise be wasted.

Some heat pumps can be equipped with a device called a “de-superheater,” which recycles heat energy to heat your water two or even three times more efficiently than a traditional tank hot water heater.

Other Useful Heat Pump Perks

There are a number of additional perks built into many of today’s heat pump systems.

Some heat pumps designed for use in extremely cold climates have a built-in backup electric resistance heater or backup burner that will automatically take over should the need arise. Fuel options for a backup burner heat pump include oil, natural gas, propane, coal or wood.

Other heat pumps have unique motors that help maximize useful air flow while minimizing drafts and noise. Still others have what’s called a scroll compressor, which boosts efficiency and operating life while minimizing noise.

Today’s heat pumps can also integrate with zone systems just like traditional HVAC systems to help you conserve on heating and cooling costs in unused rooms.

Get Rebates or Credits for Converting to a Heat Pump!

Government or carrier rebates and incentives are often available for customers who convert to a heat pump. We can help you select and apply for all available incentives you qualify for.

Get in Touch

Here at Bi-Temp, we are proud to offer the Carrier and Mitsubishi heat pump lines. Contact us for help determining which type of heat pump system is right for you.

Give us a call at 1-613-967-1066 or visit us online.

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Building a Home? 7 Tips to Be Sure Your New Furnace Is the Right Match!

home construction plans

Building a home is exciting! After so many years of trying to make a space designed by someone else work for you, you now get to create a space all your own.

Naturally, you want everything you choose for your dream home to be perfect—including your heating and cooling system.

There is just one tiny problem: you don't know a thing about furnaces! How can you be sure your new furnace is really going to be the right match for the size and layout of your new space?

In this post, we offer seven top tips to help you choose the perfect new furnace.

1. Choose Your Furnace Fuel Wisely

Electricity, natural gas, propane, oil, air source, geothermal, biomass… this group represents the most popular heating and cooling fuel types in use by homeowners today.

There are all kinds of factors that can play into which fuel you want to use for home temperature control.

  • If you are building a low-energy “green” home, you might be keen to use air source or geothermal energy via a heat pump.

  • Propane and natural gas are two clean-burning fuels that can be particularly smart choices in areas prone to power outages.

  • Electricity typically requires the least preparation up front and may require less of an up-front investment in appliance costs.

  • Oil is still popular in some areas but isn't always as economical or readily available.

If you are struggling to decide on one over the others, studying recent fuel price trends and researching initial appliance and setup costs can be helpful as a tie-breaker.

2. Get the Furnace Sizing Right the First Time

According to Green Building Advisor, the majority of furnaces installed in new construction homes today are still oversized for the space.

In past decades, this was standard practice. The thought process was that too much power was better than not enough. But today we know this does you as the homeowner and the environment a great disservice. A too-powerful HVAC system will draw more power and cost you more money without doing a better job.

With today’s technology, it is possible to size your new furnace precisely to fit your new space. By factoring in everything from square footage to number of windows to type of insulation to climate zone, you can determine the right size and configuration for your space.

3. Decide Whether or Not to Add Ducts

In past decades, central (ducted) HVAC systems have been the norm for multi-room spaces. Today, ducted systems are still popular, but they are not the only choice.

With the introduction of the ductless mini-split, a type of ductless system popular in Europe and Asia that is just now making its way to North America, it is possible to dispense with ductwork. This can be especially useful in more complicated spaces, where running ductwork becomes challenging.

Ductless mini-split systems divide your home into different zones. This can help you control heating and cooling costs by room to save money all year long and dispense with duct maintenance.

4. Is a Heating Boiler Better?

Of course, in all the discussion about which furnace to choose, it is easy to forget a furnace isn't actually your only choice!

While a furnace heats air, a boiler heats water to keep you warm. But each requires a different type of distribution system to get that heat where it needs to go.

With new construction that allows you to set up your distribution infrastructure, the choice often boils (pardon the pun) down to one of personal preference. Some people simply prefer one over the other.

Here, it can be helpful to know that a steam-based boiler requires a higher operating temperature than a hot water-based boiler, which can make a steam-based boiler slightly less efficient and thus more expensive to operate. But today, high efficiency steam boilers are available to lessen this gap.

5. What About an Air Source or Geothermal Heat Pump?

Across the landscape of heating and cooling options, it is true the air source and geothermal heat pump systems are still the new kids on the block. But each has some significant advantages to offer over more traditional HVAC systems in terms of providing eco-friendly, energy-efficient heating and cooling.

The air-source heat pump uses heat energy in the air and the geothermal heat pump uses heat energy from the ground/water to provide temperature control for your home.

Both systems typically use ductwork like a traditional central HVAC system. However, some heat pumps can work without ducts or be integrated to work with radiant flooring.

By harnessing trapped energy stored in air or the ground/water, these heat pump systems give the energy efficiency rating of your home a major boost: up to 50 percent with an air-source heat pump and as much as 60 percent with a geothermal heat pump!

6. Claim Your Energy Efficiency Rebates and Credits!

Energy Star offers a number of rebates and/or credits as incentives to homeowners to make energy-efficient choices.

Natural Resources Canada maintains an active database detailing available rebates and credits by province, source and construction type (residential/commercial).

Your choice of contractor can be important here, since some credits and rebates require the contractor to submit on your behalf. Researching available incentives in advance can help you save money and make your decision of which HVAC system to invest in easier!

7. Don't Forget to Ventilate!

Today's low-energy, high-efficiency airtight construction standards may be great for your energy bill, but they aren't so good for indoor ventilation.

Talk to your contractor about adding a heat recovery ventilator to keep your indoor air fresh.

Get in Touch

Are you overwhelmed by sorting through your options for heating and cooling your new home? We can help!

Give us a call at 1-613-967-1066 or visit us online.

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