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Your central heating system is designed in one of two ways – either a gas furnace or an electric heat pump. A gas furnace will operate independent from the rest of the HVAC system. While a heat pump uses the reverse cycle of the air conditioner, so that all of the components are working year round. The air handler blower can be single-stage in basic systems or variable-speed in high-efficiency systems. All of these components to your heating system need to be carefully matched together during installation. A mismatched system will operate poorly and, in some cases, not operate at all.
Parts of a Heating System
The Heat Pumps : If you use only electricity to heat and cool your home then a heat pump is the most energy efficient system that you can use for indoor comfort. Heat pumps provide three times more heating than the equivalent amount of energy they consume. Heat pumps also do double duty as your home’s air conditioner. A high-efficiency heat pump can decrease the amount of electricity you use for heating by as much as 30%-40%.
The Furnance : The standard furnace today operates at 80% efficiency, meaning that for every dollar you spend on gas 20% is discarded as Carbon Monoxide and 80% is brought into your home as heat. In colder climates, you can purchase systems at up to 98% gas efficiency.
The Air Ducts : Today’s ductwork in Tucson Homes consists of insulated flexible tubes that snake across the attic floor or under the house. Unfortunately, heating ducts are out of sight and therefore out of mind and tend to be neglected when it comes to cleaning and repair. A recent study by the Arizona Energy Commission concluded that the average home loses up to 30%-50% of the hot air before it ever gets to the rooms where it’s needed due to leaking ductwork. You could be overpaying the utility companies by as much as 30-50%.
Blower Speed and Stages
Single-Speed/Single Stage : Is a basic furnace, limited in that it only provides a high heat mode. Furnaces are designed to heat your home on the coldest days. The reality is that there are only a few days per season where that condition exists. A single-speed furnace does not have the ability to adjust to the milder conditions, thus causing large temperature swings and a less comfortable home. In addition, this may cause increased energy usage and system repairs.
Two-Speed/Two Stage : Technology enables a gas furnace to improve indoor air circulation and overall comfort, while reducing operating noise. It operates at a slower, more consistent level over 90% of the time. This means lower temperature swings and cold drafts which are associated with single-speed furnaces.
Variable-Speed : Variable-speed furnaces feature the best technology as well as being the quietest furnaces in the industry today. The blower motor ramps up gently, quietly and economically to provide a nearly continuous flow of warm air in a low capacity operation, maximizing your comfort. The blower motor uses only 6.5% of the power of a standard furnace blower motor.
AFUE Stands for “Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency”. It is the way in which furnaces are rated for comparison. Most furnaces produced are between 80% and 96.6% efficient. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all units with the same AFUE ratings are equal. The differences become apparent when you look closer at things like construction, quality, reliability, durability, and enhanced warranties.
Nothing Lasts Forever
A good rule of thumb is that your heating system will last about 10-20 years. Once it hits that age you should consider replacing it, even though it might still run and blow cold air. Installing a new high efficiency heating system could cut your gas bill up to 60% when compared to the cost of running your old system. With a savings like that, along with all the federal tax credits, and factory and utility rebates that are offered frequently, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep using it.