In the United States, 51% of energy use in homes goes toward heating and air conditioning. Even homes that are located in warmer climates require heat in the chillier months. As you build your new home, keep your energy usage (and bills) in mind when deciding on a new heating system. You’ll want to weigh factors like:

  • Home size
  • How long the heating system is projected to last
  • System efficiency
  • Cost
While it’s important to consider the cost of purchase and installation, you also need to weigh long-term expenses. For instance, it might cost more upfront to install a more energy-efficient system, but you’ll save on your bill every month. This is especially helpful since heating your house uses more energy and is more expensive than any other system. Heating costs usually make up 29% of the average American’s utility bill.

Read on to learn about the different heating options for your new home.

Central Heating Systems

A central heating system— also known as a ducted home heating system—delivers heat to an entire building. After heat is created in a specific place (boiler room, mechanical room, etc.), it is distributed throughout the home via a series of pipes or ducts. There are three types of ducted heating systems: furnace, boiler, and heat pump.

Furnace: Propane or natural gas, oil, or electricity can fuel a furnace. A furnace heats and uses a blower motor and air ducts to disperse warm air. It can have an annual fuel-utilization-efficiency rating of up to 96%, which means that up to 96% of the energy it uses gets converted into heat. But furnaces cost more to install and operate than other types of central heating systems, and they may distribute allergens throughout your home. Furnaces last anywhere from 15 to 30 years. 

Boiler: A boiler heats water in a tank and distributes heat using pipes that go into radiators throughout the house. A steam boiler heats water until it becomes steam, while a hot water boiler maintains the heated water in liquid form. Each boiler is usually controlled independently so there’s no need to heat the entire house at the same time. A boiler can be powered by electricity, oil, or gas, is 50– 90% efficient, and will last anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

Heat pumps: Heat pumps both heat and cool. They include outdoor and indoor units and coils that circulate refrigerants that absorb heat energy from the air. When heating, a heat pump takes warm outdoor air and pumps it into your house. Heat pumps are usually less expensive than furnaces and they’re more efficient because they both move heat around and can be used for air conditioning. Electricity powers heat pumps, which usually last 15 years. Be aware that installation of some types of heat pumps can be expensive.

READ: What Is R-Value & Why Is It Important?

Ductless Heating Systems

Ductless heating systems don't require pipes or ducts and are a great option for large homes or additions that don’t have ductwork installed. There are two ductless options: mini-splits and window units.

Mini-split heat pumps: A mini-split heat pump is comprised of an outdoor and indoor unit. They are typically mounted on a wall and connect to the outdoor unit through a pipe. They heat one room at a time, allowing significant savings on energy costs. They do not represent a whole-home heating option.

Window AC units with heat: This type of heating system is very similar to classic window air conditioner units. When functioning as an air conditioner, the unit takes in indoor air and runs it over cold condenser coils to decrease the temperature. It also moves excess heat outside. When functioning as a heater, it works in reverse: Cold air runs over hot evaporator coils and is delivered into the room.

One advantage of this type of window unit is that they are relatively easy to install yourself, but they are not appropriate for large spaces and require the right type of window for proper installation. They can also be bulky and take up a lot of window space.

Other heating options

Though central and ductless heating systems are the most popular heating, there are a few other alternatives:

Radiant heating: Radiant heating uses electric wires or hot-water tubes buried under the floor to supply heat. Electric radiant heat utilizes zigzagging loops of resistance wire, while hot-water hydronic systems circulate water from a water heater or boiler using 1/2-inch polyethylene tubing loops. Radiant heating is usually more expensive than other types of systems, but it is up to 30% more energy efficient than forced air heating.

Saving on energy costs

To save on your monthly heating bill, . Insulation prevents cold external air from getting in and keeps heated air from escaping. Clean or replace your furnace filters regularly, use a smart home thermostat, like Honeywell T9, to automatically lower the temperature when you aren’t home, and buy energy-efficient heating equipment.

Your choice of a home heating system home will be based on both your budget and your heating needs. Do your research, ask your contractor for recommendations, and go with the option that’s best for you.  

Ready to build the home of your dreams? Get started today.

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