The northern states have been buried in snow for weeks and will be for several more. Winter often brings periods of extended cold. Coming home to a warm house is not only comfortable but necessary for survival. We can all agree we depend on our furnaces to keep our homes cozy and to protect our families from frigid temperatures. We don’t necessarily agree on the type of furnace that is best for accomplishing this goal.
The Basic Job of Any Furnace
A furnace burning fuel produces heat measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The efficiency rating of any furnace is determined by the measurement of the unit’s combustion. This efficiency rating is called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE. The higher the furnace’s efficiency, the higher its AFUE rating will be. Most new oil burning furnaces will have AFUE ratings in the 80 percent to 90 percent range. New gas furnaces achieve AFUE ratings in the 89 percent to 98 percent range. By AFUE ratings along, gas furnaces seem to be the best heating source. There is more to be considered however. The initial cost of a gas furnace is at least 10 percent to 25 percent more than that of an oil furnace.
Fuel Sources And Prices
Furnaces can run on natural gas, heating oil, electricity or propane. The U. S. Energy Information Administration published heating costs in the winter of 2013 indicating the costs of these fuels for the winter season per home:
• Natural gas $690
• Electricity $964
• Propane $1448
• Heating Oil $2558
Almost half of American homes are heated with gas, most likely because its production is centered here and in Canada making its cost very affordable. The price of oil is more volatile and is subject to global changes in supply and demand, making it more expense.
Pros And Cons Of Oil Furnaces
Oil furnaces provide more heat per BTU than any other heating source. In the northeast, where oil furnaces are particularly popular, temperatures are much colder and efficient heat production is important. These furnaces can be easily and regularly services your chosen delivery company and oil furnaces are less expensive than gas ones.
They are less efficient even though they produce more heat per BTU; their oil costs more; they require an on-site storage tank and oil has to be delivered and stored in it. Maintenance is more involved because of soot and dirt buildup. Oil filters have to be changed often and chimneys must be cleaned.
Pros And Cons Of Gas Furnaces
Gas furnaces heat more efficiently. Natural gas costs a great deal less than heating oil. These units require very little maintenance and operate cleanly and quietly. Your home must be located in an area served by natural gas lines. They cost more than oil ones and gas provides less heat per BTU than oil furnaces.
Regardless of the type of heat source you prefer and choose, make sure to use a qualified, licensed and reputable HVAC contractor to service your unit or install and maintain a new one. If you have a unit that is ten years or more old, the energy savings you can achieve with a new model will pay for the unit in a few years in you replace it with a modern, Energy Star® model.