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ESEA - Consumers

Consumers > Heat For Less


Advanced Technology Drives Down Heating Costs

happy couple Home heating costs have risen in recent years, because the energy products we use to heat our homes, such as Oilheat and natural gas, have become more expensive. Rather than tolerate high heating costs, consumers can take control by improving energy efficiency and reducing the amount of energy required for heat.

Some consumers make the mistake of pursuing lower heating costs by switching to a fuel that they think will be less expensive. This strategy does not work, because fuel costs change constantly, and the fuel that is less expensive one year is likely to be the more expensive fuel a few years later.

The most reliable strategy for driving down heating costs is to invest in energy-saving property improvements, such as insulation, leak sealing and high-efficiency heating equipment. The cost of upgrading your heating equipment is lower when you stay with the same fuel instead of converting.

Here is a quick look at some of the strategies you can use to take control of your heating costs.

Efficiency Improvements

Nothing cuts the cost of home heating like a high-efficiency heating system. To understand how a new heating system can save you money, it helps to understand the difference between low and high efficiency.

A low-efficiency system does a poor job of capturing the heat it generates and transferring it to the indoor space that you are trying to heat. Instead, it dumps very hot exhaust gases from the combustion process into the chimney or venting system, and that heat is lost to the outdoor air. Every excess BTU of heat that is lost up the chimney represents an unnecessary waste of fuel.

A high-efficiency heating system, on the other hand, maximizes heat transfer to the indoor space and minimizes heat loss to the outdoor air. Manufacturers use different techniques to achieve high efficiency, including advanced materials, sophisticated appliance design, intelligent electronic controls, outdoor reset controls and more.

The best way to reduce your home heating costs is to install high-efficiency heating equipment. Here is a look at some of the technologies that can reduce your heating costs.

The Technology of High Efficiency

Most of the oil- and gas-fired equipment that is installed today is rated at 86 percent efficiency or higher, and some new systems achieve 90 to 96 percent efficiency. It is not unusual for a system upgrade to reduce heating costs by 30 percent, particularly if the appliance being replaced is more than 15 years old.

Manufacturers use a variety of strategies to achieve high efficiency:
  • Combination heat/hot water systems that eliminate nearly all energy waste by transferring excess heat to the hot water supply and minimizing heat loss via the chimney.
  • Combustion chambers that transfer more of the heat to the indoor space by improving the heat extraction rate. This can be accomplished by using materials with better heat-transfer capabilities and/or by slowing down the flow of the combustion gases to allow more heat to transfer from the heated gases to the appliance.
  • System controls that make a boiler more responsive to the weather conditions outdoors. When the outdoor temperature is colder, the control raises the water temperature in the boiler to heat the home more aggressively. When temperatures are more moderate, the boilers water temperature decreases so that the system can run in normal cycles without overheating the rooms.
  • Modulating burners that use a high-heat setting when the weather is colder and switch to a low-heat setting for more moderate weather.

Electronic Controls

An older heating system can be retrofitted with a microprocessor-based control that adjusts the on-off cycles for greater efficiency. By delaying the start of each heating cycle, a control can reduce costs by 10 percent or more with no sacrifice in comfort.

Indirect Hot Water Heating

One great way to reduce home energy costs is to use an indirect or combination water heater that draws its heat from your primary heating system rather than from a dedicated burner.

Hybrid Heating

Many home and business owners are reducing their energy costs by pairing alternative energy systems such as solar hot water heating or geothermal heating with a traditional fuel-burning appliance. The alternative energy system provides heat and/or hot water to its maximum capacity, and the fuel-burning system supplements as needed.

Low-Power Appliances

One part of home heating costs that is often overlooked is the electrical consumption of various heating system components, such as fan motors and pumps. Many heating manufacturers now build their systems with power-saving components such as ECM blower motors that run at variable speeds.

Insulation & Sealing

You can reduce the cost of heating your home or business by sealing and insulating the building more effectively. That way, less of the heat that you generate escapes through the walls, windows, doors and roof, so you use less fuel.
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