Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about energy-efficient heating choices for Seattle and Tacoma homes.
Why are natural gas furnaces so popular in the Northwest?
- Natural gas is a safe and plentiful resource, so the cost to heat your home tends to be significantly lower than propane or oil heat.
- Gas furnaces can be very energy efficient.
- Our 95%+ energy efficient Bryant furnaces qualify for a rebate from PSE.
Should I care what the AFUE is?
Yes. Furnaces come in several levels of efficiency, for example 80% 90%, 95% and up to 98% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). This refers to the amount of heat you get compared to the amount of fuel that you supply to the furnace. So 80% AFUE means 80% of the fuel becomes heat and 20% is wasted. With gas bills going up, it can pay to have a 95-98% furnace – you could lower your heating costs by 15% or more.
Which kind of gas furnace heats best?
If you are considering a new furnace, consider the benefits of the modulating furnace. Modulating furnaces stabilize the heat you feel throughout your house, eliminating cold spots. The furnace makes tiny continuous adjustments to keep at temperature. This reduces the fluctuations caused by a traditional furnace which shuts off once it hits your preset thermostat level.
Don’t I have to replace my furnace with the same kind that was there?
Not necessarily. The type and size that was there may not have been optimal. For example, here are three common scenarios:
- If you have done remodeling or put in new windows, you may need a different size furnace to comfortably heat your home. By size we mean, BTU heat output. And surprise, it could be a smaller, lower cost furnace if you added insulation and windows recently.
- If you have a home that was built 15+ years ago, you may have a single stage 80% AFUE furnace which could be upgraded to an energy efficient, and comfortable modulating furnace.
- If you want a gas furnace and don’t have one, don’t rule out that natural gas may now be available on your street. If you are a Puget Sound Energy customer you may be entitled to large rebates for natural gas hookup when used as a heating source. We can help you navigate this process with Puget Sound Energy.
If I have electric heat, what’s my best option?
Whether you have ducts or no ducts there are some excellent energy efficient options for electrically heated homes that could save you 25%-40% vs your current heating costs.
Most electrically heated homes in the Seattle area have baseboard or wall heat and no ducts. If you have forced air heat through ducts, you likely have an electric furnace aka, electric air handler. For a truly energy-efficient and cost saving solution, a heat pump or ductless heat pump provides excellent heating and cooling with lower utility costs.
Heat pumps – an electric alternative when you have air ducts:
A heat pump takes heat from the surrounding air and ground and transfers it into your home. It also contains refrigerant that allows it to cool your home in summer. A typical heat pump connects to your ducted system, and can work with or without a furnace as a backup. A heat pump can save up to 40% of energy when compared to a traditional electric furnace. Using it as the sole heating source works best when the temperature rarely dips below 40° outside. If the temperature is colder, as it is here in Western Washington, you will need a backup heat source. Consider a hybrid system; a heat pump paired with an electric air handler or furnace to ensure you always have heat. The combined system can be more energy efficient than other electric heat options.
Ductless heat pumps – Super efficient
A ductless heat pump also heats and cools your home similarly to an air source heat pump, but without ducts. The outdoor unit of a ductless heat pump system also transfers heat from the outside into your home. Inside a register on the wall silently and efficiently warms or cools the room. Larger areas may require separate registers. A ductless heat pump also provides air conditioning. Ductless heat pumps can save you 25 to 40% of your heating costs.
Rebates from Puget Sound Energy are Available
In selecting any heat pump keep in mind that energy efficient models qualify for local utility rebates. Excellent rebates are available for homeowners who currently have baseboard or wall electric heat. Some rebates are up to $1200. For a list of utility rebates click here.
Maintenance and filters
Already have an energy efficient heating system? Like a car, you could lose some of that benefit if you go without annual maintenance to ensure your furnace is operating at its peak efficiency, and don’t forget to change the filter.
Washington Energy Services sells and installs energy efficient heating systems including furnaces, electric air handlers, hybrid systems, heat pumps and ductless heat pumps in Western Washington. Air filters, too. For more information or a free estimate, call 800-398-HOME.