Here in Wisconsin, most of us heat our homes and businesses using furnaces and boilers. A variety of compatible fuels are available, providing choices and opportunities for savings. Upgrades can pay off considerably as well—today’s typical models are up to 50% more efficient than those built before 1995. While purchasing a new furnace or boiler is a major expense, lower utility bills offer clear return on investment. And don’t forget to weatherize! In doing so, you may be able to buy a smaller system, saving money both up front and on your monthly fuel bill.
Heat pump technology has undergone marked improvement in recent years, enabling this equipment to perform well in Wisconsin’s cold winter climate. How do these systems work? Air-sourced heat pumps gather heat from the ambient air and ground-source (aka geothermal) heat pumps pull it from the ground. Drawing heat from the environment, these systems move it indoors to help heat your home, and outdoors when it’s time to cool things off.
Air conditioners don’t just create cold air—they extract heat. The best way to accomplish this depends on your space, specific needs, and available budget. When it comes to energy-efficient room cooling, consider an ENERGY STAR® certified window AC unit, or a cold climate heat pump. If you’ve got existing ductwork (such as would be part of a central heating system), an energy-efficient central AC system may be right for you.
A whole-building approach to efficiency demands the management of air exchange—how and where it occurs. Circulating fresh, outside air through your home or building reduces the risk of mold, mildew, and allergens, as well as that of dangerous gaseous compounds like carbon monoxide. Achieving a balance is of importance, of course—ventilation and weatherization go hand in hand. Products that can help to strike this balance include everything from properly vented bathroom fans to modern air-exchange systems that maintain fresh airflow while minimizing the loss of valuable heating (or cooling).
Manual thermostats are great, as long as you stay on top of them. While programmable thermostats are a common step up, typically incorporating a programmable timer, consider a smart thermostat. While slightly spendier, these units make use of modern automation, providing access to savings and convenience, alike. They’re also remote capable. Just use your smartphone to dial in any number of customizable parameters to your personal liking.
Furnaces and boilers both produce heat for distribution throughout a given space—they simply have their own ways of going about the job. A boiler heats water, which it then circulates (often as steam) through conventional radiators, baseboards, or underfloor radiant heating. A furnace heats air via the combustion of fuel. It then forces the resulting hot air through ductwork, and then a vent. Whether you make use of a furnace or a boiler for your heat, remember to replace filters and clean ductwork on a regular basis. Doing so will help to maintain air quality and may extend the life of your system.