When you’re a homeowner in Maryland, you strive each day to make sure it is safe, clean, and comfortable. With winter just around the
river bend corner, your heating system is probably one of your top priorities. You might be wondering if you should get it serviced before the cold really hits, whether it will last another year, or if you should bite the bullet and replace it, what you should replace it with, and more.
Obviously, a heating system is not a small investment. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate Maryland home heating guide so you can make the most informed decision as possible when it comes to heating your home.
Choosing a Heating System
Most Maryland homeowners choose to heat their houses with a furnace or heat pump (click here if you’re confused on the difference between a heat pump and a furnace).
Types of Furnaces
There are several different types of furnaces you can choose from for your home. Which one you choose will usually depend on which type of fuel source is readily (and cheaply!) available in your area:
- Natural gas furnaces – In most areas, it costs much less to heat your home with natural gas than with electric, oil, or propane. Natural gas furnaces produce less carbon dioxide, making natural gas furnace installation an environmentally-friendly option.
- Propane furnaces – Propane furnaces offer fast heating at high temperatures and will heat your home even in the event of a power failure.
- Oil furnaces – Depending on the cost of natural gas in your city, oil furnaces can be the least expensive way to heat your home in some areas.
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency
Of course there are other things to consider in addition to fuel source. If you’re interested in installing a fuel efficient furnace (which, I mean, why wouldn’t you be?), you’re going to want to look for one with a high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. For example, Bryant gas furnaces operate between 80 percent and 97 percent AFUE.
Choosing the Right Size Furnace
Your furnace needs to be sized to accommodate your home’s unique heating needs. In order to do this, a professional needs to measure your home and calculate its heating and cooling load. This calculation is based on your home’s square footage, windows, walls, ceiling, floor plan, appliances, insulation, exterior, and more.). A professional will also consider your duct configuration, number of home occupants, and your lifestyle before recommending the ideal furnace size for your home.
Is it okay to install a different brand of air conditioner and furnace?
Yes – most brands of HVAC equipment will work properly together provided the coils and blowers are the proper size. At worst, you’ll see a slight drop in efficiency or capacity.
How long will my furnace last?
With proper maintenance, you can expect your furnace to last 15-20 years.
When should I replace my furnace?
The following symptoms usually indicate that it’s time to replace your furnace:
- Frequent pilot light outages
- Delayed ignition
- Yellow flame or wavering flame
- Excessive soot or corrosion
- Too much or too little heat
- The smell of sulfur or burnt eggs
What do I need to do to maintain my furnace?
Your furnace will perform more efficiently and last longer if you keep it well maintained. This includes things like:
- Inspecting filters once a month and changing them if they are dirty
- Making sure the supply and return vents in your home are not obstructed by things like furniture, curtains, boxes, toys, etc.
- Checking your chimney and venting systems once a year for secure fittings, leaks, corrosion, or damage
- Keeping the area around your furnace clean and clutter free for at least three to four feet on all sides
- Allowing adequate combustion air for your furnace, making sure it has enough space to breathe
Are there tax credits or rebates for a new furnace?
Furnaces with a 95 AFUE or higher can qualify for tax credits in 2013. Click here for more info.
We discuss the benefits of heat pump installation pretty regularly on our website, so we probably don’t need to go into too many details here. However, keep in mind when you’re choosing a new heating system that:
- Heat pumps both heat and cool your home
- Heat pumps are an energy efficient heating option
- Heat pumps can help you lower your heating bills
- Heat pumps allow you to use hybrid heating
Types of Heat Pumps
There are two main types of heat pumps you can install in your home:
- Ground source heat pumps – Also known as geothermal heat pumps, these heat pumps are electrically powered and transfer ground source heat from the ground into your home during the winter (and operate in reverse during the summer).
- Air source heat pumps – Rather than transferring heat from the ground, an air source heat pump transfers outdoor air heat indoors during the winter (and operates in reverse during the summer).
Heat Pump FAQs
Will a heat pump work well in cold climates?
Heat pump installation used to be mostly recommended to those that live in moderate climate areas—like Maryland. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat pumps do not generally perform well during extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures. But as heating technology improves, more and more manufacturers offer heat pumps that are suitable to those living in colder climates.
For colder climates, we recommend something along the lines of Bryant’s Extreme Heat Pump—which delivers twice the capacity in freezing temperatures.
Are there tax credits or rebates for a new heat pump?
Yep! The following heat pumps qualify for a $300 HVAC tax credits in 2013:
- Split system electric heat pumps with 8.5 HSPF, 12.5 EER, and 15 SEER
- Packaged electric heat pumps with 8.0 HSPF, 12.0 EER, and 14 SEER
Click here to learn which heat pumps qualify for Pepco rebates.
Is a heat pump better than an air conditioner?
Heat pumps both cool and heat your home—meaning there is no need to purchase, install, repair, and maintain two HVAC systems. In the summer, your heat pump transfers your indoor heat to the outdoors rather than converting energy into heat. Because they don’t convert energy into heat, a heat pump can save you money on your energy bills while still keeping your home comfortable. Additionally, heat pumps are more effective at dehumidifying than air conditioners.
Now that you’ve (hopefully) decided what type of heating system you want for your home, you can start to think about what other types of heating accessories you need to compliment your system and further increase its efficiency. Bonus points? You’ll also be increasing your home comfort.
While you don’t necessarily NEED a programmable thermostat, they do make it a lot easier to save energy and stay more comfortable. You can program the thermostat so that it raises and lowers the temperature automatically to meet your needs, i.e. lowering it when no one is home and raising it when everyone gets home. Programmable thermostats are particularly effective when your household is on a regular schedule and the program operates continuously.
You love that your heating system keeps you warm, but you probably don’t love that it dries out your air. If you have a heat pump, you likely won’t experience dry air and will therefore not need to worry about a humidifier.
For furnaces, however, a whole house humidifier can be a great investment to improve your home comfort and also save you money. A home with higher humidity will feel warmer, allowing you to be more comfortable at lower temperatures.
A zoning system consists of control, automatic motorized dampers and temperature sensors working in conjunction with your heating system. The dampers are placed inside the supply ducts to control the airflow to specific areas of your home. The temperature sensors are located in the separate zones of your home. It’s similar to having a separate thermostat in each area communicating with your heating system—allowing each zone to be heated independently.
High Efficiency Air Filters
High efficiency air filters remove even the smallest pollutants from the air in your home—making them ideal for your heating system if anyone in your family suffers from respiratory problems or allergies. A highly efficient filter will also extend equipment life and reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent. Remember, it is vital that you clean or replace your air filter regularly.
Taking Care of Your Heating System
To extend the life of your furnace or heat pump, we recommend the following:
- Always take steps to prepare your heating system for the upcoming cold season. These steps including testing your heating system and humidifier, adjusting your dampers, cleaning or changing your air filters, and sealing any leaks.
- Sign up for a maintenance agreement. You might be wondering why you need a maintenance agreement for your heating system. Like we mentioned earlier, a heating system is a huge investment, so signing up for a maintenance agreement can help ensure you get the most out of it. As the years go by, your system will become less efficient if not maintained properly and you may experience higher utility bills, short run cycles, increase in noise levels during operation, poor airflow, etc. These can be avoided by properly maintaining your furnace or heat pump.
Choosing a Heating Contractor
Now that you’ve decided which system you want and any accessories you might need, we decided we’d help you with a final crucial step: choosing an HVAC contractor in Maryland to install your new heating system.
Until you find an HVAC company you are comfortable with and that you trust, we recommend getting at least three estimates from three different companies.
The company you choose is the most important decision you’ll make regarding your new heating system. Proper installation, the expertise of the consultants, reliability and convenience of their support, and your comfort level should be the major factors behind your final decision.
Of course, if you’re ready to choose GAC as your HVAC contractor in Maryland, we certainly won’t be upset! In addition to being NATE certified, a Bryant factory authorized dealer, and having won various awards and many customer testimonials, you’ll also benefit from the following when you choose GAC:
- On-time service
- 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed
- Up-front pricing
- Fully stocked trucks
- And respect for your home
Call us today or fill out a form for a free heating replacement system estimate.