There are many efficient heating and cooling systems. How do you know which is right for you? Among other factors, taking not only first cost but also operating cost into account can help you evaluate which system will save you the most in the long term.
First cost represents what you pay up front, and operating cost is how much the system actually costs to operate over its life span. First cost and operating cost taken together equals lifetime cost which includes installation, utilities, maintenance and repairs.
Let’s take a look at some popular systems, and their first cost and lifetime cost investments.
In greater Cleveland this is a common heating method and utilizes a standard furnace or boiler. If cooling is desired, an electric air conditioning unit is usually added. Technology has made natural gas much more efficient than in the past. For example, a high-efficiency gas furnace can be 90 percent efficient or more.
First cost and lifetime cost: A typical high-efficiency unit may run anywhere from $2,000 to around $6,000 up front for a furnace and more for a boiler. Currently the cost of natural gas is relatively low so compared to other systems or furnaces using propane or fuel oil, natural gas has one of the more attractive lifetime costs, at least at the moment.
Air-source heat pumps
Heat pumps transfer energy from one place to another. They pump outdoor heat into your home, or vice versa when in the cooling mode. Because there is less heat available to the heat pump when it is cold outside, they often make use of a back-up heating element in extremely cold weather. This is often an electric heating element, but it can be a regular gas furnace, too.
First cost and lifetime cost: First cost for an average heat pump can be around the same price as a natural gas system with an air conditioner. The lifetime cost comparison with natural gas, however, will vary depending upon the relative costs of natural gas vs. electricity. Often people will elect to couple a heat pump with a natural gas furnace as the back up heating system--called a hybrid heat system--to hedge their bet about the future of utility costs. If gas costs grow more than electricity, they will depend more on the heat pump. If the opposite occurs, they will rely more on the furnace. The heat pump can also deliver cooling in much the same way a regular air conditioner does.
Geothermal heat pumps
Geothermal heat pumps transfer energy from the earth into your home, and vice versa. They are some of the most efficient HVAC available, able to reach very high efficiency levels even on frigid winter days. This is because the earth temperature below the frost line varies little throughout the year. The performance of the geothermal heat pump varies little over the course of the year and is relatively unaffected by the outside air temperature. Just like the air to air heat pump, the geothermal unit can also deliver cooling to your home, too.
First cost and lifetime cost: The first cost for geothermal is more expensive than any other system, running anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, or even higher depending upon the size required and its options. At the moment, some geothermal systems can qualify for significant tax credit that will effectively reduce this first cost premium for those that can take advantage. Lifetime cost, however, is often much less expensive than practically any other system owing to its inherent efficiency.
First cost and lifetime cost are only two of many factors to consider when shopping for a new heating and cooling system. Call P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling to learn more about choosing a system that's best for your home and find out about available tax credits.
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