As a homeowner, you might be surprised to learn that the best "first cost" heating system is not necessarily the lowest priced one in the end. First cost refers to the purchase price of a system, and it's the first time you'll spend money on the system – but it won't be the last time. In fact, to find the heating system that makes the most sense financially, you need to work backward: Find the system that will produce the lowest lifetime costs, and then select the system.
Cleveland-area homeowners are generally subject to significant heating costs, much more so than cooling costs. Because winter lasts longer, and our region is hit repeatedly with lake-effect weather systems, it’s imperative that a heating system works energy efficiently as well as effectively.
Considering lifetime costs (costs related to owning the system, such as energy costs and maintenance) before you make a purchase can lead to a better long-term decision, whereas first cost is much less of an indicator of long-term value. Lifetime factors to consider include:
- Price of fuel: Carefully assess fuel prices, and expected increases, by contacting your local utility company. This can be a little tricky to forecast increases over the life of your comfort system since they can last 12 to 15 years or more. That is why often people will opt for hybrid comfort systems that offer options to use different sources of fuel depending upon relative costs and outside weather conditions. This system does cost more up front, but it gives you options to choose less costly fuels later over the life of the system.
- Maintenance and repairs: A higher quality system will last longer and run more consistently than a cheaper system, so while a less expensive system will look good initially, you’ll probably pay out more in repairs and maintenance.
- High-efficiency systems: The efficiency of heating systems is established via AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) ratings. High-efficiency systems are generally rated above 90 percent AFUE, and these systems use much less energy than lower efficiency ones, ensuring lower monthly utility bills. Older systems can have AFUE rating in the 60 percent range when new, so there is a good opportunity to save here.
- Advanced features: Higher-efficiency systems also include features that increase energy savings, like variable speed blowers and ECMs (electronically commutated motors). Another important factor to consider is if you select a system powered by a renewable energy source which is kind to the environment.
To guarantee your home comfort and both short- and long-term energy savings, calculate lifetime costs, not just first cost. That's how you'll find the best first cost heating system. Contact the experts at P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling for help.Photo Credit: bertron8