When people ask us this question, they’re usually asking about fuel sources, whether gas or electric. That, or they’re wondering whether it’s worth purchasing a variable speed system over a standard type.

Those factors matter, but the most effective home heating system isn’t always the one that uses natural gas. It isn’t always a heat pump. And even though we love variable speed equipment, it isn’t always the one with a modulating gas valve. It isn’t always the HVAC brand with the slickest advertising either.

No! The most effective system for heating your home is something completely different.

It’s the system that’s sized and installed correctly

This is always true. It’s the same answer whether you’ve got a gas furnace, a heat pump, a variable speed system, or a Trane, Carrier, Lennox, Goodman… whatever!

If your HVAC contractor doesn’t do the pre-installation work needed to determine the right size for your system and they don’t install or adjust your ductwork to maximize performance, you’re not going to have an effective home heating system. Full stop.

All else being equal, a properly sized and installed standard system from a budget brand will outperform an improperly and poorly installed variable speed unit from a premium manufacturer.

And it’ll last longer, too.

Let’s also be clear about what we mean when we say a heating system is “effective.” An effective system:

  • Heats your home to the temperature you set on the thermostat
  • Keeps you comfortable throughout the season
  • Distributes the right amount of air to every room
  • Operates at maximum efficiency, per its design
  • Lasts for 12 years or longer
  • Requires only routine maintenance
  • Won’t be subject to parts failure due to problems with the installation

To get a system like that, your HVAC contractor needs to perform a Manual J load calculation to determine the proper size for your system. “Eyeballing it” won’t cut it here; nor will selecting a system based on just the square footage of the house. Those are common ways to sizing a system, but they are the wrong ways to do it. A load calculation is a series of different calculations that a professional performs to determine the right size for your heating system. After it’s done, you’ll know the right size.

There are other exercises, such as Manuals D, S, and T. D is particularly important because it helps your contractor determine the right size and run lengths for your duct system. Without properly designed and installed ductwork, the heating system just won’t perform optimally. You’ve got to do everything correctly.

When homeowners aren’t enjoying great comfort from an expensive system that was supposed to perform better than a standard one, it’s usually because it’s the wrong size, wasn’t installed well, or both.

Variable speed heating systems are more effective than standard units

Now let’s assume you are getting a properly sized and installed system. What other factors impact its effectiveness?
Here’s where variable speed systems really shine. Unlike standard systems, which turn on and run at one speed before turning off again, a variable speed heating system ramps up and down to match your home’s precise heating needs.

A furnace achieves this via a fully modulating gas valve, which ensures the furnace only burns exactly the fuel it needs to heat your space at any given moment. Using a variable speed heat pump unit? The compressor on these can also ramp up and down to provide exactly the right amount of heat.

Both types also use a variable capacity blower to move just the right amount of warm air to different areas of your home – never too little, never too much.

The result is better, more consistent comfort during the winter months. Since these systems tend to run for longer cycles at lower speeds compared to standard systems, they also consume less energy. So you’re more comfortable and have lower heating bills.
That’s a very effective heating system!

Have you already got a gas furnace? Dual fuel is the more effective option

If your home currently has a gas furnace and you know you want to keep heating your home with gas, consider a dual fuel system. It’s the most effective way (in terms of efficiency) for anyone in the Atlanta area to heat their home with a furnace.

Dual fuel is exactly what it says it is: two fuel sources. You use your furnace when it’s really cold outside – usually in the 30s or below. But for the cold-but-not-super-cold days and nights, you won’t heat your home with gas. You’ll use an electric heat pump.

Why would you do this? Well, the thing about heat pumps is that they’re very efficient until the temperature gets close to freezing. After that, they become less efficient. Without auxiliary heat strips, many models can’t heat your home at all when outdoor temperatures are below freezing.

But a dual fuel system uses a heat pump where it’s strongest and provides the best efficiency: outdoor temperatures from the 30s up into the 50s. When the heat pump stops being the more efficient option, your natural gas furnace kicks on.

The result is that you get effective heating throughout the season while maximizing overall heating efficiency. Basically, you’re using a heat pump when it makes the most sense and a furnace when that makes the most sense.

Have (or want) an all-electric home?

If you’re moving away from natural gas heat, be sure your next heat pump is a variable speed unit. Variable speed systems, as discussed above, are a lot more efficient than standard heat pumps and can help you feel more comfortable thanks to their longer cycles and more consistent operation.

Any variable speed heat pump will be a fantastic upgrade; however, there’s a special type of variable speed heat pump that’s even better than most.

You know how we said that most heat pumps rely on heat strips after outdoor temperatures get close to freezing? Well, there’s a new type of heat pump that doesn’t have that problem.

New hyper-heat systems are heat pumps that can heat your home efficiently even when it’s really really cold outside.

You won’t need heat strips with a hyper-heat system. Instead of turning to heat strips, these heat pumps use an inverter system to continue removing heat from the ambient environment and pumping it into your home, even after outdoor temperatures dip well below freezing.

If you’re considering going all electric or you’re replacing an older heat pump, hyper-heat is the most effective home heating system option for you. That said, any variable speed system heat pump is a close runner up.

Remember: The most effective home heating system is the one that’s sized and installed properly

After that, heating system types and heating system features come into play. Variable speed functionality makes a big difference. There are also different questions to ask depending on whether you’re using natural gas or an electric heat pump.

If you live in Metro Atlanta and have questions about getting maximum performance from your next home heating system, PV can help! Give us a call today at (404)-798-9672 or fill out the form below to get in touch.

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