Conserve Energy and Save Money
17 Ways To Save Energy
With the rising cost of energy cost, here are some easy to do
tips to help lower your energy bill.
1. Get a home energy audit every couple of years from a
Certified Home Inspector to find ways to cut costs.
2. Check with your utility company for rebated whenever you
install energy-saving equipment.
3. Add more energy-efficient insulation to your attic,
preferably with a resistance rating of R-21 to R-30
4. Turn down your home thermostat two degrees and save 24
-kilowatt hours a month. It might not sound like much, but
it adds up.
5. Buy a programmable thermostat, especially if your home is
vacant most of the day. Set it to turn on a half hour before
anyone arrives home.
6. Adjust your thermostat to a comfortable temperature and
wait. Turning your thermostat up or down dramatically wasted
energy and increases your heating costs.
7. Lower you hot water thermostat 10 degrees, but no less
than 120 degrees. You'll still get all the hot water you
need and save 25-kilowatt hours a month.
8. Fix leaky faucets. One drip a second is 20 kilowatts a
9. Invest in weather-stripping kits if you've got drafty
doors, and windows.
10. Trade your standard incandescent bulbs for compact
fluorescent bulbs. They are more energy-efficient, last for
years instead of months, consume little power and generate
11.Turn off your computer when not in use, or use the
energy-saving "sleep" mode.
12. Seal energy leaks. Caulk over cracks and
small holes around windows and exterior walls. Look
carefully around plumbing pipes, telephone wires, dryer
vents, sink and bathroom drains and under counter tops.
13. Participate in your power company's special
energy-saving program. Some programs shut down electric
appliances for short bursts of time during peak hours. You
hardly notice the difference at the time, but you will
notice a difference when you get your bill.
14. Buy major appliances that sport the "Energy Star"
sticker. That shows the appliance meets or exceeds standards
set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental
15. Consider a front-loading washing machine. They use 50
percent less energy and one-third less water. Plus, they
remove far more water in the rinse cycle, and that
translates into big savings in dryer time.
16. When building a home or replacing a roof, select a roof
based more on energy efficiency than how it looks.
Light-colored roofs, such a white, galvanized metal or
cement tile, do the best job of reflecting the sun, and cool
quickly at night.
17. Landscaping with the right mix of trees
and shrubs can lower your energy bills by blocking winter
winds or the summer sun.
Are your energy bills too high? Is your home not as comfortable
as you want it to be? Do you want to do more to protect the
environment? Do you have teenagers at home giving your hot water
bill a beating? Whatever your situation, this will help you to
find a solution that’s right for you. This guide is primarily
aimed at homeowners who are thinking of upgrading or replacing
their home’s existing heating or cooling systems. It also
contains useful information for people who are having a home
built for them, and for those who want to reduce their energy
consumption in general.
While builders generally offer a standard heating
or heating/cooling package, upgrades to more efficient equipment
might be available. Familiarity with the different systems, fuel
options, their comparative prices and operating costs will help
you to review upgrade options with your builder. Remember to
also ask your builder about other energy efficiency upgrades,
which can range from extra insulation to a complete
R-2000-certified home. Before being R-2000-certified, each home
is evaluated and tested to ensure a high level of energy
efficiency has been designed and built into it. There are both
financial and environmental benefits to conserving energy and
using it wisely. To help you conserve even more, this will also
direct you to resources that can help you reduce energy consumed
for purposes beyond heating and cooling your home.
A Wise Choice
The options presented will help you to select
heating and cooling systems that meet the needs of both your
lifestyle and your check book. Besides the obvious savings for
you that occur by lowering your consumption, by reducing demand
for energy through conservation or, in the case of electricity,
even from shifting consumption to times of lower demand,
together we can lower the market price for the energy that is
consumed. The advantages of investing in energy efficiency
aren’t only felt within your family budget– they are realized in
the cleaner environment that goes hand in hand with more
efficient systems and the wise use of energy.
Before You Start
Putting an energy-efficient heating system into a drafty, poorly
insulated house will reduce your energy bills. But you’ll notice
a more dramatic saving, and even make yourself more comfortable,
if you also make your entire house more energy efficient. How?
Here are some ideas…
Weatherstrip and caulk to seal air leaks. You may have to
replace uncontrolled sources of air with designed sources to
ensure proper ventilation.
Increase insulation levels where appropriate (such as in the
attic or walls) to reduce heat loss in winter and heat gain
Open drapes on south-facing windows on sunny winter days so
that the sun’s energy can help heat your home, and close
them in summer to help keep your home cool.
Choose energy-efficient products when replacing windows and
By making your house more energy-efficient,
your heating and cooling systems will work less, and you may
reduce the capacity needed when you replace your systems,
which means more savings for you.
Why Energy Efficiency Matters
It’s good for your budget, your comfort and our environment.
Each year you spend hundreds of dollars to heat and cool your
home and to heat your hot water. By installing energy-efficient
equipment, which gives you the same comfort for less energy, you
can lower these costs. Furthermore, the lower you can make your
energy costs now, the better off you will be should energy
prices go up – and conservation reduces upward pressure on
Whenever fuels are burned – in your home, in a
generating station to produce electricity, in vehicles or
elsewhere – carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide
are released. These emissions contribute to environmental
concerns including smog, acid rain and climate change. Reducing
energy use lowers the amounts of these emissions and their
impact on the environment. You can help by practicing energy
efficiency and conservation not only in heating and cooling your
home, but everywhere at home, in the workplace and in your
transportation choices. Many factors can affect your annual
energy bill such as size and location of your home, yearly
variations in weather, efficiency of your furnace and other
appliances, thermostat settings, number of occupants, and the
local cost of energy.
Are you serious about how to go about cutting your heating
and cooling costs?
Follow these steps:
Where appropriate, improve the insulation and air sealing in
Use this guide to help you decide what kinds of changes to
your heating and cooling systems will be right for you.
Consult with a registered heating/cooling contractor and
your fuel supplier before making a final decision.
Heating Units and Controls
There are four common types of heating units:
A furnace provides heat through a forced air distribution
A boiler provides heat through a hydronic distribution
system. (Hydronic systems are also referred to as hot water
A space heater supplies heat directly to the room where it
A heat pump extracts heat from the air, ground or water
outside the house and usually delivers it through a forced
air distribution system.
Most heating systems need air for combustion.
Furnaces, boilers and space heaters that burn fuels need a
supply of air to be able to burn properly, and a vent to the
outdoors so that combustion gases can escape from the house.
Electric heaters do not need to be vented. Combustion is a
two-step process: air in, and gases out.
In the past, there was usually plenty of air
leaking into a house to keep the furnace, boiler or stove
burning well. Modern homes, however, are better sealed and use
controlled ventilation, rather than uncontrolled leakage, to
provide greater comfort and energy efficiency. Vents that supply
air for heating units should never be blocked. It is important
to ensure that there is an adequate supply of combustion air
available, even when other air exhausting equipment is in use.
Venting used to be done through a chimney. Today,
however, many models of natural gas, oil and propane equipment
can be vented by pipe directly through the wall, which greatly
simplifies installation. Remember that combustion gases cannot
escape from your home unless you provide air to replace them.
That’s why venting problems can often be traced to air supply
The indoor temperature is automatically
controlled by a thermostat. Two important considerations are
location and type. Central systems are normally controlled by a
single thermostat. To achieve proper temperature control, the
thermostat must be located in an area where it will sense the
“average” indoor temperature. Locations exposed to localized
temperature extremes (outside walls, drafts, sunlight, hot ducts
or pipes, etc.) should be avoided.
Different types of thermostats are available. Basic types
maintain a fixed indoor temperature. However, you can reduce
your heating costs by installing a set-back thermostat which can
be programmed to automatically lower the temperature when no one
is home or everyone is in bed, and then warm up the house before
you get home or wake up. Savings will vary, but a set-back of
3ºC for eight hours daily could reduce your heating costs by
Where space heaters are used, each unit will
likely be individually controlled by its own thermostat – which
is usually the basic type. This allows you to keep unused areas
at a lower temperature than those areas you do use.
There are three types of distribution systems.
A forced air system circulates warmed or cooled air around
the house through a network of ducts. It also provides a
means of distributing ventilation air
A hot water (hydronic) system distributes heat through hot
water pipes and radiators.
Space heaters, though not technically a distribution system,
provide direct heat to the room in which they are located.
It is important that a distribution system is properly designed,
installed and operated to ensure maximum energy efficiency and
comfort levels. Try to avoid placing any part of your
distribution system outside of your home’s insulation. This is
sometimes done as a simple remedy to a routing problem, but
there is always some heat loss through the wall of any
distribution system. It is better that any losses heat (or cool)
you rather than your attic.
Registers in each room can be adjusted to control
the air flow. Return registers draw air from the rooms through
separate ducts back to the furnace to complete the cycle of air
flow through the house. Leaks in forced air distribution systems
are often ignored because they normally do not cause any obvious
damage, but it is important to avoid/eliminate such leaks. Leaks
will affect a distribution system’s ability to provide comfort
in all areas of the house, and leaks in some parts of the system
can result in significant energy loss and/or
condensation-related damage which may be hidden from sight.
Hot water (Hydronic) Heating
Distributes hot water from a boiler to radiators,
convectors or under-floor heating systems in each room. In older
homes, large cast-iron radiators are common. Modern systems
feature smaller boilers, narrow piping and compact radiators
that can be regulated to provide temperature control in each
room. Under-the-floor heating systems can be built into the
floors of new and existing homes.
These have no central heating unit or
distribution system. Instead, individual space heaters – such as
a wood stove, electric baseboards, radiant heaters or heaters
fueled with oil, natural gas or propane – supply heat directly
to the room. For safety, all space heaters except electric ones
need to be vented to the outside. An appropriately sized space
heater can supply some heat to all parts of a home if the design
of the home allows for natural distribution of heat from the
heater location. In most cases, more than one unit is required
to comply with building code requirements, but multiple units
allow you to vary the temperature around the house.
Energy Sources and Equipment Options
Furnaces in forced air heating systems, boilers
in hot water systems, fireplaces and space heaters can be fueled
by natural gas. It is delivered to your house through an
underground pipeline. (It is not available in some areas.)
Most equipment fueled by propane is similar to that fueled by
natural gas. In many cases, the only differences are one or two
small components that can often be changed by a registered
contractor to convert a unit from one fuel to the other. Propane
is delivered by truck and stored in a tank on your property.
Because of their similarities, natural gas and
propane heating equipment are discussed together. The term “gas”
refers to both natural gas and propane. The cost of the two
fuels differs, so remember to check for cost comparisons.
There are three main types of gas furnaces:
conventional (with a seasonal efficiency range of 55 to 68
mid-efficiency (78 to 82 per cent)
high-efficiency (90 to 98 per cent)
Gas boilers have similar ranges of seasonal
Older conventional gas furnaces and boilers
Some older furnaces and boilers, which are no
longer produced but are still in use, require a continuous liner
in a masonry chimney or a metal “B” vent chimney. The liner is
needed because the combustion gases contain water vapor which
condenses on masonry and causes deterioration over time. About
35 per cent of the heat from the fuel goes up the chimney with
Mid-efficiency gas furnaces and boilers
These models remove more heat from combustion
gases so that less heat escapes when the gases are exhausted and
efficiency is improved. Depending on the circumstances, they
might be vented through a wall or through a chimney.
High-efficiency (condensing) gas furnaces and boilers
These models extract so much heat from combustion
gases in order to achieve their efficiency, that they can be
safely vented through a narrow plastic pipe that runs through
Gas fireplaces are sometimes used to provide space heating,
though they are often chosen for aesthetic reasons. There can be
significant differences in energy efficiency from one model to
another, and the effective efficiency of some types can be
significantly affected by how they are used.
Oil furnaces and boilers have a burner, a heat
exchanger and a blower or pump. Oil is delivered by truck and
stored in a tank, which is usually located in the basement.
Older conventional oil furnaces and boilers
Older, conventional oil furnaces and boilers with
a standard burner have a seasonal efficiency generally ranging
from 60 to 70%. Like older, conventional gas furnaces and
boilers, they are no longer produced. However, in an existing
model that is working well, the seasonal efficiency can be
improved by replacing the burner with a flame retention unit –
usually a more cost-effective step than replacing the entire
New oil furnaces and boilers
A typical new oil furnace or boiler has a
seasonal efficiency rating generally ranging from 78 to 86 per
cent. Many of these units can be vented through the wall.
There are free-standing oil space heaters with a
visible flame now available. There are no efficiency standards
for these products.
Electric resistance systems can consist of a central furnace or
boiler connected to an air or hot water distribution system,
radiant panels embedded in the floor or ceiling or a baseboard
space heating system. Electricity also powers heat pumps. When
electric resistance heating is used in a new home, including as
a back-up for an air source heat pump, the building code
requires the house to be built with higher minimum levels of
A heat pump is usually an electrically-powered system that can
either heat or cool by transferring heat from one place to
another. During the heating season, a heat pump extracts heat
from either the air, ground or water outside the house, and
transfers it indoors. In the summer the direction of the heat
flow is reversed, extracting heat from indoors and transferring
it outdoors, to provide air conditioning. Because they satisfy a
substantial part of your heating needs by utilizing already
available heat, rather than consuming electricity to generate
all of the heat you need, heat pumps are significantly more
efficient than electric resistance heating.
There are three main types of heat pumps:
air source heat pumps
earth energy systems
bivalent heat pumps.
Air source heat pumps
These most commonly-used heat pumps can provide
all the cooling requirements of a home and most of the heating
needs, but they require an auxiliary heating source during very
cold weather. This can be either an electric resistance or a
fossil fuel unit.
Earth energy systems
Also known as ground source heat pumps, these
systems transfer heat from the ground, ground water or surface
water and use it to provide home heating. For summer cooling,
the process is reversed. If desired, earth energy systems can be
equipped to provide domestic hot water year round. Electric
resistance heaters may be installed to provide supplementary
heating for the coldest days. They normally utilize much less
electric resistance heat and offer significantly higher
efficiency than air source heat pumps.
Some households use wood as their main fuel but even more use it
as a supplementary source of heat. Most of these households are
outside large urban areas where firewood is usually less
expensive than other fuels. The most common approach to wood
heating today is a wood stove or high-efficiency fireplace
installed in the main living area of the house. If the house is
medium-sized and relatively new, this kind of equipment can
provide almost all the heat needed.
If you have an existing masonry fireplace, a
high-efficiency fireplace insert could be a good option. And
many models offer the pleasure of a visible wood fire.
Older or larger houses may need the additional heating power
offered by a wood-burning furnace. If your present heating
system is a forced air furnace that uses a more costly fuel, you
might want to consider an add-on wood furnace. It is installed
beside the existing furnace and the duct work is modified so
that it can be shared by both furnaces. Combination wood/oil or
wood/electric furnaces are options for new or replacement
systems. Stoves that burn pellets made from wood or agricultural
crops such as corn kernels are also available. Pellets are
automatically fed into the burner and the householder simply
dials in the required temperature on the thermostat.
When shopping for wood-burning equipment, visit
several wood heat retail stores and discuss appliance selection,
location and installation with a knowledgeable salesperson.
Always buy wood-burning equipment that is certified for safety.
It is also preferable to buy equipment that has been certified
as meeting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or
Canadian CSA-B415 emission standards. These certified
wood-burning appliances produce one-tenth of the chimney
emissions and one-third higher efficiency than earlier units.
“Outdoor” wood furnaces or boilers are also on
the market. They may appear attractive, because they will burn
low cost material you would not think of putting in an indoor
appliance and can burn for long periods between refueling.
However, they can be low on efficiency and high on emissions.
Like wood, solar energy is a renewable resource. Solar heating
does not involve the combustion of fuels, so it does not produce
environmentally-harmful emissions. It can be as simple as south
facing windows serving as passive solar collectors. Passive
solar heating is free and should be an important consideration
in the design of homes. Homes built to high levels of energy
efficiency and designed to make the most use of free solar
heating can save hundreds of dollars a year on energy bills.
Other energy sources
Residential systems are available to generate
electricity from sunlight or wind. In certain situations, such
as remote locations, one of these may be the most practical
option. In addition, the government is establishing standardized
processes and technical requirements which will require
electricity distributors to allow customers with qualifying
generation equipment to supplement their utility electricity
needs with power they generate themselves.
Cooling Systems (air conditioning)
Two types of units cool an entire house: a
central air conditioner or a heat pump. If you only need to cool
a specific area, a window air conditioning unit could be your
most energy-conserving choice. Regardless of what type you are
considering, remember that models will vary in efficiency
ratings and efficiency has a direct impact on operating costs,
so optimizing efficiency should be a priority. Consider buying
an ENERGY STAR®-qualified model.
If you decide you want to cool your entire house,
you should consider which system to install – central air
conditioning or a heat pump – when reviewing your home’s heating
needs. An air conditioner is actually a heat pump that can only
cool. *Remember: your heating decisions can affect your cooling
Duct work for central air
Duct work is generally needed to carry cool air
throughout the house in a central air conditioning system. If
you have a forced air heating system you can usually use the
same ducts for cooling. If you do not have duct work, you can
look into installing it or consider air conditioning
technologies that have been developed for homes without ducts.
These alternatives are more costly, so if you are considering
them, investigate your options with your heating/cooling
Mini splits are systems suited to homes without a
central air-distribution system. No duct work is required. The
system consists of two components: an outdoor condensing unit,
and an indoor evaporator and fan. The indoor section can
frequently be mounted on any interior or exterior wall, and is
much quieter than a window unit.
Window air conditioners are effective if you only
need to cool a specific area of your home. They will cost less
to install than a central air conditioning system. If you don’t
have duct work, they might be your most practical choice. It is
important to match the capacity of the window air conditioner
with the size of the area to be cooled. Window units should
either be covered in winter or, better still, removed to
minimize heat loss.
Other Ways to Cool Your House
The following measures will help keep your home more
Install ceiling fans to circulate air.
If you’re planning for the long term, plant trees that lose
their leaves in the fall on the east, south and west side of
Close the drapes or blinds on south and west-facing windows
during sunny summer days to reduce heat gains.
Turn off lights and appliances when they are not in use.
Install awnings for patio doors and windows that face the
Open windows in the evening and at night during the summer
Hot Water and How to Heat It
There are several water-heating options available
to you. While you are taking steps to save on home heating,
don’t forget to see what you can do to lower your water heating
costs. Check with your fuel supplier for more information, and
consider alternatives to your current method.
Storage-type water heaters
Most homes have storage-type water heaters in
which water in a tank is heated by a gas or oil burner or by
electric elements. Traditional storage heaters have been
improved with such features as through-the-wall venting for
combustion units and better insulation, making them less
expensive to operate. Units designed to give even greater
efficiency are now available.
Instantaneous water heaters
Instantaneous water heaters which heat water as
needed and have no storage tank are available, but not widely.
They require little space, but they usually cost more than
storage-type water heaters and more than one unit might be
required to meet your needs. For electric instantaneous water
heaters, upgraded wiring is often necessary.
Integrated (combination) hot water systems
Systems that combine space heating and water
heating are becoming more popular. Water can be heated with a
boiler or a storage-tank water heater. The hot water can be used
for space heating as well as domestic hot water needs. Space
heating methods include baseboard radiators, in-floor radiant
heating and forced air heating when piped to an air handler.
Some of these systems can also be used for pool and spa heating
and snow-melting applications. Combo systems vary widely in
efficiency and must be carefully designed to give satisfactory
Solar water heaters
In solar water heaters, energy from the sun is
collected by solar panels and transferred by circulating fluids
to a storage tank. These heaters are typically used with an
electric water heater, or one fueled by oil, natural gas or
propane, which acts as a back-up for overcast days. Solar
collector panels can be mounted on any unobstructed roof, wall
or ground frame that faces between southeast and southwest.
Solar water heaters are designed to provide between 35 and 75%
of your hot water needs, with the back-up providing the balance.
Replacing Your System
Review your options, consider the pros and cons
of different equipment and fuels, and compare installation and
operating costs. Now get ready to improve your existing system,
and it’s time to select a contractor. Here are some tips:
Look for a registered contractor
Your contractor will supply and install your equipment.
Proper installation is essential for the safe, efficient and
economical operation of your system. Electric equipment must
be installed by a licensed electrician and all electrical
work must be inspected.
Get estimates from several contractors.
Prices can vary significantly among contractors.
Ask each firm for a written estimate covering the following
The total cost and a listing of all necessary work including
improvements to the existing system and the provision of
combustion air if applicable
Heat loss/gain analysis
The size and seasonal efficiency of the unit, and sound
ratings if applicable
Responsibility of the contractor or homeowner for:
Obtaining permits and paying related fees
Removing and disposing of old equipment
Arranging for such work as installation of gas supply
Arranging necessary inspections
A work schedule and completion date
Guarantees, warranties and service contracts
Terms of payment
Evidence of an electrician’s license as appropriate
Use costs (both installed and operating), work schedule,
warranties and service as the basis for your decision. Ask the
contractors you are considering for references, and follow up by
contacting previous customers. Ask what they think about the
contractor, fuel supplier and the options you are considering.
Choose the right equipment
In order to correctly size new heating and cooling equipment,
your contractor must analyze how much heat is lost from your
home in winter and gained in summer. Ask for this heat loss/gain
analysis in writing, including the method used to perform the
calculation. This calculation should take into consideration
such factors as the size of the house, its level of insulation
and the condition of windows and doors. If the heat loss and
gain is significant and you haven’t already taken steps to
increase the energy efficiency of the house, now is the time to
Avoid the temptation to simply choose the same
size equipment that already exists in your house without doing a
heat loss/gain analysis. Your home has likely been altered over
the years and the system might even have been the wrong size at
the start. An oversized unit will usually operate below peak
efficiency, and both oversized and undersized units can
adversely affect the comfort of your home. Any installation
involving combustion equipment should include steps to ensure
that there will be an adequate supply of air for combustion and
venting, and that other air exhausting equipment will not cause
Changing Your Water Heater
Size is an important consideration when selecting
new hot water equipment. A larger family is likely to use more
hot water. A “downsized” household – for example, an older
couple whose children have grown up and moved into their own
homes – will no longer need a water heater meant to supply the
needs of four or more people. By practicing water conservation –
for example, by installing energy-efficient showerheads and
aerators on taps and using cold water in your washing machine –
you can substantially reduce your hot water usage.
Steps to installing a hot water tank
Contact your local fuel supplier or contractor
and ask for the efficiency ratings of the models you are
considering. When you have selected a unit just big enough to
meet your household needs, your fuel supplier or contractor can
arrange for a qualified serviceperson to install the water
heater. If you have an electric hot water tank, wrap it in an
insulating blanket. Make sure the blanket is certified for use
on your heater and is properly installed. Insulate both the hot
and cold water lines of the tank and consider installing a heat
trap. Be careful not to insulate the pipes too close to the flue
of a fossil-fueled tank. Ask your fuel supplier about any water
heating cost-saving programs they offer. Some suppliers do some
of the work at little or no cost to you.
Glossary of terms
Here is a quick overview of terms used in this
guide and that you’ll need to know as you gather information
about your home heating and cooling options.
AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP
A heating-cooling unit that transfers heat in
either direction between the air outside a home and the indoors.
AIR SUPPLY FOR COMBUSTION
The air that a furnace, boiler or space heater
requires to burn fuel.
A thermostat that controls the water temperature
in a boiler.
The heating unit used with a hot water (hydronic) distribution
CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONER
A unit that cools an entire house by removing
heat from the inside air and releasing it outside.
Devices such as a thermostat that regulate a
heating or cooling system.
CONVENTIONAL GAS FURNACE OR BOILER
A gas heating unit with an annual fuel
utilization efficiency (AFUE) less than 70%. It exhausts through
a masonry chimney (which should be lined) or metal “B” vent.
COST-EFFECTIVE HEATING/COOLING SYSTEM
One that produces good value for money after all costs
(purchase, installation, financing and energy charges) are
The components of a heating or cooling system
that deliver warmed or cooled air, or warmed water, to the
DOMESTIC HOT WATER
Hot water used for household purposes.
EARTH ENERGY SYSTEM (ground source heat pump)
A heat pump that transfers heat from the earth or
ground water in cold weather and transfers it to the house
through an underground piping system for space heating, cooling
or water heating. The process reverses in warm weather, and heat
is discharged to the ground or water.
ELECTRICAL RESISTANCE HEATING
Heat produced by passing electricity through a
FLAME RETENTION HEAD BURNER
A higher-efficiency burner in an oil furnace. It
produces a hotter flame and operates with a lower air flow, thus
reducing heat loss up the chimney.
The fluids commonly used in refrigerating and air
conditioning equipment to create the cooling effect. These
fluids can damage the environment.
A distribution system in which a fan circulates
air from the heating or cooling unit to the rooms through a
network of ducts.
A naturally occurring carbon or hydrocarbon fuel
such as natural gas, propane and oil, formed by the
decomposition of prehistoric organisms.
A heating unit that uses a forced air
GROUND SOURCE HEAT PUMP
Another term for an Earth Energy System.
A structure that transfers heat from one gas or
liquid to another gas or liquid. For example, the hot combustion
gases in a furnace to the circulating household air or, in a
boiler, to the circulating hot water.
HEAT RECOVERY VENTILATOR (HRV)
A device used in central ventilation systems to
reduce the amount of heat that is lost as household air is
replaced with outside air. As fresh air enters the house, it
passes through a heat exchanger heated by the warm outgoing air
stream and is preheated.
HIGH-EFFICIENCY (condensing) FURNACE OR BOILER
A heating unit with an annual fuel utilization
efficiency (AFUE) of 90% or more. It has a second stainless
steel heat exchanger that removes additional heat from exhaust
gases. Water vapor condenses as the exhaust cools. The unit
vents through a narrow plastic wall pipe instead of a chimney.
A distribution system in which hot water is
circulated through a network of pipes to radiators, wall panels
or an under-floor heating system.
The total of the purchase price and the
installation costs of equipment.
INSTANTANEOUS WATER HEATER
A device that heats water as required but does not store it. The
unit is usually located near the point of use.
INTEGRATED (combo) HOT WATER SYSTEM
A system that provides both space and water
heating from a single heat source.
A unit of electrical power used to measure the
heating capacity of electric equipment. One kilowatt (kW) equals
1,000 watts (W).
MID-EFFICIENCY NATURAL GAS OR PROPANE FURNACE OR BOILER
A gas heating unit with an annual fuel
utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 78 to 82%. Some models exhaust
through the basement wall.
NEW OIL FURNACE
Efficiencies (AFUE) range from 78 to 86%. Has
flue gases that may be exhausted through a chimney or a side
A performance standard for new homes under a
voluntary government/industry program. Builders meet the
standard by offering an integrated package of features designed
to meet the R-2000 requirements. The package includes high
insulation levels, air-tightness, heat recovery ventilation and
efficient heating/cooling systems.
Replacement of one or more components of an
A performance rating that considers the heat (or
‘cool’) actually delivered to the living space, the total energy
available in the fuel consumed, and the impact the equipment
itself has on the total heating or cooling load through an
entire heating or cooling season. HSPF, AFUE, SEER and EF are
seasonal efficiency ratings.
energy efficiency ratio
A programmable thermostat with a built-in timer.
You can adjust it to vary household temperature automatically.
A heating unit that supplies heat directly to the room where it
is located and is not connected to a distribution system.
STORAGE-TYPE WATER HEATER
A tank that heats and stores hot water.
A measure of the cooling capacity for central air
conditioners and heat pumps.
Efficiency Ratings: AFUE, COP, HSPF, SEER & EER
Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the efficiency
ratings you’ll find on various pieces of equipment.
Boilers and Furnaces
Rating to look for: AFUE
The annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of
furnaces and boilers measures their performance over a typical
heating season. It takes into account things like on-and-off
cycles and heat loss through the chimney or vent, and is the
most useful furnace and boiler rating available. The higher the
rating, the more efficient the unit.
There is a second efficiency rating for furnaces and boilers and
it is known as steady-state efficiency. It is higher than an
AFUE rating but it’s not as helpful. It measures the equipment’s
performance after it has been running a short while and all
components have reached their normal operating temperature. The
steady state efficiency of furnaces and boilers is determined by
comparing the amount of heat that’s available in the fuel to the
amount that is converted into usable heat, but it does not
include off-cycle losses.
Advanced equipment which is certified as meeting the EPA or
CSA-B415 emissions standard normally exceeds 60% and averages
70% efficiency. Conventional wood-burning appliances which are
not certified as low emission average 50% efficiency, with a
range of 35 - 70%. Although some wood burning equipment is
specifically certified for efficiency, most is not.
Also, most wood-burning appliances are manually
operated, not automatic, and so the practices of the operator
will affect the efficiency actually achieved.
Ratings to look for: COP, HSPF
Earth energy systems are rated for heating efficiency by
comparing them to electric resistance heat. The measurement used
is called the coefficient of performance – COP – and is
determined by dividing the heat output by the energy input.
Since the COP of an electric resistance heater is 1.0 – which
means that the same amount of energy that goes into it as
electricity comes out as heat – any rating higher than 1.0 means
that for the same amount of electricity going in, more heat
comes out. Look for a COP of 3.1 or more.
The heating efficiency rating for an air source
heat pump is called the heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF).
This is determined by dividing the total heat provided during
the season (in BTU) by the total energy consumed by the system
(in watt-hours). The higher the rating, the more efficient the
heat pump is over the entire heating season. Look for an HSPF of
more than 5.9.
Air conditioners and air source heat pumps
Ratings to look for: SEER
A SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy
Efficiency Ratio, tells you the cooling energy efficiency of air
conditioners and air source heat pumps. The rating is determined
by dividing the total cooling provided during the season (in
BTU) by the total energy consumed by the system (in watt-hours).
The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the unit. SEERs
for new central air conditioners and air source heat pumps
currently range from 10 to 17. For room air conditioners, the
range is 8 to 12.
Earth energy systems
Ratings to look for: EER
If you want to know how efficiently an earth
energy system can cool, look for the letters EER, which stand
for energy efficiency ratio. EER ratings are determined by
dividing the cooling output of the ground or water source heat
pump (in BTU/hour) by the power input (in watts). Look for an
EER of at least 10.5.
Hot water equipment
Storage-type Hot Water Heaters
An energy factor (EF) is used to rate the energy
efficiency of storage-type hot water heaters. Both on-cycle
efficiency and off-cycle losses are taken into account, which
makes it a seasonal rating. The higher the EF, the more
efficient the unit. You can expect the following energy factor
ranges for new storage-type water heaters:
Gas 0.56 to 0.86
Electric 0.87 to 0.98
Oil 0.53 to .68
A storage-type water heater added to an earth energy system will
normally have an energy factor of 2.7 to 3.1.