Upgrade Furnace or Boiler

If it’s time to upgrade your furnace or boiler, consider a highly efficient electric heat pump heating system.  This is the best option for both low cost energy and lowering your impact.  However, if that’s not an option or you prefer another option, consider a new high efficiency furnace or boiler.

Challenging
Households: 1 completed, 0 committed
3910
Points ?
$180
Annual Savings
$3,000 - $4,000
Upfront Cost
These are estimates
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Energy and water savings

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kWh Electricity
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224
Therms Natural Gas
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Gallons Gas
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  • Save money and energy
  • Increase the comfort of your home
  • Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution

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Overview

The Action
We will upgrade our current central furnace or boiler to a new efficient model.
Is this action for me?
If you own a home and have a central heating system, this action is for you.
When and Who?
This is generally best done when your system is in need of replacement or older and less efficient. It is best done by a professional.
How long will it take?
Longer - time to learn about your options, get quotes and manage the contractor and installation.
What is the cost?
on average a new system is around $3,000 - $4,000.

Benefits

  • Save money and energy

  • Increase the comfort of your home

  • Reduce carbon emissions and air pollution

Resources

Rebate/Credit

Dominion Energy offers rebates through the ThermWise program

Information

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The Basics

If you have an old, inefficient furnace or boiler, you can save a lot of money and energy by upgrading to a new, more efficient furnace or boiler. The best option if you upgrade is to switch to an electric heat pump system since it is even more efficient and will significantly lower carbon emissions. However, if this is not an option, an efficient furnace or boiler system would be next in line.

Checklist

Decided when to upgrade
Consider an electric heat pump system
Consider efficiency measures
Choose a system and a contractor
Install your new system
Maintain your system

When to upgrade?

There are two main reasons to replace your current furnace or boiler - when it stops working or if it is old and inefficient enough that the upgrade will significantly lower your energy bills.  The first one is pretty straight forward.  The second one requires a bit more information.  Furnaces and boilers are rated with efficiency ratings called AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency).  All furnaces are required to display this rating so you can compare the efficiency of different models.  The AFUE is the percent of the energy from your boiler or furnace that ends up heating your house and is not lost up the chimney or elsewhere (this does not include losses through the ducts).  

If your current furnace or boiler has a rating of less than 70, take a look at your bill and figure out if replacement makes sense.  If you upgrade from an AFUE of 65 to an AFUE of 95, this would be increasing your furnace or boiler efficiency by 30%.  This should translate to about a 30% savings on your bill.  If your furnace uses oil or propane and your heating costs are high, this could translate to a savings of up to $500/year in cold climates, less in milder climates.  Installation costs for a new furnace or boiler are on average about $3-4000.  Under this scenario, you would recoup the savings in 6-8 years.

If your current system is electric, your savings can be significant in switching to a heat pump system, 60% or more.  However, if your unit is gas powered and you live in a milder climate, you savings may only be $100/year making the upgrade not cost effective.  In this case it would be better to wait until your furnace or boiler stops working.  If you are not sure how to calculate this, have a heating professional help you determine what is right for your system.  

If you are not ready to replace your system, you could also consider retrofitting to increase efficiency.  Check out information from Energy.gov on retrofitting your gas (natural gas or propane) or oil furnace or boiler.

Why consider an Electric Heat Pump system?

If you are ready to replace your furnace or boiler, this is the time to consider switching to an Electric Heat Pump system.  Why switch?  First, if you have an oil or propane furnace or boiler system, the electric heat pump system will save you lots of money on energy bills - up to $1,000/year in cold climates, less in moderate climates.  If you have a standard electric system now, it is a no brainer, you will save 60% or more on your bill.  If you have a natural gas system currently, the operating costs are comparable, however, the climate impact is significant.  

When you install an Electric Heat Pump system you are converting from gas, propane or oil, which are fossil fuels, to electricity, which we can transition to clean, renewable sources.  If your electricity provider uses a lot of coal to generate your electricity currently, your climate savings right away from switching will not be significant.  However, since renewable electricity sources like solar and wind have become so cheap along with national and state policies to transition to renewable energy sources, coal and other fossil fuel sources of electricity will be phased out over time.  

If you install a heat pump system now that lasts 15-20+ years, you will be setting your home up to significantly lower your impact on climate.  Better yet, install a heat pump system and opt into a green electricity program and be 100% carbon emission free with your home heating right away!

Efficiency First

Before you upgrade your home heating system, consider energy efficiency upgrades!  This will lower the amount of energy you need to heat your home.  This is important because when you buy a new system, you need to decide the size of system that is right for your house.  The size will depend on how much energy you need.  If you buy a system that is too big, it will cost extra to operate and extra money to purchase in the first place.  So if you were considering insulating your attic, or weatherizing your home, do it before you buy a new heating system!  You will lower your energy bills and save money on your new furnace or boiler system.

Choose a new system, install and save!

Before choosing a new system, learn a bit about how your system works and the important factors to know so you can make a good decision.  You can also learn about the basics of home heating with this great infographic from Energy.gov.  

A few things to look for in a new unit - first, make sure it is Energy Star rated.  Second, look for a sealed combustion furnace or boiler.  This removes the need for a draft hood or damper and are more efficient.  Choose an experienced contractor to do the work and check references and quotes before you choose.  Finally, once you have installed your new system, make sure to maintain it for maximum efficiency, energy savings and comfort!