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Home Heating Systems
Heating is the largest energy expense in most homes
This accounts for almost two-thirds of annual energy bills in colder areas of the country. Home heating systems can also be a major source of air pollution. According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, heating systems produce a billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and about 12 percent of the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted nationwide. Reducing energy demand for heating and using clean-burning fuels like propane are the most effective ways to cut heating bills in half and improve the environment at the same time.
Why use propane for heating?
Propane is an exceptional energy source that not only offers warmth and comfort but is friendly to the environment. Propane is one of the cleanest burning fuels, and it doesn’t strain the electric grid, reducing the risk of power outages.From furnaces to fireplaces, propane offers new ways to make any home affordably warm and comfortable year round, while protecting the environment.
The builder or contractor can choose from several types of propane furnaces to accommodate different architectural styles and floor plans:
- Central Furnaces
- Wall Furnaces
The most common type of central heating system is the forced-air furnace. Forced-air central furnaces fueled by propane gas have many features that are well suited to new construction, such as the following:
- Conserving space: Propane furnaces, even ultra-high efficiency models, have low-profile designs, so they can fit into tight spaces with height restrictions or narrow side clearances – even a closet. Many models can be installed and vented in a variety of ways, and some are even certified for zero clearance on side and back, to sit flush against walls.
- Maximizing safety: Most of today’s propane-fueled gas furnaces are equipped with electronic ignitions that activate the burners only when fuel is needed. This enhances safety by eliminating the need for standing pilot lights.
- Minimizing energy demand: In addition to conserving energy with electronic ignition, propane gas furnaces are available with vent dampers. These “flapper” devices, installed in the flue, close when the heat demand has been met, trapping residual heat for circulation in the home. When heat is needed, the damper opens before the burners are ignited to allow combustion fumes to escape. Burners can only ignite when the damper is open, so energy is consumed only when heating is needed.
- Having longer equipment durability: Propane-fueled furnaces have operating lives of 15-20 years (5-10 years longer than electric heat pumps).
- Heating the whole house: Propane furnaces offer warmer air than electric heating systems. An electric heat pump produces heat only as warm as 95°F. A gas furnace heats air to about 120°F, and operates in short intervals to minimize operating costs.
- Lowering operating costs: In general, heating with propane entails lower operating costs than heating with electricity.
Wall furnaces are used in small spaces, and they have several key features, such as the following:
- Maximizing space: Direct-vent wall furnaces are very compact units that can be used to heat small homes. They are particularly appropriate for retrofitting older homes in which the extension of an existing heating system may be impractical, expensive, or impossible
- Creating noiseless, fumeless heat: Most wall furnaces utilize sealed combustion systems housed in durable cabinetry. All combustion air is obtained from the outside, and all flue gases are vented outdoors, so homeowners don’t have to worry about exhaust fumes. Propane wall furnaces are quiet and efficient, too. The noiseless burners are ignited with the simple push of a button, and the newest designs have AFUE ratings of 90 percent.
- Eliminating outages: Thermostats are built in and no wiring is required, so these units are extremely flexible and easy to install. They don’t use electricity, so heat will be available even during power outages.
One important development in propane gas heating systems is the emergence of combo-heaters that provide both water and space heating. This is accomplished by an air handler that captures the heat lost by the water heater and uses it to warm the house. These units can achieve up to 90% efficiencies for both water and central heating. Combo-heaters have proven themselves to be extremely efficient, reliable, and cost effective. More than one million systems have been installed in the United States since 1974 (Source: Bio-Radiant Energy, Inc.).
Combo-heaters are especially suited for new homes because of features like these:
- Units are direct vented and require no chimney.
- They have completely sealed combustion chambers. This is not only a safety feature but also allows them to be installed virtually anywhere in the home.
- The life of the water heater is significantly lengthened because increased circulation of water reduces sediment build-up.
- Combo-heaters conserve space, sometimes using only as much space as a standard water heater.
Fireplaces are in great demand by homebuyers, primarily because of the ambience they provide to a home. Propane gas fireplaces are also an excellent source of supplemental heat.
Fireplaces and other hearth products are so popular that they are found in almost 65% of all new homes, says the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). More than 70% of all hearth products now burn gas (Source: HPBA). Propane gas fireplaces can produce twice as much heat as wood-burning fireplaces at about a third of the cost.
Fireplaces can be installed as freestanding units, wall insets, traditional masonry, or ultra-contemporary designs, and they can be equipped with a variety of options, including push-button ignition, remote control, variable heat controls, and thermostats.
Here are some advantages of using a propane fireplace or log set:
- Low operating costs: Propane gas fireplaces and stoves heat more evenly and more efficiently than wood-burning hearth products. They can also heat a larger area, which means less reliance on primary home-heating systems and significant cost savings.
- Energy efficiency: Wood-burning fireplaces can lose as much as 90 percent of the heat they generate through the chimney (U.S. DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy).
- Easy installation: Many modern propane fireplaces have low clearance requirements, providing installation flexibility. They can be direct vented, which eliminates the need for a chimney. This makes them ideal for use in new homes.
- Safe: Propane fireplaces are safer for new homes than wood-burning fireplaces because there are no smoldering ashes or flying sparks. The flames are immediately extinguished when the gas supply is turned off.
- Environmentally friendly: Propane gas fireplaces do not produce the pollution-laden smoke and ash residue that wood-burning models do. Clean-burning propane means furniture, window coverings, and home decorations don’t need to be cleaned as often as in a house with a wood-burning fireplace. Also, in some places and/or under certain conditions, wood-burning fireplaces may be banned due to high pollution levels.
- Clean: Propane fireplaces are much cleaner than wood fireplaces; no ashes, wood chips, or other aspects associated with handling and burning wood.
- Convenient: Whenever the homeowner wants the ambiance or heat from the fireplace, it is just seconds away.
Did You Know?
- Approximately 5.6 million households use propane gas to fuel their home-heating system. (Source: Federal Energy Information Agency (EIA) Residential Energy Consumption Survey.)
- On average, homes that heat with propane consume 502 gallons of propane per year (EIA Residential Energy Consumption Survey).
- A propane furnace consistently supplies air at a comfortable 120°F. Electric heat pumps, on the other hand, dispense air at only 95°F, which is less than body temperature (98.6°F), so the air feels cool, not warm.
- Propane gas furnaces last an average of 20 years, while electric heat pumps last an average of only 14 years (Appliance magazine, September 2001). Also, the cost of repairing a propane gas furnace is lower than the cost of repairing an electric heat pump.
- Propane gas fireplace systems cost between 30 to 60 percent less per hour of operation than wood-burning fireplaces (according to the DOE and Energy Savings Calculator).
- Propane gas fireplaces can be turned off easily with a switch – or even a remote control – eliminating any concern about the smoldering embers that may remain after a wood fire is extinguished.
Propane-fueled patio heaters enhance a homeowner’s outdoor living by providing warmth and comfort long after the end of the official outdoor patio season.