What is the Most Energy Efficient Heating System?


Climate change is a hot-button topic today. Concerned consumers across the country want to minimize their carbon footprint (and save money) by reducing their energy use. Many wonder how high-efficiency furnaces save homeowners money? An efficient heating system is essential in cold climates like Ontario’s, where heating costs can account for as much as 61% of your home energy consumption.

Benefits Of An Efficient Home Heating System

  • Eco-friendly
    Energy efficient heating and cooling is healthier for the environment.
  • Economical
    Reduced energy consumption means lower operating costs.
  • Comfort
    Enjoy cozy warmth, even during those c-c-cold Canadian winters.

Measure the Efficiency of your Heating System

We are going to compare heating systems by their AFUE (Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency). This translates into what percentage of fuel the system will transform into usable heat for your home.

Energy efficient heating systems will have an AFUE rating of 90% or greater. A high AFUE indicates that minimal heat is being wasted due to poor system design, inefficient burners, or air leakage.

Compare The 3 Most Popular Types Of Heating Systems In Ontario

Forced Air Furnace

Trane XT95 Furnace

Forced air furnaces work by heating air and then circulating (forcing) this warmed air through your home via ductwork. Common fuels are natural gas, heating oil, wood, propane or electricity. A forced air furnace will quickly provide pleasant, even heating throughout your home. However, it usually relies on fossil fuels, requires connection to a nearby gas supply line or a large tank of heating oil, or in the case of wood, can be one of the dirtiest and least efficient ways to heat your home. An electric furnace is safer and clean, but will rarely provide any cost efficiencies since the amount of electricity needed to match the heat output of a gas furnace is significant. 

Efficiency rating: AFUE for the most efficient Gas forced air furnaces is between 95 and 98%. Electric furnaces may score as high as 100%. Wood burning furnaces can see AFUE ratings as high as 88% putting them a distant third in the efficiency rankings. Installation of a new, efficient furnace is likely to save you energy and operating costs.

Heat Pumps

Unlike furnaces, heat pumps don’t actually create heat. Instead, they collect and redistribute existing heat from the air (air-source heat pumps) or the earth (geothermal systems). Although heat pumps are ultra-efficient and can reduce your monthly heating costs, installation and repair are often pricey. You may need a backup heating source if your local temperatures dip below minus 28-30 degrees Celsius (minus 10-25 degrees Fahrenheit) depending on the size of your system.

Ductless Air Conditioners

We are seeing an explosion in demand for a new type of air-source heat pump: the ductless mini-split system. These systems have a condenser outside and one or several air handlers mounted high on the wall inside the home. Recent efficiency improvements from Trane and Mitsubishi make these systems one of the most efficient ways to heat — and cool — your home.

Efficiency rating: Because heat pumps create more energy than they consume, they’re usually rated according to COP (Coefficient of Performance), the annual cooling efficiency (SEER) and heating efficiency (HSPF) rather than AFUE. A COP of 1 means the heat pump is working at 100% efficiency; the higher the COP, the better your heat pump’s functioning. ENERGY STAR specifications require that the EnerGuide SEER rating be 12.0 or greater for a single package unit or 13.0 or greater for a split system.


in floor heating

Boilers are a kind of heat exchanger, burning gas, propane, wood, or oil to heat (or boil) water. This hot water then moves through a series of pipes to warm your home, by means of radiant piping or radiators in each room. Zoned heating (heating individual rooms as you choose) is often simplified when using a boiler-based heating system. A boiler also results in better indoor air quality with fewer allergens, since dust and pollen are not being pushed around by a furnace fan. However, boilers are declining in popularity as a home heating system, as the installation and design costs can be significantly more expensive than other options.

Efficiency rating: AFUE for the most efficient boilers is 90-98.5%. But this figure can be misleading when it comes to the overall volume of energy consumed. Radiant heating systems use water or glycol to transfer the heat from the boiler to the rooms in your house, a much more efficient way to transfer heat than air. This means that while your forced air gas furnace may run at an AFUE of 98% — and your boiler may only run at 90% — you won’t feel as cold setting your thermostat at 20 degrees Celsius instead of 22.

Which Heating System is Best For You?

For overall efficiency in terms of cost, a forced air furnace with a high AFUE rating will be your most affordable high efficiency solution. For an example, take a look at our high efficiency furnaces from Trane.

For overall efficiency in terms of the actual amount of energy consumed to heat your home, a high efficiency, boiler-based hydronic system will use the least amount of fuel over its life. We have several boiler models and systems to choose from.

Then you get into the specifics of which one will be the best for your home. That is a difficult question to address in a blog post. Finding the right heating system requires that we work closely with you to understand your particular home, your personal needs and desires, and of course what fuel is currently available to you and at what cost.

Oldest Air Conditioning Contest Winner 2015

Furnace, heat pump, or boiler? Dr HVAC has you covered. We offer a variety of high efficiency heating solutions to Southwestern Ontario homeowners who are taking the right steps forward for the environment. Call for details.