There is more than one way to heat a home. As a custom builder in Austin, Texas, Matt Risinger knows that. He also knows a customer’s bottom line when it comes to space heating is about more than just cost. Ultimately, his customers want to be comfortable. That makes tailoring heating systems to their unique needs critical.
In this video series, Risinger wears a hat — or, in this case, a lab coat — that many builders are familiar with: analyzing building products and systems to ensure they’ll do more than just get the job done. The best heating systems suit the climate zone, size, and energy demand of each project.
Where that kind of efficiency and customization is required, propane is an attractive solution. A high-efficiency propane furnace can handle all of a home’s heating needs. It can also be used with other heating systems, such as heat pumps and geothermal, where it helps manage cost and maintain consistent heating output.
In the short videos below, Risinger explains four common misconceptions about space heating and how builders can depend on propane to keep their customers comfortable and their costs down.
Myth 1: Air source heat pumps can’t be used in cold climates.
Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) are popular in mild climates due to their low cost and small footprint. However, the supply air temperatures they deliver are cooler than those from a gas furnace, affecting comfort. That’s because ASHPs rely on outdoor air to generate heat. When the weather begins to cool, so does ASHPs’ supply air. As a result, in areas where customers want ASHPs but temperatures fall below 40 F in the winter, contractors are installing dual-fuel systems that pair an ASHP with a high-efficiency propane furnace. The result is an energy-efficient system that maintains indoor comfort year round.
Myth 2: Geothermal systems offer low-cost heating and cooling.
Geothermal systems are a big investment, and the average homeowner doesn’t stay in their home long enough to enjoy the payoff. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average single-family homebuyer lives in their home for just 13 years. Meanwhile, research shows geothermal systems can take between 16 and 36 years to pay off. For customers who want geothermal, hybrid systems are an effective solution. Pairing a high-efficiency propane furnace with geothermal requires a smaller in-ground setup, reducing first costs and shortening the payback period.
Homeowners looking for a short payback period for their home heating system should consider using a high-efficiency propane furnace exclusively.
Myth 3: All space-heating systems offer the same comfort level.
Just as there is more than one way to heat a home, there is also more than one outcome for how a space will feel to its occupants. Researchers determined that people in a space heated with forced air will feel cold if supply air is equal to or below body temperature — so, roughly 98 F. Propane furnaces deliver consistent supply air temperatures above 115 F. Meanwhile, in mixed and cold climates, occupants surveyed during the heating season said air delivered by ASHPs felt cool six out of 10 times.
Myth 4: There’s no benefit to using propane instead of heating oil.
More builders are trading oil-powered furnaces for ones that run on propane. Although heating oil is particularly popular in New England and parts of the Rust Belt where natural gas is not readily available, those systems require annual maintenance and present environmental risks from leaks and other malfunctions. Propane, meanwhile, is clean-burning and its storage tanks can be safely buried on-site. Additionally, propane furnaces can achieve efficiencies above 90 percent AFUE, whereas oil-powered options come in at 80 percent to 83 percent AFUE.
Watch below as Matt Risinger debunks all four space heating myths. Risinger is the CEO and chief builder of Risinger & Co., in Austin. On his popular YouTube channel, he discusses the latest design, construction, and building science trends through work on his own projects.