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First costs. Emissions. Comfort. Payback. Your priorities for home heating determine which system is best for your next building project. With these factors in mind, Energy analysts Newport Partners, LLC completed an extensive technical review comparing seven heating systems for new and existing homes in 16 different locations to help you make the best decision.
Types of heating systems compared:
- Standard-efficiency propane furnace
- High-efficiency propane furnace
- Standard-efficiency heating oil furnace
- Standard-efficiency air source heat pump (ASHP) with electric resistance backup
- Ground source heat pump (GSHP) closed loop with electric resistance backup
- ASHP (standard-efficiency) with high-efficiency propane furnace backup
- GSHP closed loop with high-efficiency propane furnace backup
For equipment and installation costs – known as “first costs” – the ASHP standard-efficiency propane furnace with standard A/C, and high-efficiency propane furnace with standard A/C were among the lowest of the seven systems analyzed.
Simple payback evaluates how long it will take to recoup the initial costs of a heating system through reduced energy costs. One scenario evaluated system paybacks for alternatives to a 95 AFUE furnace in a cold climate new home. The analysis found that the furnace was the most- cost-effective option: the GSHP system had a payback of over 20 years due to its higher first cost; the ASHP showed no payback because it actually has higher energy costs; and the hybrid heat pump-furnace system had a payback of about eight years.
The two GSHP systems had the lowest emissions for new homes in the Midwest, while the ASHP system had the highest, due partly to electric resistance back-up heat. The hybrid heat pump-furnace system significantly reduces emissions compared to the ASHP.
Heating supply temperatures at or below body temperature (approximated as less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) are assumed to feel cool and uncomfortable. The propane furnace consistently delivers air at 115 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for greater comfort in cold climates.