Comfort and warmth, for less

Making the right decision upfront for the proper heating system might save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Energy-efficiency, lifestyle, and budget are the big factors when someone is choosing a heating system for their new home.

Steve Wilson with the Nova Scotia Oil Heat Association says there is high efficiency equipment in the market today that is oil-fired, and there are oil-fired furnaces manufactured in Parrsboro that have 96 per cent efficiency levels.

“You can get a lot of energy from just a single litre of fuel oil,” says Wilson. “It gives us a quick response to energy requirements, and can get a house brought up to the right temperature. You get a faster hot-water recovery than with other fuels, too.”

Wilson says there have been advances on the storage of oil in recent years.

“In the past, people had environmental concerns about tanks getting older and leaking, but now there’s really no excuse to have an oil leak in your home,” says Wilson. “There is a great double-containment technology available – fibreglass tanks, European-style tanks, plastic tanks with metal casing. There’s even traditional steel tanks with a double bottom, so if there’s ever an issue, a monitor is triggered.”

Jack Knox, owner of Halifax Heating, says understanding which type of heating system is best for a specific home is perhaps the most important part of the new-home construction process.

“Consumers need to know what information is necessary in order to be able to make the correct choice,” says Knox. “Because that choice will impact on both the existing and potential future homeowner, so it’s important to get it right the first time.”

Knox says the right heating system should “enhance the enjoyment of every other aspect and feature of the home” – and potentially pay for itself, compared to the added costs of an uninformed choice.

Choosing the wrong choice of system, however, can often result in excessive operating costs, uneven heating distribution, distracting operating sounds, lower indoor air quality, and less overall enjoyment of the home.

Before making any decisions, Knox says a homeowner should insist on being presented with a credible representation of capital and operating cost comparisons showing a range of systems for consideration for that specific home – since operating costs and comfort levels are directly related to the heating system choice for that specific house.

Knox recommends that homeowners in the process of choosing a heating solution should talk to professionals who can demonstrate their knowledge of heat loss, equipment sizing, and the options for consideration.

“When properly designed and installed, a forced air heat pump system can provide an economical solution for many homes,” says Knox. “Air-to-air and air-to-water heat transfer is ideal for many new heating applications – especially considering our climate – and can be used to supplement even fossil fuel systems.”

Natural gas is currently available in certain pockets of Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford – as well the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, and parts of Oxford and Amherst.

Rohit Seth, Business Development Specialist with Heritage Gas, says very few builders include natural gas in their base model, but it’s often available as an upgrade.

“People love cooking with gas, and it’s just such a versatile product,” says Seth. ”It powers your fireplaces, your BBQ, your pool and hot tub heaters, and it can even power a snowmelt system under your driveway.”

Seth says Natural Gas’s clients appreciate the comfort and convenience of natural gas, and says it’s “very attractive to use, compared to oil” because it has very little sulfur dioxide and minimal greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also instant, which means homeowners will always have heat and hot water on demand – even during a power failure.

Kelly Lunn, owner of EnCom Alternative Energy Services, says new homeowners who add solar heating equipment onto their mortgage will be “paying far less than what they’re saving each month.”

“There are big savings to be had – both in energy and in dollars,” says Lunn. “While our customers do appreciate the environmental impact, most people buy based on the financial payback.”

Lunn says in-floor heating using tankless on-demand boilers integrated with solar energy and tube technology can cut your heating costs in half.

“It gives you a very energy-efficient heating system for your house, as well as the offset of all your domestic hot water – which is typically a savings of $1,500 a year or more.”

Lunn says in-floor heat is a popular luxury, and they’re able to do a lot with solar integration because of the low water temperature. If there are areas upstairs where a homeowner doesn’t want to use in-floor heating, they can instead use low-cost mini heat pumps.

“You’ll need to insulate anyway – not just outside the concrete, but under your floor – because basements are a brutal energy draw from a house,” says Lunn. “The cost to lay the pipe and do in-floor heating is so low, and then all of a sudden you’re turning that into a positive heat-sink instead of a negative.”

When it comes to heating choices, there is a resounding theme amoung all professionals. Do your homework and make the best choice to suit your family’s lifestyle and needs.

There will be many examples of home-heating options available to research at The Real Home Show 2013. Seek out the professionals and ask them about what might be best for your home.


Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.

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