Heating your home is important, but what’s even more important is doing so efficiently. The best way to make sure you’re getting optimal heating efficiency in your home is to purchase a new central heating system—especially one that’s designed for high efficiency.

Buying a new central heating system is a big decision, though, so it’s important to educate yourself before getting started. Plus, it may not be worth replacing your heating system if yours can maintain a certain level of efficiency. Here’s what you need to know before shopping for a new heating system for your home.

Gas vs. Electric

The first major decision you’ll have to make when shopping for a heating system is whether you want to use gas or electricity as your source of heat. Many homes use electric heat, but gas heat actually has a lot of benefits as well.

For starters, gas furnaces are almost always cheaper to operate. Electricity is expensive throughout the country, so heating with natural gas can actually be a significantly cheaper option depending on the price of natural gas in your area. Another big benefit to gas heat is that it’s more powerful than electric heat. This means that you can crank your gas heat up and feel the effects much quicker than you can with electric heat.

Gas heat has its cons, too. Gas furnaces are generally more expensive to purchase, and they aren’t designed to last as long as electric furnaces. You can expect to get between 10-20 years out of a gas furnace, while an electric furnace can give you as much as twice that. They also require more maintenance because they’re inherently more dangerous.

Electric heat, on the other hand, doesn’t cost as much to invest in upfront. Plus, they don’t have to vent to the exterior of your home, so you can put them just about anywhere for added convenience. And since they don’t need to be checked as often, you won’t have to worry about maintenance as much.

As for the cons of electric heat, the biggest one is the fact that it’s more expensive than gas. No matter where you are in the country, natural gas is a more efficient heating choice than electricity. It also takes some time to power up, so you won’t feel the results of electric heat immediately on a cold day.

Efficiency Ratings

Like many home appliances, furnaces have an efficiency rating that tells you about their operating cost. Shopping for a furnace by efficiency rating is a good way to make sure you get an efficient system that heats your home well without costing too much.

 The main rating for furnace efficiency is the annual fuel-utilization-efficiency (AFUE) rating. This is essentially how efficiently your furnace turns fuel into heat. The minimum AFUE for furnaces manufactured today is 78%. This means that of the fuel you put into the furnace, 78% of it will be converted to heat and 22% of it will be wasted.

 The highest efficiency models on the market have an AFUE of 98%. While this greatly reduces their operating cost, it also requires a much larger upfront investment. A good compromise is to look for a furnace somewhere in the middle. High-efficiency systems are generally considered to be those with a AFUE rating of at least 90%. Anything in that ballpark will do just fine for your home.

 If you need more help deciding on the right heating system for your home, talk to an HVAC technician in your area. They can help you choose a good system for your needs and get it installed safely.