When it comes to heating your South Dakota home, there are more technologies to choose from than ever, along with impressive advancements in energy efficiency to consider. Selecting the best heating system often comes down to striking the right balance. You need a unit that is properly sized for the home — neither too large nor too small —plus an affordable up-front cost and a reasonable total cost. With that in mind, let’s explore the important considerations for the primary heating options available.
Furnaces are by far the most popular appliances for heating American homes, and more than 80% of new homes built in the United States each year have a forced-air furnace installed. A furnace provides heat exclusively and is traditionally paired with an air conditioner for cooling. Gas furnaces are the preferred and most prevalent option but do require access to a natural gas line.
Heating oil and propane may be viable alternatives depending on your local access to providers. Electric furnaces are another alternative and have the advantage of being cheaper to purchase and install. However, those savings are generally short-lived, as a natural gas furnace will cost less over the life of the equipment.
The high-efficiency furnace is a type of gas furnace that has become more prevalent in recent years. This appliance is also known as a condensing furnace because it reclaims some of the heat that would otherwise be lost in the exhaust. High-efficiency furnaces have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating between 90% and 98.5%. In contrast, traditional furnaces — sometimes called mid-efficiency furnaces — have an AFUE between 80% and 83%. Whether a high-efficiency unit is worth considering will depend on a range of factors that you’ll need to discuss with your technician, including the size of your home, the local climate, and your eligibility for a tax credit.
Heat pumps are essentially air conditioners with a reversing valve that lets them transfer heat energy in the other direction. They, therefore, both heat and cool and do not need to be paired with an air conditioner. Heat pump technologies have been around since the mid-1800s but only started to become popular during the oil crisis of the 1970s. More than 10% of all new homes now have a heat pump, and that percentage is expected to go up sharply over the next decade.
Heat Pump With Auxiliary Heat
Most heat pumps in American homes are air-source heat pumps. That means that they transfer heat energy to and from the ambient air, and there are some inherent efficiency limitations due to that. Technological advancements will likely overcome these limitations at some point, but it will be a concern for the South Dakotan homeowner considering a heat pump for the rest of the 2020s.
One way you can work around these limitations is to pair a heat pump with a furnace that provides auxiliary heat when the temperature drops low enough that the heat pump would no longer be efficient. This is becoming an increasingly popular option in this region for homeowners who do not have access to a natural gas line and would likely have to opt for an electric furnace.
Geothermal Heat Pump
Another alternative is a geothermal or ground-source heat pump. Water-source heat pumps are also available, but they are much less common for residential properties. The advantage of geothermal heating is that ground temperatures are higher and more stable. That allows these heat pumps to operate efficiently even on the coldest South Dakota night. The downside — and what is inhibiting the adoption rate — is the initial investment. But the return on that investment is often well worth it.
Ductless Heat Pump
A ductless heat pump is an air-source heat pump whose main difference is that it blows air directly into the living space instead of through a duct network. These units are often called ductless mini-splits, but that term can also refer to ductless air conditioners.
The “mini” in mini-split refers to the compact nature of these units, and “split” refers to it being a split system rather than a packaged system. A split system has an outdoor unit and at least one indoor unit. Ductless heat pumps are a great choice for older homes without ductwork but also to heat living spaces that are disconnected from the main house, such as a garage apartment.
Hot-water and steam boilers are alternatives to forced-air systems, with hot water being the most prevalent choice for modern homes. The advantage of a boiler is that it does not blow air and, therefore, does not have the negative impact on indoor air quality that other heating systems have. Traditionally, baseboard or wall radiators are used to radiate the heat from the hot water or steam.
Baseboards are one type of radiant heating, but that term has taken on a broader meaning in the modern context. Radiant heating often refers to radiant panels that are installed in the flooring, the walls, or even the ceiling. Flooring is a particularly popular choice because the heat rises evenly throughout the living space. It’s also important to note that radiant heating isn’t limited to hydronic heating systems, as electric radiant heating and even cooling panels are available.
Zoning is an HVAC configuration that allows you to set the temperature independently in two or more zones in your home, which is a much more efficient approach. You can achieve zoning with furnaces and heat pumps using variable-speed air handlers. It is also achievable with ductless mini-splits, as multiple indoor units can be connected to a single outdoor unit.
Low relative humidity is a concern in winter. The air is naturally drier then, and air inside your home that is drier than even the outdoor air is often a byproduct of heating your home. An effective solution to this problem is a whole-house humidification system that will add moisture to the air as needed based on your relative humidity (RH) setting. With an optimal RH, the home will be more comfortable overall, and you’ll feel warm at a lower temperature.
Mechanical ventilation has become an increasingly popular HVAC add-on as it improves indoor air quality. You also have the option of an MVHR system. MV stands for mechanical ventilation, and HR stands for heat recovery. These systems can help to improve energy efficiency. They can also worsen issues with dry air and intensify the need for humidification in some cases.
Your Local Heating Experts in South Dakota
For more than 100 years, Kalins Indoor Comfort has served Yankton and the surrounding areas. Our expert HVAC technicians perform heating and cooling installations, maintenance, and repairs. We also install, seal, clean, and repair ducts and specialize in indoor air quality equipment like whole-house dehumidifiers and humidifiers. Call us or contact us online today to schedule a service appointment get answers to any HVAC questions you may have.