Good Guys Heating, Cooling & Plumbing Blog

Whole House Air Filters: Comparing HEPA filters, electronic air cleaners, UV lamps, and 5″ filters

How do professionally installed air cleaners compare to 1” filters and portable air cleaners?


According to North America’s best regarded consumer publication, professionally installed whole-house air cleaners with 4-5” filters outperform  standard 1” models (even including the more advanced “allergen reducing” filters that are sold in hardware stores). They outperformed room air purifiers by an even greater degree, as most of these systems ranked very poorly. According to the EPA, most portable air cleaners currently on the market do not circulate enough air to effectively remove large particles such as pollen, dust mite, and cockroach allergens.


This is why we recommend you install a whole-house air purification system. These systems utilize the airflow provided by your furnace to clean all of your home’s air, which also means you will only have a single system to maintain. We install several types of whole-house air cleaners, which are described below.



Electronic Air Cleaners


Electronic air cleaners (EACs) consist of an ionizer that gives particles a negative charge followed by a series of positively charged plates that collect the particles. Most also have an optional activated charcoal filter, which can remove certain odours and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).


EACs are popular because they do an extremely good job at cleaning air, removing most particles as small as 0.1 microns (1/250,000 of an inch, smaller than most bacteria). A 1999 CMHC study ranked them #1 out of ten different filter types. They also do not require the regular replacement of any filters, UV lamps, or other components (except for the optional activated charcoal filters).


Unfortunately, these filters have also been found to produce ozone, a lung irritant. However, indoor ozone levels usually remain below typical outdoor ozone levels, so it’s debatable whether this is a serious concern (except with some individuals who are especially sensitive to ozone). Still, homeowners who are especially concerned with IAQ may opt for other filter types for this reason. See our electronic air cleaners post for more information on this issue.


A more recent CMHC study showed that these filters must be cleaned regularly (as often as once a week) to keep them operating at top efficiency. You can see an EAC cleaning video here.



HEPA Bypass Filters


HEPA filters remove over 99.97% of all particles that are over 0.3 microns in size. The CMHC study confirmed that these filters remove almost all of the particles from the air passing through them. Replacement filters are more expensive than with other filter types, but overall operating costs are still moderate since the main filter can last up to 5 years. Only part of the airflow is directed across the filter, and this can be a concern when the furnace is not regularly circulating air (as is usually the case with older, non-variable speed furnaces that are not used for continuous circulation). The ease of installation depends mainly on how your home’s ductwork is arranged.



4-5” Media Filters


North America’s leading consumer publication gave Lennox’s 5” MERV 16 filter the highest rating they have ever given an air purifying device. They greatly outperformed 1” models (which don’t require a new filter cabinet to be installed), including even the fancier “allergen reducing” kinds. These filters have a large surface area (since the filter media is folded over a 4” or greater width), so they only require annual replacement in most homes. They are nearly as effective as HEPA filters.




Lennox PureAir Air Purification System


Lennox’s PureAir air purification system includes a spot for their top-rated MERV 16 and MERV 10 5” filters, followed by titanium dioxide catalyst plates and UV lamps. The catalyst plates attract bacteria, viruses, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and odour-causing molecules, which are then destroyed by the UV lamps.



Lennox claims this system:

-“Cleans the air in your home better than any other single system you can buy”

-“Removes OVER 95% of particles ranging in size down to 0.3 micron [1/75,000 of an inch, smaller than most bacteria and many viruses].”

-“Removes OVER 90% of bioaerosols ranging in size down to 0.01 micron [1/2,500,000 of one inch].”

-“Removes and destroys approximately 50% of household odors and chemical vapors in a 24-hour period.”



UV Lamps




UV lamps destroy living contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and pollen. They are more effective when coupled with a special filter that traps these things (such as with the PureAir system). However, they can still be effective when installed by themselves in the ductwork. Lennox’s UV Germicidal Lamps can “reduce concentrations of airborne bioaerosals [bacteria, viruses, pollen, etc.] by 50% within as little as 45 minutes.”


Also, when installed above an air conditioning coil, they can prevent bacteria from growing on it.



To have one of these air cleaning systems installed, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489), or use our online form (select “Other” for “Type of service” and “Type of system”).

Lennox Vs. Trane Vs. Carrier Heat Pumps: Which brand is best?

The major heat pump manufacturers all make lines of heat pumps with comparable specifications. The specifications for HSPF (heating efficiency),  SEER (cooling efficiency), noise levels, and warranty duration are very similar when comparing models within each class. This is probably due to the fact that the different brands often use the same components.


Overall, Carrier and Lennox units tend to have very similar efficiency ratings (Carrier units usually have slightly higher heating ratings but slightly lower cooling ratings). In terms of published specifications, Trane systems fare the worst, having lower efficiency ratings and higher noise levels than competing models.


The HSPF & SEER ratings are measured by the AHRI, an unbiased organization.  The noise levels are measured by the manufacturers, so the differences here might be due to different testing procedures rather than real differences.


If noise levels are a major concern, we invite you to visit our Surrey showroom, where you can see the Lennox XP17 in operation, which is advertised as the quietest heat pump on the market.  The noise levels are rarely a concern except when installed in a bad location or when dealing with strict strata councils.



Comparing the systems


Each manufacturer makes a range of heat pumps, with the more expensive models generally having higher efficiency ratings and lower noise levels. Comparable units from each manufacturer are arranged side by side.


Lennox Carrier Trane
XP21 (2 stage)
9.70 HSPF, 19.20 SEER
67 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNA9/B9 (2 stage)
10.0 HSPF, 19.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL20i (2 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 17.90 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
XP17 (1 stage)
9.50 HSPF, 17.70 SEER
62 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNB6/A6 (2 stage)
9.75 HSPF, 17.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL16i (1 stage)
9.2 HSPF, 17.00 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
XP16 (1 stage)
8.70 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HNB5/PA5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
68 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XL15i (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
12 year compressor warranty
10 year warranty on other parts
25HCB6 (2 stage)
9.5 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
70 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR16 (2 stage)
9.5 HSPF, 18.00 SEER
73 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XP14 (1 stage)
9.50 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
71 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR15 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.50 SEER
75 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XP13 (1 stage)
8.70 HSPF, 14.50 SEER
74 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XB14 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 15.00 SEER
78 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
14 HPX (1 stage)
7.70+ HSPF, 14.00+ SEER
76 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HCB3/C5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XR13 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 14.00+ SEER
76 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
13HPX (1 stage)
7.70+ HSPF, 13.00+ SEER
62 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
25HBC3/C5 (1 stage)
9.0 HSPF, 16.00 SEER
69 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components
XB13 (1 stage)
8.5 HSPF, 13.00+ SEER
78 dB Sound Rating
10 year warranty on functional components


Each model is available in several different sizes, usually ranging from 24,000 to 60,000 BTU. Generally, the smaller sizes are quieter and more efficient than the larger sizes. For ease of comparison, the best rating (among all sizes) is listed for the HSPF, SEER, and noise levels.


The warranty terms listed here apply when the system is properly registered by a qualifying dealer. Some systems may include shorter warranties depending on the dealer and whether or not the system is registered properly.



Carrier Greenspeed

Carrier recently introduced their Greenspeed lines of inverter heat pumps, which are about 30% more efficient than other air source heat pumps, and maintains their heating capacity down to much lower temperature. However, we’re still waiting to see how reliable these units are. We currently install the Mitsubishi Zuba inverter heat pump, which has been in production much longer, and offers similar low-temperature performance.



Importance of a quality installation


In a recent report, Consumer Reports found that “28 percent of the builder-installed units failed compared with 18 percent for owner-installed systems.” (Note systems “installed by homeowners” refers to homeowners who hired a heating & AC contractor, not to homeowners who performed the installation themselves.) This shows the type of installer chosen can increase breakdowns by more than 50%.


Aa UK study by the energy saving trust measured the real world efficiency levels of 28 heat pumps. They found that only 4 of the systems performed near their potential efficiency, and several of them were operating less than half as efficiently as they should have been. So installation quality can more than double the performance of a heat pump. This suggests that choosing a contractor that performs quality installations is much more important than which brand you choose.



UK Heat Pump Efficiency Study: Only 4 of 28 heat pumps were classified as “well performing.” The rest suffered significantly due to poor installation quality. Several of the heat pumps were operating at less than half of their potential efficiency. This suggests selecting a quality installer is more important than brand selection.

These results suggest that while some brands may be slightly more efficient or reliable than others, choosing a poor company to install your system can increase breakdowns by more than 50% or decrease efficiency by more than half. In general, choosing a good installer seems much more important than brand selection.


To learn more about your heat pump installation options, visit our heat pumps page.


To schedule a free quote on a new heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Air Source vs. Geothermal Heat Pumps: Comparing efficiencies

Notice: Undefined index: file in /home/x4obwo122mgm/public_html/wp-includes/media.php on line 1500

It used to be considered “common knowledge” that geothermal (or ground source) heat pumps are a lot more efficient than air source heat pumps.  During the winter,  temperatures are a lot higher under the ground than they are in the air, which means a geothermal system should be able to extract heat much more efficiently. The opposite will be true in the summer- a geothermal system should be able to move heat into the cooler ground more easily than an air source unit can expel it into the warmer outdoor air. However, you also have to remember that a geothermal system has to pump a heat transfer fluid (usually a mixture of water and antifreeze)  through the ground, and running this pump can take a lot of energy. Recently, “cold climate” air source heat pumps that specialize in extracting heat from cold winter air have been released. This has caused some to question whether geothermal systems are really much more efficient.



Comparing the efficiency ratings of geothermal and air source heat pumps


Geothermal heat pumps are given a COP (coefficient of performance) rating. This is the ratio of heat energy produced to the amount of electricity consumed. For example, a system with a COP of 4.0 is estimated to produce 4 watt-hours of heat for every watt-hour of electricity it consumes.


Air source heat pumps are given a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor rating, which is an estimate of the BTU’s of heat  that will be produced by each watt-hour of electricity. Different HSPF ratings are given for different regions, as the efficiency of an air source heat pump is highly dependent on the climate. The average COP (across all temperatures) of an air source heat pump can be roughly estimated by dividing the HSPF by 3.41 (the number of BTUs in a watt-hour). Note that the HSPF also takes into account the need for back-up heat (it assumes an electric furnace with a COP of 1 is being used on very cold days). Some manufactuters publish tables of the COPs their systems achieve at various temperatures, but others do not.



The pump reduces the efficiency of a geothermal heat pump


The COP (coefficient of performance) numbers that are published by geothermal heat pump manufacturers do not account for the electricity required to run the pump, as this will vary from case to case. However, this can be a substantial amount of energy. In an article on Green Building Advisor, energy consultant Henry Gifford estimates that pump usage will cause a typical geothermal system’s COP to drop from 3.5-4 down to less than 3.0- a level that can be achieved by many air source systems.



New air source systems deliver much higher COPs at lower temperatures


Until recently, air source heat pumps were just moderately modified central air conditioners. They were primarily engineered for maximum cooling efficiency. But now “cold climate” air source heat pumps are being released. Mitsubishi has been a leader in this regard, and their Zuba central heat pump maintains most of its heating capacity and efficiency down to -25C. Carrier recently released their Greenspeed heat pump which is rated at 13 HSPF, meaning it offers superior efficiency levels than many geothermal systems. Other manufacturers are expected to follow.



Are geothermal systems worth the extra expense?


Installing a geothermal system usually costs at least $20,000 more than an air source unit- and that doesn’t include the cost of repairing your lawn after it is dug up. With geothermal systems offering marginal or even no energy savings over cheaper air source units, we don’t feel they are suitable for many homes.



Real word performance comparison: UK study


A study done in the UK by the Energy Saving Trust measured the real world performance of 28 air source heat pumps and 53 geothermal systems. Although the geothermal systems performed slightly better on average, note that the best performing geothermal systems had similar performance to the best performing air source units. The wide range in performance within each category highlights the importance of a quality installation.


UK study on real world heat pump efficiencies: The geothermal systems did slightly better on average, but the best performing air source systems performed just as well as the best performing geothermal systems.



Learn more about air source heat pumps on our heat pumps page.



To schedule a free quote on an air source heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489), or use our online form.

Bosch Vs. Navien Vs. Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters: Who makes the best tankless water heater?

Deciding which brand of tankless water heater to install can be a difficult decision, as there are no consumer publications that provide brand recommendations and seemingly no sources of unbiased reviews. Hiring an established contractor that guarantees their work remains the best way to ensure you get a quality unit, as such a contractor will only install units that have a good reputation within the industry and have worked well for them in the past.





Bosch offers a fairly complete line of tankless warer heaters. Their models have efficiency rating of 78-95%, and heating capacities of 75,000-225,000 BTUs. The larger units are capable of supplying 2 showers simultaneously. All systems include a 15 year heat exchanger warranty and a 2-5 year warrranty on other parts, depending on the model. We mainly install Bosch  tankless systems  when the homeowner does not wish to install a condensing (more efficient and expensive) model. We have been installing them for over 10 years and find them to be very dependable when installed correctly.




Rinnai also offers a complete range of tankless water heaters. Their systems range in efficiency from 82-98% efficiency, and have capacities of  120,000 to 199,000 BTUs.  They claim their 199,000 BTU high efficiency model can supply up to 4 simultaneous showers, but we think this might be an overly optimistic claim (probably referring to  light showers on a warmer day). Their 10-12 year heat exchanger warranties are shorter than Bosch’s, but all other parts are covered for 5 years for all models. We mainly install Rinnais when the homeowner wishes to replace an existing furnace and hot water tank with a tankless water heater and attached hydronic air handler. This is usually done when a new high efficiency furnace will be too difficult to install. Since we still have mid efficiency furnaces in stock, we don’t do this very often right now. However, we expect it to become a more popular option in the future.





Navien introduced the first condensing tankless water heater (“condensing” means “high efficiency” or over 90% efficient), and they currently make the most efficient systems on the market, with verified efficiency levels as high as 97%. Their heat exchangers are made from durable stainless steel and are warrantied for 15 years. Other parts are warrantied for 5 years. We usually install Naviens when  a homeowner requires a very efficient high capacity system.



Tank or Tankless

Tankless systems offer advantages such as lower energy costs, an unlimited supply of hot water, and  longer system life. But they are also much more expensive to install.


To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of tankless water heaters, visit our water heaters page.


To schedule a quote on a tankless water heater, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Hot Water Tank Reviews/ Ratings: Which brand is best?

When buying a new hot water tank, one of the main questions homeowners ask is “which brand is the best?” Unfortunately, no major consumer publication  (such as Consumer Reports) or surveying organization (such as JD Power)  conducts brand reliability surveys. Consumer Reports just recommends to install a tank with a longer warranty, because “sawing open a cross-section of gas and electric storage-tank models in our lab confirmed that paying a little more typically buys a better water heater. Those with longer warranties tended to have larger heating elements, thicker insulation, and thicker or longer corrosion-fighting metal anodes. ” However, since efficiency standards are higher in BC than the rest of Canada and the US, only the tanks with longer warranties  (8 years) are available.



2006 JD Power Water Heater Subcontractor Satisfaction Study. This is the closest thing to an impartial reliability survey that can be found. Reliability, product quality, and warranty fulfillment were among the factors considered.



The closest thing to a reliability test ever performed was a 2006 Subcontractor Satisfaction Study performed by JD Power. Some of the most important factors surveyed included reliability, product quality, and warranty fulfillment. Of the three major manufacturer’s, Bradford White finished first an Rheem finished  a close second. Incidentally, these are the two  brands we install (we install Rheem Energy Star  gas hot water tanks and Bradford White tanks for other purposes). We have found both brands to be relatively reliable.


Learn more about the hot water tank models we install on our hot water tanks page.


To schedule a hot water tank replacement or repair, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Air Source Heat Pumps: The Importance Of A Quality Installation

Consumer Reports: Poorly installed heat pumps are much less reliable


In a recent report on central air conditioners, Consumer Reports found that “19 percent of systems installed by new-home builders failed compared with 12 percent installed by homeowners. The gap was even wider for heat-pump units, where 28 percent of the builder-installed units failed compared with 18 percent for owner-installed systems.” (Note systems “installed by homeowners” refers to homeowners who hired a heating & AC contractor, not to homeowners who performed the installation themselves.) This shows the type of installer chosen can increase breakdowns by more than 50%.


Note that these figures do not include minor problems. They also don’t take into account the difference in quality within each category (quality will also vary within the heating & AC contractors category). It’s also important to remember that a poor installation can reduce efficiency as well as reliability. The EPA states that “More than half of new systems in U.S. homes do not perform to their rated efficiency as a result of improper installation. In fact, improper installation can reduce performance by as much as 30%”



Energy Saving Trust (UK) Study: Air source heat pumps often underperform due to improper installation


In the UK, a study found that most air source heat pumps achieved well below their potential efficiency due to improper installation.



UK Study: Only 4 of 28 air source heat pumps were “well performing”. Several of the heat pumps achieved less than half of their potential efficiency due to poor installation.



Good Guys: Your choice for top quality heat pump installations


At Good Guys, our heat pump installers have received manufacturer’s training as well as weekly company training, to ensure they are able to install heat pumps to the manufacturer’s specifications. Our 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee (available on most installations- call our office for details) and labour warranties are your assurance that we will perform a quality installation.


Learn more about heat pumps on our heat pumps page.


To schedule a free quote on a new heat pump, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Tankless Water Heater Prices: Cost to install a tankless system in Vancouver BC

Many people are interested in the benefits of a tankless water heater, but have a hard time finding out the cost to install one. We have decided to post some “ballpark prices” just to give homeowner’s a general idea of the costs involved. FortisBC has also published price ranges you can expect to pay.



Ballpark prices for a tankless water heater installation



System Type Typical Good Guys Price FortisBC Price Guide
Non-condensing tankless water heater $2000-$2500 $2000-$4000
Condensing tankless water heater $4000-$4500 $2500-$5000
Condensing hybrid water heater $4000+ $3500-$4500
Condensing storage tank $4000+
($7000+ to provide both space and water heating)
Standard hot water tank (for comparison) $950
Energy Star hot water tank $1250 ($200 FortisBC rebate available)



These are intended as a general guide, so you can see if a tankless water heater is likely within your budget. Actual costs can vary widely according to your home’s needs. Call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule an in-home quotation and consultation on a new tankless water heater. Our comfort advisor will evaluate your home and determine the exact cost to install a tankless water heater.


Note that our prices for non-condensing tankless units are towards the lower end of FortisBC’s price range, while the prices for our condensing models are near the upper end. This is because non-condensing models are usually much easier to install and homeowners who choose them usually install lower capacity modes. Condensing models are usually much more difficult to install and homeowners who choose them also usually install higher capacity models.


Note that until June 30th, 2013, FortisBC is offering rebates of $400-$500 on tankless water heaters, $1000 on condensing storage tanks, and $200 on Energy Star hot water tanks. $200-$300 grants are also available through the LiveSmartBC program.


Learn the pros and cons of a tankless water heater on our tankless water heaters page.


To schedule a hot water tank installation or a quote on a tankless water heater, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

How to clean an electronic air cleaner (with video)

According to a 1999 CMHC study, electronic air cleaners can do a very good job of cleaning the air in a home. However, a more recent CMHC study shows that regular cleaning of these filters is necessary to maintain their performance.


Our technicians have found that furnaces with EACs are often very dirty due to irregular or improper cleaning. Luckily, a heating company in Dallas has posted a video showing how to thoroughly clean an EAC.



Learn more about the importance of regular maintenance on our tune ups page. To schedule a furnace service, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Furnace & AC Extended Warranties: Buyer beware

Over the past 10 years or so, the cost of new furnaces and air conditioners has been steadily rising due to increasing energy efficiency standards. As a result, homeowners have become more interested in extended warranties in order to protect their investment.


Unfortunately, as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America warns, many contractors are providing “valueless warranties.”


The problem rests on the fact that many heating & air conditioning installation companies are giving out extended warranties when they do not intend to perform the repair work themselves. These include installation specialist companies (including companies who specialize in new home installations), some subcontractors for big box stores, and general renovation companies. They sell the new furnace including the extended warranty, with the intention that service companies will perform any necessary repairs.


Some of these warranties are sold by the manufacturer, and some are sold by dedicated warranty companies. Often, the labour rate can be selected. For example, the installer could select a warranty that will pay the service company $50/hour, $100/hour, or $150/hour for repairs.


Unfortunately, most warranties sold are at the lowest level possible, and the number of hours paid for each job is also typically low. For example, for a major repair such as an inducer motor replacement, a contractor might normally charge for 4 hours at $100/hour for a total cost of $400. But a warranty might only pay $50/hour for 2.5 hours, or $125 total, for the same repair. This has resulted in many (probably most) service companies charging additional processing fees for warranty work, or else only serving warranty customers when they aren’t busy, or a combination of the two.


Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a new heating or AC system with an extended warranty:


What are the payouts? Who is providing the warranty? Prices for a 10-year extended parts & labour warranty on a new furnace range from less than $100 to over $1000, depending on the provider and the payout level selected. As you can imagine, the amount the warranty company will pay to the service company varies accordingly. One warranty might pay $250 for a given repair and another $50 (which might not even be worth filling out the paperwork for).


Some wholesalers now charge for warranty parts processing. As reported in Contracting Business magazine, some wholesalers are starting to charge warranty processing fees for parts covered under warranty, so you might still have to pay these fees (in addition to the service company’s warranty processing fees).


How much paper work is necessary? How will the service company even locate it? To avoid fraud, some warranty companies are requiring greater amounts of paperwork to be filled out. The above mentioned magazine article described a warranty company that requires “a copy of every tune-up sheet since the system was installed, as well as a wholesale parts invoice and a job invoice signed by the customer, plus their extended warranty form.” This requires a lot of work on behalf of the service company. Furthermore, unless your warranty was provided by one of the more popular manufacturer’s in your area, service companies may be unaware of the warranty’s requirements and where to acquire the paperwork. In this case, for minor repairs, the service company might inform the homeowner that it’s not worth it to go through the warranty process.


Annual maintenance is required to keep warranties valid. This is the case with all the major manufacturer’s warranties and with most extended warranty providers as well.


If the warranty is backed up by a service company, how long have they been in business? According to the US Small Business Administration, heating & AC companies have the second highest failure rate of all business types, behind only restaurants. If a company that has only been in business for 2 years is offering 10 year labour warranties, this may be a cause for concern.



The bottom line:


Unless you bought your extended warranty from a company that also provides service and you have been performing regular maintenance, your labour warranty is likely of little value.


To schedule a service/repair, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.


To schedule a free quotation on a new heating or air conditioning system, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.


Learn more about your maintenance and repair options on our services page.

BC Electric Furnace Installation Options: Cut your energy costs

The cost of electricity in BC has risen substantially over the last few years, and further increases are expected. At current energy prices, it costs more than three times as much to heat a home with an electric furnace than a high efficiency gas furnace (assuming you are being billed at the higher tier 2 rare, which will be the case in most homes with electric heating). This has left many homeowners with electric furnaces looking for lower cost alternatives.



Option 1: Install a more efficient electric furnace


You might have noticed ads stating that new furnaces use up to 40% less energy than older models. Unfortunately, these ads are referring to gas furnaces. When it comes to producing heat, electric furnaces have not gotten much more efficient over the years, as they have always been close to 100% efficient (unlike with a gas furnace, the heat produced does not have to be extracted from exhaust gasses and can directly enter the home). The only part of a new electric furnace that is significantly more efficient than with older models is the fan motor (as long as a variable speed furnace is selected). According to BC Hydro, a furnace with a variable speed fan motor will use 2300 kWh (about $250) less electricity annually when the fan is used continuously for circulation and 400 kWh (about $44) less when used for heating only. One positive thing about electric furnaces is that they are easier (and less costly) to install than gas furnaces, as new venting and drainage won’t be required.



Option 2: Install a gas line & gas furnace


Due to the current low cost of natural gas, some homeowners with electric heat are considering having gas service installed in their home. FortisBC has a web page where you can inquire about the cost of installing a gas line, if gas service is available in your area. In some cases, this can be inexpensive. However, when installing a gas furnace, you will also be responsible for the cost of running a gas line from the meter to the furnace (as well as the other costs associated with installing a gas furnace). Plus, if natural gas prices rise again, you might not save much in the future.



Option 3: Install a heat pump?


Due to the additional costs associated with installing a gas furnace in a home previously using an electric model, it might not cost much more to add a heat pump to your existing furnace instead. A heat pump is basically an air conditioner that can run in reverse in the winter, to provide both heating and cooling (see our heat pumps page, or see our video for details).  Since a heat pump only moves heat  from one location to another, rather than burning a fuel to create heat, efficiencies of over 100% are possible. In fact, a  heat pump will typically operate at about 400% efficiency, meaning that 4 watts of heat  will be produced for every watt of electricity consumed.


To sum things up: A heat pump can provide air conditioning most of the heating your home requires while only using about 25% as much electricity as an electric furnace (but you will still have to keep your furnace to circulate the air and to provide back up heating on the very coldest days).



To schedule a free quote on a furnace or heat pump installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.