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Energy-Efficient Home Appliances: Furnaces, Boilers and Air Conditioners

The first step to building an energy-efficient home is using green building techniques to form an ultra-tight building envelope. The next step is outfitting it with energy-efficient appliances.

Most of us think of refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers when thinking about home appliances, but your home's mechanical systems are also technically considered appliances and these are the major energy users in your home. 

Not sure which energy-efficient home appliances to look for? Your trusted Ann Arbor green builders are here to help! In this article, we’ll focus mainly on common types of home heating and cooling appliances, such as furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners. 

Energy-Efficient Home Heating Appliances: Furnaces & Boilers

Almost all of us grew up with either a boiler or furnace that heated our home — but did you ever know the difference between the two? 

  • A boiler makes hot water that heats your home.

  • A furnace makes hot air that heats your home.

Although furnaces and boilers are different, they do share one trait: they both burn fossil fuels to create heat. 

It’s easy to see why; fossil fuels can pack a serious punch when they’re burned. Although it’s an inefficient and dirty fuel source, it’s difficult to compete with the raw volume of thermal energy that they can produce on demand. Plus, we weren’t really in the know about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels until the late 1900s. That’s why, even with a number of alternatives on the market today, our country’s entire housing infrastructure is centered around it. 

Fortunately, things might be looking up for furnaces and boilers. These days, as more engineers focus on energy-efficient home appliances, furnaces and boilers can be manufactured with almost 100% efficiency. This means nearly all the energy is produced from the natural gas or propane consumed. These appliances are also becoming much cleaner, with sealed combustion chambers that don’t leak inside of the home. 

Energy-Efficient Home Cooling Appliances: Air Conditioners

With the cold climate here in Southwest Michigan, you could argue that it’s probably less important to choose the right air conditioner than it is to choose the right heater. However, similar to boilers and furnaces, the manufacturing industry has made great strides in improving them. There are now plenty of high-efficiency air conditioning systems on the market to help keep your home cool

But even though furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners have come a long way, even the most energy-efficient systems still require the burning of a great deal of nonrenewable energy. So are there any more energy efficient options? Find out below. 

Is There a More Energy-Efficient Home Heating & Cooling Appliance?

Yes! The most energy-efficient home heating and cooling appliance is a heat pump. 

A heat pump is a device that transfers thermal energy between an enclosed space and the outdoors. It can be used to transfer heat from the outdoors into your home, or it can be used as an air conditioner to transfer heat from inside your home to the outdoors. In fact, most air conditioners already operate as heat pumps, utilizing the hot, humid outdoor air to create cool, dry indoor air through the magic of refrigerant gasses, compressors, and expansion valves and coils. 

Heat pumps are anywhere from 200-400% efficient, making them considerably better than some of the most energy-efficient boilers, furnaces, and air conditioners. They’re predicted to be the most sustainable option long term. In Europe and Asia, heat pumps are already the dominant home heating and cooling technology, but we’re starting to see the great benefits of it here in the United States as well. 

So, even if you opt for a less-efficient fossil fuel system now, it’s smart to ensure your home can be retrofitted in the future to accommodate a heat pump. 

Build Your Green Home with Meadowlark’s Team of Experts

Your home’s heating and cooling systems are important and should be given the consideration they deserve. But it’s important to remember that efficiency has a lot to do with the quality of your home’s envelope as well — as a tight and well-insulated home with a thermal break will perform at least twice as well as a standard code-built home. 

Bottom line? There’s a lot to consider when it comes to building sustainably. If you’d like to include some green building techniques and technologies into your next custom home or remodeling project, we can help! Our design-build experts can help you achieve a home that looks amazing and performs even better. Contact us online to get started today.


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