The Furnace Debacle: Finding the Right Size for a Small or Energy-Efficient Home

home representing proper size furnace

If you are building a new, green home or even if you just want to make your existing home more energy efficient, there are several things to consider in terms of your HVAC equipment. However, these decisions may turn out to be a bit frustrating due to the lack of equipment designed for compact or well-insulated homes.

Today’s Problem

Many people who are faced with this situation tend to notice something – the smallest furnaces out there are rated at 40,000 BTUs, much more than most people in Florida actually need to stay warm during the cooler months. In very cold climates, or perhaps even in older homes even in locations like the Tampa area, a furnace of this size may not be such a bad idea. However, newer homes (or newly remodeled homes) are insulated much better and are able to retain the heat that is produced, thereby reducing the load that is placed on the furnace. In short, people in Tampa often do not need 40,000 BTU furnaces.

Why the Problem Exists

For one reason or another, while the technologies that are in newer homes are constantly improving in terms of energy efficiency, furnace manufacturers still have not embraced the fact that not everyone needs 40,000 BTUs worth of heating. Homes are being built with what are known as lower “heating loads” with many of the most well-constructed having a rating of about 25,000 BTUs – and that’s for a three bedroom, single-story home. What’s more, if a manufacturer happens to design a small furnace that is capable of accurately meeting these needs, it is often much more expensive than its traditional counterpart.

Other Options

Homeowners who have well-constructed and well-insulated homes do have some options outside of the traditional furnace. For one, they can always use space heaters. While this might be a viable option for just enough heat to take the chill out of the air, it may not be such a great idea should the temperature truly plummet. Attaching a heating system to the hot water heater may also seem like a fabulous alternative, but these devices are quite expensive and the energy savings provided sometimes do not justify the initial purchase.

The Right Solution

What is a Florida homeowner with a well-insulated home supposed to do to stay warm in this case? Small furnaces and air-to-water systems are expensive, space heating won’t provide the desired results when it’s really frigid, and furnace manufacturers claim that there is simply not enough demand to design a small-load furnace (20,000 BTU or less) for mass sale. The best advice is to work with what is available to you and to consult with an experienced, knowledgeable HVAC team. If you have access to natural gas, then it is generally wise to purchase the smallest furnace you can find and to arrange your ductwork in just the right way to maximize its potential.

While finding the perfect way to heat your green Florida home may be a bit frustrating, especially if you are in the market for a small, energy-efficient furnace, there are certainly some choices available. Be sure to discuss your options with your HVAC contractor so that you can discover what’s best for your home and comfort overall.