Time for Heating Systems 101

If your current heating system yields cold hands and frozen toes — it might be time to upgrade.

Heating your home accounts for an inordinate portion of your utility bill, so it pays to choose the most efficient heating system possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should upgrade to a different type of system, however.

Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to convert from forced air to central heating, or vice versa, since the benefits rarely justify the cost. Instead, upgrade to a more efficient version of your existing furnace or boiler when it’s too expensive to repair — but weigh your options carefully.

Here’s a rundown of the most commonly used heating systems, along with their advantages and disadvantages, to help you make the most appropriate choice for your home, climate and wallet.

Furnaces

Also known as forced air, furnaces are the most commonly used heating systems in the U.S. because they’re reliable and relatively inexpensive. Gas furnaces are rated for efficiency by their annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This shows how much energy is successfully converted to usable heat.

If your furnace needs to be replaced, the silver lining is that modern furnaces are more efficient than ever, and some premium models even reach an AFUE rating of 97 percent. When purchasing a furnace, choose one that’s appropriately sized for your home so that it doesn’t put undue wear and tear on your system or waste energy.

ProsCons
Inexpensive to installReliable and low-maintenanceHave a long life span, especially electric modelsCan be retrofitted to filter and clean your home’s airAlready installed in most homes, thus easier to replaceCan produce and kick up more allergensWarm air is easily lost through ducts and within the houseGas furnaces can be dangerous, creating a risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoningFurnaces powered by electricity are safer, but cost more to run

Boilers

Boilers use water to generate and distribute heat through pipes and radiators, heating the air, floors, wall and baseboards as it travels in a loop. They can be powered via natural gas, electricity or propane, and they use the following systems to distribute heat:

  • Steam radiators are the old-fashioned metal things you’ve seen along the walls in older buildings.
  • Hot water radiators are the newer reincarnation and allow more control and versatility.
  • Hydronic radiant floor heating treats the entire floor of a room like a giant radiator, using tubing under the flooring to distribute heat to toasty toes. While efficient, hydronic radiant floor heating is expensive to install and replace.

Like furnaces, boilers are rated by AFUE score.

ProsCons
Usually runs more quietly than forced air systemsDoesn’t kick up dust, which makes for much better air qualityCan be retrofitted to heat waterCan be more efficient than forced air systemsBoilers are often more expensive to purchase and install than forced air systemsWater can leak when the system is damaged or nears the end of its lifeMost boilers are powered by natural gas, which isn’t available in all areasAren’t necessary in areas with mild winters

Heat pumps

These extremely efficient systems take advantage of existing temperatures (either outdoors, underwater or underground) to heat, cool and humidify your home.

There are three types of heat pumps:

  • Air-source heat pumps are the most common and circulate refrigerant between the outdoor heat pump and indoor air handler.
  • Split ductless systems use one to four indoor air handlers, which are mounted high up on walls and controlled by a remote.
  • Geothermal systems are incredibly efficient because they take advantage of temperatures in the ground, pond or a well, but they aren’t practical or affordable for most homeowners.

When selecting a heat pump system, consider the size, noise output and efficiency rating. The heating efficiency is measured by heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF), and the cooling efficiency is measured by seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER).

ProsCons
Very efficient, saving lots of money in the long runCan be used all year for both heating and coolingCan be modified with a desuperheater, which assists in heating your waterNewer models are appropriate for colder climatesNaturally dehumidifies the home in summer, making it ideal for the SoutheastMore expensive than forced air or central heatingInappropriate for small lotsFans can be noisyRequires more maintenance than other systemsIn cold climates, you may require an auxiliary heating system that kicks in when temperatures become too low

Best Time to List a Home for Sale?

For home buyers, it may feel like the best time to beat the competition to home shopping season has gotten earlier and earlier. But for sellers, the best time to list has remained remarkably consistent: Once again, U.S. homes listed for sale on Zillow in the first half of May sold faster and for more money than the average listing throughout the year.

Nationwide, homes listed for sale between May 1 and May 15 tended to sell for about 0.7 percent more (or roughly $1,600 on the typical U.S. home) and about six days faster than usual. And while the exact best time to list a home varies from market-to-market, in most cases the magic window falls squarely in spring.

More money, faster sale

The best time to list varies by metro area, but not by much. In 29 of the 35 large markets analyzed, the magic two-week window fell between the second half of March and first half of June. In the remaining six markets – Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami and Tampa – it’s the first half of July.

The largest price boost in any particular half-month period came in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where early May is optimal. Homes listed during that time frame in the Twin Cities area sell for about 1.8 percent more ($4,900 on the median local home). San Jose, Calif., and Chicago also saw their biggest boosts in early May, of about 1.5 percent in each metro area ($18,900 and $3,300, respectively). The sweet spot for listing comes a bit later in Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, where early June listings typically experience a 1.5 percent premium ($7,500 and $2,900 respectively).

The two-week magic window doesn’t just mean more money – it also can mean a faster sale. And when time is money, the benefits of listing at the right time are even greater. In Cleveland, homes listed for sale in the area’s early-May magic window sell almost two weeks faster (13 days) than an average listing throughout the year, the most time savings of any of the markets analyzed.

The magic of Saturdays

If you want to get even more strategic about when to list, it can pay to consider what day of the week will get your home seen by the most house hunters.

Saturday listings get the largest number of views by Zillow users in the first week of listing nationally and in 12 of the largest 35 metros. Friday is a great day to list as well, with homes listed that day getting the most views within a week in 10 of the top 35 markets. At the other extreme, Monday is worst time to list, nationally. Saturday listings end up with about 20 percent more page views in their first seven days on the market than Monday listings.