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A Guide to Our Most Energy Efficient Heaters for 2023

Cold weather makes it tempting to turn up the thermostat at home. Unfortunately, cranking up the heat all season comes with its drawbacks — namely cost and energy usage. According to the Department of Energy, the average residential electricity rate in 2022 went up by 8% over the previous year. In some states like Florida, Illinois and New York, utilities soared by a staggering 15%. Across the pond, our British cousins have it even worse, with an astonishing 80% surge in energy bills.

As we continue to grapple with rising inflation in the winter of 2023, energy efficiency remains paramount for homeowners. To help reduce your bills this season, you may want to consider switching to an energy efficient heater. 

In this guide, we compare the different types of heaters, their energy efficiency, and how to select the right heater for your home.

Comparing Efficiency of Different Heater Models

There are several types of heaters available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The efficiency of a heater depends on various factors, including the type of fuel it uses, the method of heat transfer, and other variables. 

Common types of heaters include:

Electric Heaters:

Pros:

  • Electric heaters are 100% efficient at converting electricity into heat.
  • They are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
  • Can be portable and easy to install.

Cons:

  • Electricity is more expensive as an energy source compared to others.
  • Not ideal for large spaces.

Gas Heaters:

Pros:

  • More cost-effective than electric heaters, especially in regions where natural gas is readily available.
  • They can heat both small and large spaces efficiently.

Cons:

  • Efficiency can be reduced if the system is not properly maintained.
  • Installation costs might be higher than electric heaters.

Oil Heaters:

Pros:

  • Provide a consistent and even heat.
  • Can handle larger spaces.

Cons:

  • The cost of oil can be volatile.
  • They require regular maintenance.

Radiant Heaters:

Pros:

  • Radiant heat directly warms people and objects, providing instant warmth.
  • They are efficient for small spaces.

Cons:

  • They might not distribute heat uniformly in larger areas.
  • Not as energy-efficient as some other types for whole-room heating.

Heat Pumps:

Pros:

  • Highly energy-efficient, as they transfer heat rather than generate it.
  • They can provide both heating and cooling.

Cons:

  • High initial cost.
  • Efficiency tends to degrade in extremely cold climates.

What Affects Heater Efficiency?

The efficiency of a heater depends on factors like the size of the space, the level of insulation, climate, and energy costs. 

EnergyStar rating and smart home programmable settings can also make heaters more energy-efficient. The EnergyStar certification ensures that the heater adheres to DOE standards on energy efficiency and certifies that it is at least 20% more efficient than non-certified versions. Smart home features enable the heater to use less energy by only operating at certain times or temperatures, or when the home is actually occupied.

Some types of heaters are not covered by the Energy Star program so it is always best to talk to an expert to make sure you are picking the best and most efficient option for your home. 

About Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is measured differently for different types of heaters. In general, gas heat is the most efficient type of heat, in that it produces the most heat for the amount of energy put into it.

Vented gas heaters

The efficiency of vented gas furnaces is measured in AFUE, or annual fuel utilization efficiency rating. This is the percentage of the amount of fuel that is turned into usable heat. The remainder is lost in the form of exhaust.

Here are some of our most efficient vented gas heaters:

Rinnai EX38DT 38400 BTU EnergySaver Direct Vent Wall Furnace

​This direct-vent wall furnace has 38,400 BTU of heating capacity, and is a great source of heat for large rooms in most of the country. It is highly flexible, capable of being installed almost anywhere along an outside wall, while offering several venting installation options.

It uses Rinnai’s modulating technology to optimize the heating efficiency. This is done by monitoring the room temperature 2 inches from the floor and detecting temperature changes less than 1°F. If a door opens and a sudden gush of cold air rushes into the room, the furnace automatically adjusts the fan speed and BTUs to restore the room back to its set temperature quickly.

It also boasts WiFi connectivity and auto-restart features.

Rinnai EX38DT 38400 BTU EnergySaver Direct Vent Wall Furnace
Price: $2,633.00 Rinnai EX38DT 38400 BTU EnergySaver Direct Vent Wall Furnace

  ​This direct-vent wall furnace is 38,400 BTUs and is a great source of heat for large rooms in most of the the country. Direct Vent furnaces can be ...

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Vent-free gas heaters

As their name suggests, vent-free or ventless gas heaters do not vent the exhaust outside, so they are all rated 99.9% efficient. This makes vent-free gas heaters the most efficient type of gas heater.

Despite their efficiency, note that ventless heaters are not ideal for every situation. For starters, vent-free heaters should not be installed in bedrooms, as this presents a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Secondly, since ventless heaters do not vent their exhaust, they can add moisture to the air. This can be an issue for high humidity environments, as they can contribute to excess moisture indoors and cause discomfort.

Finally, vent-free gas heaters have a maximum of 30,000 BTUs. This limits their heating capacity to smaller rooms or areas.

Some of our best-selling vent-free gas heaters include:

Natural gas or liquid propane:

Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater – Choice of Fuel Type

Rinnai is well-known for their tankless hot water heaters, but they also have a great  line of highly efficient vent-free fan convector gas heaters.

Case in point: the FC824 ventless gas heater. 

Capable of 24,000 BTUs natural gas or 22,000 BTUs for LP, it provides approximately 99.9% efficiency, making it one of the most fuel efficient heating products on the market. It also boasts quiet operation, emitting just 44dB / 30dB (H/L).

It features modulating technology which includes a modulating gas valve and variable speed blower. In combination, this allows the furnace to use the exact amount of gas needed to produce the heat required for your space. Because it is a ventless heater, it does not need to be installed near an exterior wall – you just need to have the gas line located appropriately.

Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater - Choice of Fuel Type
Price: $1,026.00 Rinnai FC824 24,000 BTU Vent Free Fan Convector Gas Heater - Choice of Fuel Type

You may only know of Rinnai for their tankless hot water heaters but they also have an extremely efficient line of vent free fan convector gas heaters. The FC82...

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Blue flame gas heaters:

Empire Comfort Systems BF-30W 30,000 BTU Blue Flame Vent-Free Gas Heater

This  blue flame ventless gas heater is capable of  8,500 BTUs to 30,000 BTUs. As a Blue Flame heater, it will warm the room starting with objects in the room including the wall on which it is installed and travel up as heat does. If your room has a ceiling fan with reversible blades, this will also help spread the heat throughout the room.

It uses a modulating hydraulic thermostat where once the preset comfort level is reached, the unit cycles the main burner flame from HI to LO. Conversely, when the thermostat is satisfied, it automatically switches off while still leaving the pilot on. This reduces the large flame to a smaller flame while still emitting heat.

Although gas heats cleanly, efficiently, and for less than half the cost of electricity, if window condensation problems are common in your home, installing a vent-free heater may not be a good option for you. This appliance may be installed in an aftermarket manufactured (mobile) home, where allowed by state or local codes.

Empire Comfort Systems BF-30W 30,000 BTU Blue Flame Vent-Free Gas Heater with Thermostat
Price: $795.00 Empire Comfort Systems BF-30W 30,000 BTU Blue Flame Vent-Free Gas Heater with Thermostat

The BF30W produces an inviting warmth quickly and efficiently. A Blue Flame heater will warm the room starting with objects in the room including the wall on ...

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Heatstar HSSVFBF30 30000 BTU Vent Free Blue Flame Heater with Thermostat and Blower

The HSSVFBF30 30000 BTU Blue Flame heater features a blower fan and thermostatic control. It can quickly warm up a space up to 750 sq. ft. and boasts 99.9% efficiency.

HeatStar heaters feature a built-in low oxygen shut-off sensor for safety. The thermostatic control knob offers 5 settings and modulates the flame as the temperature gets closer to the set point. The burner will cycle on and off based on the set temperature. 

Because it is gas powered, it will keep you warm, without electricity, during power outages. The blower fan will not operate during a power outage, but the heater will still generate heat to keep you warm and comfortable. 

Heatstar HSSVFBF30NGBT 30000 BTU Vent Free Blue Flame Heater with Thermostat and Blower - NG
Price: $443.00 Heatstar HSSVFBF30NGBT 30000 BTU Vent Free Blue Flame Heater with Thermostat and Blower - NG

  HeatStar by Enerco offers gas powered, vent free heating options for your warmth and comfort. The HSSVFBF30 30000 BTU Blue Flame heater features a blowe...

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Mini Splits

For heating larger spaces or when you need cooling and heating, mini splits are a more efficient choice than central heating. This is due to:

Lack of ductwork – this allows the heat to be delivered more efficiently, while minimizing any air leaks that allow heat to escape.

Inverter technology – Mini splits have variable-speed inverter compressors that can run at just the right power setting to maintain the desired room temperature.

Voltage converters – DC power is more energy-efficient than traditional AC electricity. With voltage converters, mini splits take advantage of this energy savings.

These factors allow mini splits to achieve optimal SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) ratings, which is a measure of energy efficiency. While most central air conditioners with heat pumps hover between 16-30 SEER, ductless mini splits boast SEER ratings of 20-30 or more.

Our Recommended Energy Efficient Mini Split:

Friedrich FPHW121A 12000 BTU Floating Air Pro Series Single Zone Mini Split with Built-In WiFi – Heat and Cool

This single zone mini split system consists of an indoor and outdoor unit capable of 12,000 BTUs of cooling and up to 13,000 BTUs of heat, for a space up to 600 sq. ft.. It boasts high efficiency ratings including a 22.0 SEER and 13.0 EER, thanks to Friedrich’s inverter technology that adapts the compressor speed to run just enough to maintain the desired temperature.

Other features include built-in WiFi for smart home integration via the FriedrichGo app, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice recognition, and a hidden display that’s only visible during operation.

Friedrich FPHW121A 12000 BTU, 21.7 SEER2 Floating Air Pro Series Single Zone Mini Split with Built-In WiFi - Heat and Cool - Energy Star - 115V
Price: $1,299.00 Friedrich FPHW121A 12000 BTU, 21.7 SEER2 Floating Air Pro Series Single Zone Mini Split with Built-In WiFi - Heat and Cool - Energy Star - 115V

Friedrich FPHW121A 12,000 BTU single zone mini split system includes both the FPHSW12A1B wall unit and the FPHSR12A1A outdoor compressor. Inverter T...

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Whole house heat pump:

Bosch 4 Ton IDS Premium 20 Seer Inverter Ducted Split System

The IDS system is EnergyStar-rated and includes a 5 ton-class outdoor condenser paired with a 48,000 BTU indoor air handler. It offers 47,500 nominal cooling BTUs, capable of 48,000 BTUs on high and 40,000 BTUs on low. It boasts a SEER rating of 20 and an HSPF rating of 10.5.

This is achieved using inverter technology that self-adjusts for consistent room temperatures producing maximum comfort with minimum cost. The air handler has a two-stage ECM motor where the blower stages up and down providing enhanced comfort, energy savings and superior humidity control.

This system boasts quiet outdoor noise levels as well. It features sound isolating mounts and direct-drive fan blades to reduce the sound of airflow. It also includes an electronic expansion valve to ensure proper refrigerant flow.

DISCONTINUEDBosch 4 Ton IDS Premium 20 Seer Inverter Ducted Split System
Price: $5,999.00 DISCONTINUEDBosch 4 Ton IDS Premium 20 Seer Inverter Ducted Split System

Bosch Inverter Ducted Split (IDS) System is a great alternative to conventional heating and cooling systems that require a condenser and indoor cooling unit plu...

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Most efficient for garage/warehouse

Sterling HU050A1NS111 Nexus Series 50,000 BTU Gas Fired High Efficiency Condensing Unit Heater – Convertible Standard or Separated Combustion

Sterling’s Nexus series offers the highest efficiency ratings in the unit heater industry, offering ratings from 95% up to 99% efficient. This is achieved by using a unique tri-metal heat exchanger as well as a state of the art combustion control system.

This particular model is the smallest unit in the NEXUS Series. It offers 97% efficiency rating with its 50,000 BTU input and 48,600 BTU output. It can be installed just about anywhere as they are residential certified for use as a Utility Heater for use in a garage or workshop area.

It is field convertible to LP (single orifice kit included) and Separated Combustion operation. Additionally, they are PVC/CPVC vent compatible. Nexus unit heaters can be installed as single units or set up as a multi-unit network. The control board also includes ModBus communication for building automation without requiring additional control modules. Best of all, it has an auto-adjust altitude feature, which, as the name implies, is automatic. Requiring no field adjustments, it automatically adjusts the air and fuel mixture with no loss of performance.

Sterling HU050A1NS111 Nexus Series 50,000 BTU Gas Fired High Efficiency Condensing Unit Heater - Convertible Standard or Separated Combustion
Price: $3,369.00 Sterling HU050A1NS111 Nexus Series 50,000 BTU Gas Fired High Efficiency Condensing Unit Heater - Convertible Standard or Separated Combustion

The Sterling HU050A1NS111 is the smallest unit in the NEXUS Series. It offers 97% efficiency rating with its 50,000 BTU input and 48,600 BTU output. The Nexus S...

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Conclusion

To recap, vent-free gas heaters are the most efficient heaters, but they’re not ideal for everyone. Vented gas heaters with an AFUE rating of 90 or higher are versatile and can be installed in rooms of virtually any size, depending on the BTUs. (For assistance with calculating BTUs, consult our Heating BTU Calculator.)

At Total Home Supply, we offer free shipping on all of our heaters to anywhere in the contiguous United States. Be sure to check out our selection of gas heaters and contact us if you have any questions about our products. We’re here to help you find an efficient heating solution for your home.

For tips on how to reduce your heating bills this cold season, check out:

8 Practical Tips to Lower your Heating Bill this Winter

4 Things You Can Do to Reduce Heating Costs in Winter

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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