A centralized heating system is absolutely necessary in many areas of the United States, and is the only way to survive some of the winters. But there are many different ways to heat your home. Major advances have been made in recent years towards the efficiency and performance of some of these heating systems. If you have an older heating system, it may be a good idea to look at getting a new one installed. The system that is best for you will really depend on your location, home, and needs. You can preview and compare the annual costs and efficiencies of different heating systems at the Canadian Natural Resources Website.
There are a few different types of heating systems you can install in your home:
- Forced-Air Furnaces
- Air Source Heat Pumps
- Ground Source Heat Pumps
- Electric Room Heaters
Forced-air furnaces are probably the most common heating system in the United States today. They use some type of heat source or combustion to heat up the air temperature. That hot air is then circulated throughout the house through a duct system, and delivered to different parts of the house that need heat. Some of these heat sources can include:
- Gas Fired
- Propane Fired
- Oil Fired
- Wood Fired
Obviously the fuels above (gas, propane, oil and wood) are combusted in a separate chamber that heats up air passing through the heating unit. There are multiple ways this is done, but basically, the fire and combustion heats the air. The electric furnace works the same way, except air passes by its electric coils and is heated up. Depending on your location, and local energy prices, some heat sources (fuels) may be a better idea than others. You should definitely speak with a licensed professional to see what the best option for your area is.
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Boiler heating systems also do what they sound like – heat up water. That water is then circulated throughout the house to heat it, either through the floors, or baseboard units. Boilers also use a few different heat sources to heat up the water that include:
- Gas Fired
- Propane Fired
- Oil Fired
- Wood Fired
The heat delivered from the water (hydronic heating or Radiant Heating) also has a few advantages in the home over traditional forced air furnaces, such as slightly increased efficiency, more comfortable and even heat, and less indoor air pollutants from no vents or blowing air. Radiant Heat’s disadvantages include the ability to only heat and not cool, higher installation costs, and the ability to retrofit a home with radiant heating can be very difficult.
You can learn more about Boilers at:
Air Source Heat Pumps
Heat Pumps (Air Source) can be a great way to save money on your year-round heating and cooling bills, and consolidate heating and cooling to one unit. Air source heat pumps are outdoor units that can run in the summer at function like a traditional central air conditioner, as well as winter, and provide heat for the home. It utilizes a refrigerant cycle to efficiently deliver heating and cooling at a reduced cost of traditional systems. Depending on your existing heating and cooling systems, an air-source heat pump can save you anywhere from 20-60% on both heating and cooling.
Air Source Heat Pumps do have a few limitations though, as they don’t run very efficiently in very cold weather. If it is decently cold outside (under 20 degrees), they have to work extremely hard to pull any heat from the cold outdoor air. You will have to talk with a licensed professional to see if an air source heat pump would make sense in your climate.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground Source Heat Pumps (Geothermal Heat Pumps) function very similarly to air source heat pumps, except instead of an outdoor air unit, the geothermal heat pump relies on a large loop or piping or open source system buried under the ground. The system uses the natural heat storage characteristics and constant 45-55 degree temperatures of the earth to moderate its temperature through the year. A geothermal heat pump can also heat and cool all year around at extremely high efficiencies greater than 100% (about 200-400%). They can operate this efficiently because they output multiple times the energy (in heat form), as they take in (in the form of electricity). Initial installations are significantly more expensive than traditional systems, but they usually pay themselves off and save you money in the long run, sometimes in as little as 2-4 years.
Electric Room Heaters
Electric room heaters are individual units that are meant to provide heat for one, maybe two rooms. Their controls are all separate, and are relatively cheap compared to large furnace systems. They are generally found in the form of an electric-resistance baseboard heater installed in the lower part of a wall, usually under a window. Other forms include portable electric heaters, convection heaters and floor insert heaters. These are a great way to cheaply and easily provide heat to an area without having to install large amounts of duct work or do major construction. Their efficiency for heating isn’t the best, but they provide low amounts of heat effectively.