Options for Your Home Heating
Options for your home heating - there are many varieties of heating systems out there, all of which have distinct benefits and drawbacks. We will highlight four home heating system options in this article: forced air systems, boiler radiator systems, geothermal systems, and heat pumps.
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Home Heating Options
Forced Air Heating Systems
How it Works - The most commonly used heating system in American homes, forced heat systems use a main furnace to collect and distribute heated air. The furnace draws air in through ductwork, which it filters, heats, and sends back into the home. The air is circulated on a consistent basis, gradually increasing its temperature over time.
Things to Look For - Efficiency is extremely important in deciding on the best forced air unit. There is an AFUE rating on each model, which details its efficiency. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient it is. This means that your furnace will be able to produce greater amounts of heated air with less amounts of gas. In the end, you will be saving more on your energy bills while reducing wasted energy and resources.
You can purchase "up flow", "down flow", and "horizontal" forced air units that will fit any sized room. Make sure that, regardless of the model, you have your furnace properly installed. Proper installation, efficiency, and sizing will affect your forced air system far more than the specific brand that you purchase.
Issues - A forced air system is prone to certain issues, including burnout gases contaminating the fire zone, impurities in the furnace air supply, and possible power control complications. If you are experiencing any of these problems, you should consult with a professional technician.
Boiler Radiator Systems
How it Works - In a boiler heating system, a gas or oil-fired burner heats water, which turns into steam that is passed through a series of pipes. These pipes lead to a radiator or convector, releasing heat into the room, and causing the steam to convert back into water. It is recycled back into the boiler where the process begins again.
Benefits - Although radiators are not used as often as forced air systems, they can provide heat in an efficient, reliable, and long lasting manner. They are quiet, clean, and a clean source of heat that can warm up a room at a faster rate than other systems. Additionally radiators can be used to heat one or two rooms at a time, rather than the entire home.
Issues - Radiators can provide an unattractive element to your room. You should not try to cover up radiators as this can affect their efficiency. Although they require less maintenance than other systems, you should make sure to check safety valves and pressure and water level gauges on a regular basis. If you require any work performed on the boiler, you should use a professional technician to avoid burns and scalding.
Geothermal Heating Systems
How it Works - Geothermal systems use the natural heat that is trapped in soil to heat your home. A series of tubes are filled with water, refrigerant, or an anti-freeze to convert this trapped heat from the soil to your home. These tubes are either referred to as "closed loop" or "open loop" systems.
- Closed Loop: These are a series of sealed piping loops that are filled with a mixture of water and antifreeze that is heated by the surrounding soil or water. They can be installed vertically or horizontally in the surrounding area.
- Open Loop: These tubes circulate water from a ground or surface water source throughout your home.
Benefits - Geothermal systems are much more cost effective than other heating options. It will typically cost between $2,500 and $7,500 to install this into your home versus about $4,000 for a traditional heating and cooling system. Although geothermal can be more expensive initially, it can last for 20 to 30 years with little maintenance and has virtually zero operating costs.
Additionally, you can use this same system for air conditioning during the warm summer months. Heat from your home is trapped by this same system and moved into the surrounding earth or water source. This is far more efficient and environmentally friendly than a traditional air conditioning system.
Issues - Geothermal systems cannot be effectively used in areas of extreme seasonal changes. They are dependant on the weather and are not as consistent as other systems.
How it Works - Heat pumps draw heat from air and water in their surrounding area and distribute it throughout your home. They use an electric motor and fan to draw in air and send it out through ductwork.
Benefits - A heat pump system can be used for both heating and air conditioning purposes and are extremely efficient. They supply more energy than they consume and can circulate more air for longer periods of time than their counterparts.
Issues - While you may save on energy cost over more traditional systems, heat pumps require regular maintenance. Motors, fans, belts, and bearings should be inspected to ensure continued and efficient operation. There may be some problems with icing as well, especially during the summer months. Icing is typically caused by low refrigerant charge, a dirty filter, or running the unit when it is too cold outside.
We have discussed four heating system options in this article, but there are many more out there to choose from. When deciding on the best option, you should look at every benefit, and drawback, that each system provides. In this way, you can find the ideal fit for you and your home.