(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)
Different types of heating systems to keep your place cozy in winter
Forced Air Heating/cooling system
The most common HVAC system used for heating homes is the forced-air system. It uses a furnace with a blower fan that pushes in warmed air to the various rooms through a network of ducts. This type of heating is very quick at adjusting the temperature of a room. It is an efficient HVAC System as air conditioning systems can share the same blower and ductwork.
Fuel sources: The furnaces that power forced-air systems use natural gas, liquid propane (LP), fuel oil, or electricity.
Distribution: Air warmed in by the furnace’s burner, heating the air flows through a network of ducts to heating registers in individual rooms. Another set of ducts brings back cold air to the furnace.
- Forced air systems are filterable. So, we can remove dust and allergens from this heating system. However, the forced-air system increases the number of airborne allergens.
- A forced-air system gives the option to integrate humidifier equipment. This ensures that the heating does not dry up all the moisture content in the house.
- It is inexpensive compared to some other heating systems.
- The forced air system furnaces achieve the highest AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings of any heating system. That does not mean it is the most efficient way to heat a home.
This type of heating can combine cooling with heating.
- This heating system requires ductwork. It also takes up space in walls.
- Furnace fans used in the forced-air system make noise.
- The moving air distributes airborne allergens.
- Without the humidifier, the moving air becomes dry.
- Forced air systems only heat the air and not the objects in a room. Therefore, it is not considered the most comfortable form of heating.
Gravity Air Furnace Systems
Gravity air furnace systems are the precursor to forced air systems. They distribute air through a system of metal ducts. Gravity air systems operate by the simple physics of warm air rising and cool air sinking instead of forcing the air through a blower.
A gravity air furnace usually placed in the basement heats the air. The heated air then rises and flows into the various rooms through ducts. Cool air from the rooms returns to the furnace through a system of cold-air return ducts. Gravity air furnaces are popularly known as octopus furnaces in older homes. These systems are no longer installed in homes, but they continue to be in older homes.
Fuel source: Forced air furnaces use natural gas, liquid propane (LP), fuel oil, or electricity for fuelling.
Distribution: Conditioned air flows through a network of metal ducts.
- Gravity heating systems do not use any moving parts. Therefore, they are durable and can last for many decades.
- The gravity heating system equipment is easily manageable and requires less maintenance cost.
- Air heated in a gravity heating system lacks effective filtration.
- It has low energy efficiency than the newer furnaces.
- Temperature adjustments in gravity heating systems are slow. The systems operate by simple physics laws of upward downward airflow.
In-Floor Radiant Heating Systems
Modern in-floor heating is a kind of radiant heating system. It is different from forced air heat. This heating system heats objects and materials such as furniture and flooring, rather than just the air. The In-floor radiant systems heat water in a boiler or water heater and distribute water to heat the house.
In-floor heating system uses plastic water tubing installed inside concrete slab floors. They, at times, attach to the top or bottom of wood floors. This heating technique does not make noise and is energy efficient. The time taken to heat the house is longer than the forced air heating, but its heat is more consistent and stays longer. Some in-floor heating systems use electrical wiring installed under flooring materials, ceramic or stone tile. These kinds of systems heat only small rooms such as bathrooms and are less efficient.
Fuel sources: A central boiler, fueled by natural gas, liquid propane (LP), or electricity heats the hot water tubing systems. Solar hot water systems also provide hot water for the system.
Distribution: In-floor systems usually use plastic tubing for hot water distribution.
- Radiant heating systems heat the air and the objects in the rooms as well. So, they provide a more comfortable and even heat.
- Radiant systems are energy efficient as they use boilers for the heating process.
- Radiant systems take time to heat the house completely. Despite being slow, they adjust to temperature changes.
- In-floor wall heater installation is expensive.
- The maintenance is problematic if the hidden pipings cause damage.
Traditional Boiler and Radiator Systems
Traditional boiler and radiator systems are the heating systems in older homes and apartments in North America mostly. This kind of system has a central boiler. The boiler produces steam or hot water that circulates through pipes to radiator units positioned around the house. The classic radiator is a cast-iron upright unit positioned near windows. The steam radiator is the other name of this heating unit.
There are two types of systems used with the older radiators. The steam boilers circulate gaseous steam through pipes to individual radiators. It then condenses back to water and flows back to the boiler for reheating. The modern radiator systems use electric pumps to circulate hot water to radiators. The hot water releases its heat and condenses at the radiator. The cooled water returns to the boiler for reheating. These types of heating systems are common in Europe.
Fuel sources: Boiler/radiator systems use natural gas, liquid propane, fuel oil, or electricity as fuel. Original boilers even use coal.
Distribution: The steam or hot water circulates through metal pipes to radiators to heat the rooms.
- Radiant heat is comfortable as it heats the objects and holds moisture in the air.
- Radiators can be low-profile baseboard or wall-panel radiators.
- Modern boilers offer good energy efficiency. So, for more energy efficiency, try replacing your old boilers.
- Radiators are not visible. So, maintenance and repair or replacement of radiators can cause trouble.
- The radiator takes up space. This might limit furniture placement and window coverings.
- This heating system does not combine with air conditioning.
Hot Water Baseboard Radiator
Another more modern form of radiant heat is a hot water baseboard system is a more modern form of radiant heating. This heating technique is popular by the name of a hydronic heating system. These systems use a centralized boiler to heat water. The hot water then circulates through a system of water pipes to low-profile baseboard heating units. These units radiate the heat from the water out into the room through thin metal fins surrounding the water pipe. This system is an evolved version of the old upright radiator systems.
Fuel Sources: Boilers for hydronic systems use natural gas, liquid propane (LP), fuel oil, or electricity as fuels. Solar heating systems can also help these systems to function.
Distribution: Boiler heats water and pipes to “fin-tube” baseboard units mounted along walls. The fins disperse heat at a faster rate because of the increased surface area. Natural convection: hot air rises, pushing down the cold air.
- Hydronic heating systems offer good energy efficiency in comparison to other heating techniques discussed above.
- Hydronic systems do not have fans or blowers which makes them less noisy (no noise)
- The hydronic heating system has the provision to control temperature precisely.
- Radiators in baseboard heating systems are very durable and cost fewer maintenance charges.
- Baseboard radiation/convection units take up space and can cause challenges in furniture placement.
- Radiators in hydronic heating systems take a good amount of time to heat up.
- It is not possible to combine with air conditioning systems.
- If the heating process continues for an extended period, there are chances of heating pipes freezing.
Heat Pump Heating Systems
The heat pump heating system is the newest home heating (and cooling) technology. This heating system is similar to an air conditioner. The heat pumps extract heat from the air, then deliver it to the rooms through an indoor air handler. Standard home air-source heat pumps take heat from the outdoor air. A ground-source, or geothermal, heat pumps that pull heat from deep in the ground are the other options.
The mini-split or ductless system is the most popular type of air-source heat pump. This system comprises a small outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers. They are easy to add to room additions or remote areas of a home. Most heat pump systems are reversible. They can switch to air conditioning mode in the summer. Heat pumps heating systems are energy efficient. They are not suitable for extreme weather conditions because of their low efficiency.
Fuel sources: Heat pumps use electricity and natural gas.
Distribution: Wall-mounted units blow air across evaporator coils linked to an outdoor pump. The pump extracts or absorbs heat from the outdoors.
- Heat pump systems offer heating and cooling.
- Heating individual wall units allow precise control of each room temperature.
- Heat pump systems are less noisy as the fans are quieter.
- The biggest advantage is that these systems do not require ductwork. Hence, maintenance is much better.
- Heat pumps have average efficiency. They are not the best options for extreme climates.
- Hot or cool air distribution is less or limited because it comes from a single room or area.
Electric Resistance Heating Systems
Electric resistance heaters are not a common technique for primary home heating. This is mostly due to the high cost of electricity. However, electric resistance heating systems are a popular option for supplemental heating in finished basements, home offices, and seasonal rooms. Electric wall heater installation is easy and inexpensive. They also do not require any ductwork, pumps, air handlers, or other distribution equipment. So we can say the units and installation are inexpensive. It does not have any moving parts and therefore requires no much maintenance.
The electric radiant wall heaters installed near the ceiling produces heat. The heat then moves towards the room occupants. Electric radiant heaters provide more focused heat than you get with baseboard units. Radiant heaters also are more energy-efficient.
Distribution: Natural convection circulates heat throughout the room. The wall-mounted electrical heaters have internal fans that blow out the heated air.
- Electrical Heater units are versatile. We can install them anywhere we want.
- Electrical heating radiator systems use electricity for fuel. You do not have to look up for other fuels.
- These heating systems work silently as there are no fans in the unit.
- Radiant electric heaters heat the air and the room objects as well. So, it is more comfortable.
- It does not require any ductwork. Therefore the wall heater installation process is inexpensive.
- Electric heaters result in huge electricity bills. Though the heater Tune-Up process is cheap, the operation costs are quite high.
- They contribute disproportionately to the over-use of the electric utility grid.
- Most electricity used in these heaters come from coal-fired power plants. So they contribute significantly to air pollution and atmospheric carbon though operate cleanly.
Some tips to keep your homes warm by saving energy:
- Fortify your doors and windows. Seal your windows and doors to block the cold air from entering the house. Installing energy-efficient windows and doors reduces heating costs largely.
- Close your fireplace to prevent heat from escaping and cold air from circulating back into the house.
- Change your filter to prevent restricted airflow and unnecessary energy usage. Also, close gaps in pipes, vents, and fans to guarantee that heat transfers more effectively across different rooms.
- Open your curtains during the daytime and make the most of the heat from the sun. Let the sunlight warm-up your house at no cost. Shut your curtains at night. Curtains will act as another layer of insulation and keep warmth in your rooms.
- Check your thermostat temperature. Adjust it to low when you are home. This will save a lot of energy.
- Properly maintain your heating system: Clean your units and replace the boilers and furnaces if needed.
- Turn down your water heater: You can reduce your heating cost by lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This can lower your water heating costs by 6-10%.