Do You Need a New Home Heating System?
Your Home Heating Options
When the chill of fall creeps under your door and into your home, nothing matters as much as warming your house. A home heating system is the most essential home investment you’ll ever make. It’s also one of the most expensive.
A good heating system can cost over $10,000 to replace. Technology has provided us with multiple options for heating systems, so where does a person begin? Here is your basic guide for purchasing a home heating system.
Home Heating System Requirement
More than anything else, your home heating system should adequately heat your home. Whether you live in a climate that dips to -40 degrees in the winter or one that barely scrapes below freezing, a good heat distribution system should keep your home temperature the same as if you had a beautiful spring day with the windows open.
Technology has led us to things like a dual fuel heating system where you have more than one fuel for the same system in your home. Options abound. Here are a few of the most common heating systems on the market today.
Central Heating Systems
Central heating systems are how the majority of houses are heated in North America. Central heating systems are simply a single unit that provides heat to the entire home. The furnace blows heated air through ducts that deliver warm air to the house through registers or grills.
Central heating systems are controlled by a thermostat and the on/off switch. You control when the thermostat will kick the furnace in.
Forced Air System
Forced air systems are the most common type of central heating systems in North American homes. These systems use a furnace with a blower
fan that pumps warmed air into different rooms of the home through a network of ducts.
Forced air systems quickly adjust the room temperature. These are the most efficient HVAC systems because the AC and heater share the same blower and ductwork. The system is fueled by natural gas, fuel oil, electricity, or liquid propane.
Gas furnaces are a type of central heating unit. The main distinction of a gas furnace is its type of fuel. It runs off natural or propane gas. The process begins with the thermostat. The thermostat kicks in and tells your furnace it needs to warm your home. A valve then opens and natural gas flows toward the burner. A blower will push the incoming air from the ductwork towards the burner so it can warm. The gas reaches the pilot light, which heats the gas and the incoming air.
A fan pushes the hot air through a hot-air plenum, and the flue catches the exhaust and pumps it away from the home. Warm air enters rooms through vents, and cold air goes back to the furnace through cold-air vents. Gas furnaces require all of their parts to work in sync for the gas furnace to heat a home thoroughly.
The main feature of a fuel oil system is its fuel. It uses a petrol-based oil to heat your home. So you will have a fuel oil tank that requires regular filling. The system itself can vary. Fuel oil systems are either water-based or warm-air. Each disperses home heat differently. With the water-based system, your water is heated in a cast iron or steel boiler before the system distributes the heat throughout the home. The hot water circulates through either baseboards or radiators.
If you have a steam system, then your water turns to steam and comes through radiators or pipes. With a warm air system, your furnace will heat air and then blow that warm air through the ducts and vents throughout your home.
In each of these systems, fuel oil burns to create the necessary heat for either the warm air or the warm water. The emissions from the fuel combustion exit a home through a flue pipe and chimney. In the same way, the system can vary, so can the price of fuel oil. Thus many homes are moving away from fuel oil systems because the oil prices fluctuate so drastically.
Furnace and Boilers
Typically furnaces heat homes and boilers heat larger structures like apartments and businesses. However, you can still find traditional boilers in older homes.
Boilers work much like water heaters in that they serve to heat the water that you then use to heat your home. A central boil circulates steam or hot water through pipes to a radiator positioned strategically in the house. A classic radiator is a steam radiator that then pumps moist, warm air into a room.
Boilers will feed one of two systems. Steam boilers circulate gaseous steam through pipes to the radiators. The condensed water then flows back to the boiler for reheating, so there’s not a constant flow of water into the boiler.
More modern radiator systems circulate hot water to the radiator through an electric pump. This modern system returns cooled water to the boiler for more heating similar to the steam boiler. Like furnaces, boilers are fueled by natural gas, electricity, or liquid propane. You can also find boilers fueled by fuel oil and coal.
The Benefits of Each Different Type of Heating System
From heating efficiency to cost, each type of heating system carries its benefits.
Gas furnaces are a quick, efficient way to warm the air in your home. They work much like all central heating systems except they require natural gas. The cost can fluctuate, so you can have years where heating your home costs very little.
With a fuel oil system, you have options. You can have either a forced-air system that pumps warm air through the home or a hot water system that creates steam and hot water pumped through your home.
You also have options with fuel oil. With other systems, you cannot control the price of your fuel. But with fuel oil, you can shop around for the best fuel oil prices and then have the oil stored in a tank.
Central Heating Systems
Because central heating systems are common in North America, you can easily find a technician when you need one. Also, a central unit means the technician has a simpler job when servicing your air handler. There are fewer parts to check and maintain.
Forced Air System
Forced air systems have the highest annual fuel utilization efficiency rating of all the heating systems. Plus, they’re the most cost-efficient because you can combine them with a cooling system.
They also come with the option of having a humidifier or dehumidifier integrated into them. You can also filter out the dust and allergens easily with a filter built into the system.
A boiler produces comfortable, radiant heat. Plus, if you do not like the aesthetics of old radiators, you can update them to the low-profile baseboard of wall-panel radiators. Modern boilers are also energy efficient.
How to Find Out the Most Efficient Heating System for Your Home
When you’re looking for the most efficient heating system for your home, you need to begin with your home’s size. An HVAC professional can run a heating load calculation on your home. This will determine how much heat you’ll need and will help you find the most efficient heating system for your home.
Factors to Consider When Looking at a New Home Heating System
The biggest factor to consider when you look at a new home heating system is the size of your home, as we just stated. After this, though, you need to consider your environment. If you like the idea of a fuel oil system but have no fuel oil companies near you, the system just doesn’t make sense.
So consider where you live first. What is the most common form of home heating in your community, and why? Also, consider the cost of the system. Some systems may look like they will cost the most upfront. However, if that system is energy efficient, you will have saved yourself the cost of the system and more a few years down the road. Plus, with the right heating system, you can get tax credits.
You also need to consider if you want dry or damp heat. If you already live in a damp climate, like the deep south, then damp-heat doesn’t make sense. But if you live in a dry climate, like the desert areas of Colorado, then a damp heat makes sense.
Home Heating System Tips
Little things will make your home heating systems work more efficiently. For example, you should keep your vents clear of furniture and drapes. If you have a vent under your sofa, your furnace will have to work twice as hard to keep your home warm.
If you live in a particularly bitterly cold climate, consider adding extra insulation or draft stoppers to your doors. Weather sealing tape and window kits will keep the cold out and the heat in, thereby increasing your heating system’s efficiency.
The Process of Installing a New Home Heating System
Installing a new home heating system is a big job. You want to first pick a company with strong ethics, someone that will do the job well, and be willing to fix any problems that come up in the future.
When a furnace company comes into your home to install the new system, here’s what they will have to do:
- Make preliminary decisions: the company will need to know the best location for installation. You will want to put the furnace near a drain for condensation. So you want to put your furnace in a place with a slight slope toward a drain.
- Connect to the ducts: the company may want to inspect your ducts before they install the furnace. If you have old ductwork, they may recommend replacing it since leaky ducts will make your furnace inefficient.
- Connect the vent pipes: The company will then connect the furnace’s intake and exhaust pipes. These should have a slight angle that slopes toward the unit so the condensation drains in.
- Connect the fuel supply: whether you’re using gas or fuel oil, the company will connect the supply. They will also make sure you have adequate ventilation and will check for leaks.
- Connect the electrical supply: your blower will not run without electricity. Your thermostat will not tell the blower to start without power either, so your technician will connect the power at this time.
- Connect the drain hose: your system will have a drain hose that runs from the furnace to the drain near it.
Technicians will have a checklist of sorts to make sure they’ve completed each task and hooked your furnace up thoroughly.
If you opt for an alternative heat source like a boiler, the tech will run through similar steps to make sure your home is thoroughly heated when the thermostat kicks in.
Heating System Maintenance
To avoid a service call, you can complete some basic heating system maintenance on your own. After all, you’d hate to call in a technician just because you have a dirty filter. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your heating system:
- Mind your thermostat: Make sure your thermostat is working properly by testing it periodically. If you have a computerized thermostat, set it so the temperature is lower in the evening when there’s less movement in the house. This will help you save energy costs as well.
- Clean debris: Be mindful of the outdoor state of your furnace unit. Look for exhaust pipes that can become covered with ice, leaves, and other debris. Clear snow from the area regularly.
- Replace filters: Dirty filters will lead to your furnace working harder than it should. It also will allow more allergens into your home. Filters are relatively inexpensive and simple to replace.
- Lube up: If you have a new furnace, you do not need to complete this step. However, if you have an older furnace, lubricate its parts regularly to increase the efficiency of the shaft. Ultimately, the furnace will generate more heat.
Basic maintenance will help your furnace run more efficiently and help you avoid maintenance calls in the middle of the night.
Stay Educated, Stay Warm
Learning about all of the possibilities of a home heating system will help you make the best choice and keep you warm when the winter chill threatens to creep through the door.
For all of your home heating needs, contact us. We’d love to help.