The Different Ways to Heat a House

Family of Feet warming at a fireplace

As the winter season comes into full swing, homeowners will focus on how to heat their homes. The kind of heating system may even influence a buyer’s decision. By educating yourself and your clients on the different forms of heating systems, you can help ease the decision-making process and help your clients heat their home efficiently!

To learn more about the energy efficiency of different heating systems, the U.S. Department of Energy has an infographic that explains how to be energy efficient while heating a home.

Furnaces and Boilers

Most homes in the U.S. rely on a furnace for heat. The system blows heated air through ducts and vents within the home. These systems are effective for heating an entire home, especially a large space. The vents can be installed on the floor, ceiling, or along the baseboards, and provide ambient heat.

While many assume that boilers and furnaces are the same, the process is actually quite different. Furnaces force heated air through air ducts, while boilers heat water and distribute the steam or hot water through pipes. Many older homes have boilers attached to radiators, which can be hot to the touch. newer homes using boiler heat may rely on radiant floorboard or baseboard heating.

How a furnace works

How a boiler works
How a boiler works courtesy of kettyle.com

 

Both furnaces and boilers burn fuel to heat the air or water used to heat a home. Natural gas is often cheaper for a homeowner, but the home must be near a gas line. Gas systems, which are often newer and cleaner, usually have lower maintenance costs.

Oil is more energy efficient than natural gas, providing more heat while using less, but it may nevertheless be more expensive. Oil must be delivered to a storage tank near the home and refilled as needed. Oil is more popular in rural areas without access to gas lines.

Pellet and Wood Stoves

While many homeowners may try to avoid this seemingly dated way to heat their homes, using wood as an energy source has come a long way since the early days of cowboys warming their hands by a fire, or colonial homes with a fireplace in every room.

Circulating stoves have a fan within the system (powered by electricity) that helps circulate heat around a room and is more efficient than a traditional stove or an open fire. Older homes may have antique wood stoves that are less efficient than most of the woodstoves currently on the market.

Pellet stoves have grown in popularity. Because pellets are commercially available and manufactured to burn efficiently, they eliminate the need for harvesting firewood. Pellet stoves are often supplemented by electricity to help blow the warm air around the room. Pellet stoves are often safer circulating stoves, as the outside of the stove doesn’t get nearly as hot and the minimal ashes are easy to clean.

Wood fuel may be less expensive than gas or oil, but wood-burning systems can’t heat the same square footage that a traditional furnace or boiler. These stoves are great for heating a portion of a house, or for heating a small home. Wood burning is worse for the environment, and some regions won’t allow wood burning on days with a low air quality alert.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps work by taking advantage of temperature differentials to heat and cool a home. There are three types: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal. Air-to-air pumps either pull cold air in or push hot air out. Water source heat pumps use a nearby water source, which is generally warmer in winter and cooler in summer, to regulate temperature. Geothermal heat pumps leverage the constant temperature of the earth (about 50 degrees below 50 feet). Because they rely on electricity, heat pumps are best in a milder climate that doesn’t face extreme heat or cold.

Space Heaters

Space heaters are a great alternative to other forms of heat when homeowners have a small space to warm. Gas space heaters can only be used in well-ventilated areas, such as garages or porches. Vented gas heaters, which can be installed in a room when connected to a vent that leads directly outside. Electric space heaters are ideal for heating a smaller space, such as a home office. Because they concentrate heat in a small space and are often placed within a living space (rather than in a basement or on the exterior) space heaters can be dangerous. Never leave a space heater unattended, and turn them off when leaving the home.

Want to learn more about your home’s heating system? Contact a qualified local heating and cooling specialist.

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