What Type of Heating System Do I Have?

What Type of Heating System Do I Have?

There are a number of Heating Systems, but the most commonly known are:

  1.  Furnaces and Boilers – Most U.S. homes are heated with either a furnace or a boiler heating system. Furnaces function by heating and then distributing air throughout the house using air ducts. Boilers, on the other hand, function by heating water and using the hot water or steam to heat the house.
    • If your boiler is using steam to heat the house, the steam will be distributed through pipes to steam radiators (steam heating is typically less efficient than water).
    • If your boiler is using hot water to warm the house, it will most likely be distributed using baseboard radiators, a radiant floor system, or a coil.
  2. Radiant Heating – Radiant heating systems supply heat directly to the floor or the panels in the wall or ceiling of a house using infrared radiation.
    • Radiant heating is created through the heating of high radiant material like metal, which then radiates heat to the area it is trying to heat. For this reason, radiant heating is not a very safe option for those with young children, especially if using floor radiant heating (the most common), since it is very hot to the touch and could harm someone who puts their hand on it.
    • This type of heating relies heavily on convection by having the natural circulation of heat within a room, but the use of radiant panels instead of radiant floor heating is a dramatically different type of radiant heating. Radiant panels are panels that are heated through electricity or water (though most are done via electricity to avoid water leaks in walls) and are hung in the ceiling or walls of the home and can be used to heat individual rooms separately in a more efficient manner than other options.
    • Some people don’t prefer ceiling or wall-based radiant panels since they tend to heat the top of the head or upper extremities prior to heating the entire body.
  3. Electric Resistance Heating – Electric resistance heating is one of the most expensive ways to heat a home. Though it converts nearly 100% of the energy in electricity to heat, most electricity comes from coal, gas or oil generators that convert only about 30% of the fuel’s energy into electricity.
    • Because of these losses when producing and transmitting electricity, using combustion appliances like natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces are much more efficient.
    • If you are to use electric heating, heat pumps are typically the preferred option since they can cut electricity use by 50% in comparison to standard electric resistance heating.
    • If the climate is typically hot and dry like areas of the west coast or the south with few days cold enough to require a heating system, then the high cost of a standard heating system is not efficient and an electric resistance heating system may be preferred.
    • Electric resistance heating is also a popular option when remodeling a home or doing a home addition and expanding the existing heating, AC, and ventilation system isn’t the most economical option.
  4. Wood and Pellet-Fuel Heating – Prior to the 20th century, 90% of Americans used wood burning to heat their homes and businesses. Once the use of fossil fuel became more prevalent and less expensive, the number of Americans that used wood to heat their homes dropped to less than 2% by 1970. Then during the energy crisis of the 1970’s, wood burning began to rise again as a renewable energy alternative.
    • To increase its efficiency, pellets were also created using compacted sawdust, bark, crop waste, wood chips, waste paper and other biomass fuels like nutshells, corn kernels, barley, sunflowers, dried cherry pits beet pulp and soybeans.
    • These pellets are small and measure between 3/8 and 1 inch in length and are easy to apply to pellet-burning appliances that today are more energy efficient than previous versions – though this is still not a very efficient way to heat a home and some regulations make it mandatory to have an EPA approval to use wood burning as the primary source of heat.
  5. Active Solar Heating – An active solar heating system uses solar energy to heat a liquid or air that is then transferred directly to the interior space or a storage system for later use.
    • In some instances, an auxiliary backup system is used to provide additional heat in the event the solar energy system is not able to produce the required heating amount.
    • These solar systems are often used to supplement forced air systems, and if so, liquid systems are typically the most popular given it is more easily able to store the heat for a longer period of time. These are typically used with radiant heating systems, boilers with hot water radiators and absorption heat pumps and coolers.
  6. Small Space Heaters – Small space heaters are often used when a central heating system is inadequate or too expensive to implement in a separated place of a home (like an attic or new addition).
    • These space heaters can be fueled by electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene.
    • Some rely on convection heating to heat the entire room while others like rely on radiant heating to heat just those within its immediate path of emission. If only in a room for a short period of time, a radiant style heating is more efficient to simply keep you and others warm in the path of emission versus requiring the need to heat the entire room.
    • Due to the potential of causing a house fire, small space heaters should be used with caution and purchasing safe options with auto shut-off mechanisms is preferred in the event of the system being knocked over.

To fully understand the best way to heat your existing home by servicing, improving upon or enhancing your existing heating system, a professional will need to provide a heating audit to understand the areas of opportunity in your home.

If you are interested in learning more about the existing heating system you have or you have problems or concerns with your existing heating system, contact a JP’s Plumbing professional today. You can also contact JP’s Plumbing and Heating today for a heating system consultation.

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