Have you ever wondered what goes on below the vents? That is, do you know what kind of system heats your home and exactly what is going on when you hear the heat kick in? Many people are comfortable simply knowing that when they move the dial, they will soon feel warm. But knowledge is power and the more you know about the heating system in your home, the more you can do to keep things clean and efficient, while cutting down on your heating bills at the same time.
When it comes to heating systems and how they work, there is a lot of information out there, and it can be confusing to sift through. Luckily, we are here to break it down for you.
Heating systems have three components to them—the source, the distribution system and the controls. The source is where the heat is generated and is most commonly a furnace, boiler or heat pump. Today more and more people are using another option—active solar heating, or solar panels. Whichever it is, heat is created in the form of warm air, steam or hot water, and needs to be distributed throughout your home. Those distribution systems come most commonly in the form of forced air or different types of radiators. And finally, we have the thermostat, the control panel that tells the systems to start and stop.
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Those are the basics of heat distributions in the home, and the age, size and location of your home will all be determining factors when researching what kind of system you have.
Now let’s get into some of the nitty gritty details of these sources and systems, starting with furnaces. This source heats air and uses a system of air ducts throughout your home to circulate the air, and uses natural gas or propane to work. Furnaces are an inexpensive option, can be very efficient (achieving up to 98 per cent efficiency depending on the system’s age) and can last anywhere from 15-30 years.
Boilers, on the other hand, heat water and use hot water or steam through a system of pipes to warm a room. They last about the same length of time as furnaces and again use natural gas or oil as fuel. While not quite as efficient as a furnace, boilers are good if you need to heat individual rooms separately. However, you are at risk of the pipes freezing if it gets too cold out.
Next up, we have heat pumps, which are more versatile because they can provide both heating and cooling if you live in a climate that needs it. Heat pumps run off of electricity or geothermal energy if there is access to it and the pump will last around 15 years.
Finally, we have active solar heating that is usually installed on the roof in the form of solar panels. They work by converting the sun’s energy into heat that is collected in the panel. Active solar heating is becoming an increasingly accessible and viable option for people and has an environmental advantage because it doesn’t rely on fuel to work.
Not all sources work with just any distribution system. The heat from furnaces, for example, is generally distributed by a forced air system, which can also distribute the heat from a heat pump or active solar heating. The heat generated in a boiler can be distributed by steam radiant, radiant heating or hot water baseboards. Radiant heating, which can be installed as floor, ceiling or wall panels, can also be used to distribute the heat from a heat pump and active solar heat.
As far as thermostats are concerned, there have also been technological advancements. Consider installing a modern, digital one that will allow you to regulate the temperature in your home, even when you’re not there.
There is a lot to learn about heating systems and as mentioned, the system your home uses will depend on where in the world it is and the size and age of it, too. It is valuable to know what and how your system works because the more you know about it, the better you can care for it, and that will result in more money in your pocket! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay up to date!