Heating systems are a necessity. For that reason, most homes already feature a heating system.
What if yours doesn’t, though? Maybe you home dates back to a time when fireplaces were the main heat source. Or maybe the existing system has failed. You might even be building a house and so you’re considering your home heating options. When it comes to central heating, you have three main options — furnace, boiler, or heat pump.
The furnace is possibly the most common method of heating your home in the United States. The system consists of the furnace itself and a network of ducts to deliver the heated air throughout your house. The most common fuel for residential furnaces is natural gas. Electric models are the second most common. You usually only find oil furnaces in old homes.
Natural gas furnaces require a gas line hookup. Inside the unit is a heat exchanger that burns the fuel to heat the air while preventing toxic gases from entering your home. A blower pulls air from outside the house and pushes it past the heat exchanger. The air picks up heat from the exchanger. The blower then pushes the heated air throughout the system of ducts and into your home.
Electric furnaces work in a similar fashion. Instead of a heat exchanger, though, electric furnaces use heating elements to heat the air. The elements are similar to those inside a toaster. Electric furnaces also use a blower in the same manner as gas furnaces.
At one time, boilers were one of the most common methods of heating homes in the U.S. Boilers work similarly to gas-fueled furnaces. They start with the unit, inside of which is the heat exchanger burning natural gas. However, instead of air pipes inside the unit, a boiler features a system of water pipes.
The water pipes inside the boiler hook up to a circular system of pipes throughout your home. So the heat from the heat exchanger gets transferred to the water circulating through the boiler. A pump in or near the boilers pushes the water out into the pipe system. The water flows into radiators, which send the heat into your rooms.
The boiler pump continues to push the water through the circular system inside the house. As the heated water makes this circuit, it cools down. The cooler water re-enters the boiler to start the heating process again. A modern update on this system is radiant floor heating, which relies on a system of water pipes in the floor.
A newer method for home heating is the heat pump. Heat pumps rely on a system of ductwork inside your home to blow heated air through your house. Where they get that heat depends on the kind of pump.
The air-source heat pump extracts heat from outside air even on very cold days. A fan mounted outside pulls air over the evaporator, which causes the refrigerant to boil. The resultant vapor moves through to the electric compressor. The compressor increases the pressure, and so the heat, of the vapor. It then provides heat for the home.
The more common style of heat pump is ground sourced. This heat pump relies on a system of water pipes buried in the ground. The pipes extract heat from the ground and transfer it to the water. The pump itself pumps the water through the loop and back into the indoor unit. There, a heat exchanger transfers the heat to air that heats the home.
If you’re replacing an existing heating system, you’ll probably stick with the same type. You might be looking at a whole new system, though. All heating systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Make your decision based on fuel type and the heat distribution method. When you’re ready for your new heating system, call Campbell & Company.