Autumn is already well settled and with the days getting shorter and nights getting cooler, it is that time of the year when you brush the dust off your house heating systems and prepare them for the coming chilly months.
Although there are specific ways to stay warm in winter without spending a large amount of money, a proper house heating system is still essential. In fact, if your heating system is efficient or smart, it can be the preferred choice for a cozy, economical winter. The choice and availability of a plethora of heating systems makes it difficult for any intending user to decide the best system for his/her home.
Regardless of the type of house heating system, it is common that thermal energy is transferred from a source such as fuel to an indoor living space. The source can either be fuel, wood, natural gas, electricity, or even the ground (as in geothermal heating systems).
What is then the best house heating system for a house? Let’s find out! While this is a detailed guide with the benefits and disadvantages of different types of home heating, you might also be interested in our basic guide for home heating systems covering detailed technical information.
Types of House Heating Systems
Choosing a new heating system for your house or letting go of your old one can be challenging. To make the right decision, keep reading, and enrich yourself by understanding the convolutions surrounding various house heating systems. Here is the basic list:
1. Furnaces & Boilers
2. Reversible Heat Pumps
3. Ductless Heat Pumps
4. Ground Source Heat Pumps
5. Space Heaters
7. Floor Heating
1. Furnaces & Boilers Based Heating Systems
By far the most common house heating system in our homes is a furnace. Heating systems in old houses usually have a central furnace located in the basement, which provides heat throughout the home using a series of ducts and vents. Fuel, such as fuel oil, natural gas, propane, or wood is burnt inside the furnace to heat the air; the air is then distributed across the house through blowers. Moreover, electricity can also be used as a heat source to warm up the atmosphere. The exhaust gas is vented outside into the air through chimneys. These systems are also called ducted warm-air systems or forced warm-air systems since the warm air is forced through the ducts by powerful fans.
Furnaces work by burning fuel to generate heat. This heat is transferred to the air within the furnace through a heat exchanger. Powerful fans called “air handlers” push this hot air downstream into the ductwork.
As mentioned above, with older furnace systems, the exhaust gases are vented out into the atmosphere, thus wasting around 30% of the fuel energy to maintain the exhaust gases hot enough to vent into the air safely. Modern systems have a fan for this purpose, called an “inducer” fan, which pushes the air out from the chimney. Thus, minimal heat is wasted.
Let us now come to a particular type of water heater called boilers. The main difference between furnaces and boilers is that as furnaces generate heat using warm air, boilers distribute the heat in hot water, which heats up the room as it passes through the radiators or underfloor heating pipes. This house heating system facilitates you with zoned heating and cooling but undertakes high setup and operational costs.
2. Reversible Heat Pumps – Ducted Heating Systems
There are various types of home heating systems available in the market, and reversible heat pumps are an extremely popular kind! Much like a water pump, a heat pump moves heat from one place to another. They are most commonly used in the summer season to transfer heat from the indoor space to the outdoor. But with reversible heat pumps, you can have the full benefits of heating and cooling, thus keeping you warm during the winter. Think of heat pumps like two-way air conditioners. As the name suggests, the air conditioning process is reversed to transfer warm air into a room.
Also called air-source heat pumps, reversible heat pumps extract heat from the outside air through a refrigerant . With ducted air-source heat pumps, a ducted network is used in the house, through which warm air is distributed across different rooms. Louvers and vents are placed in each room to control the flow of air.
3. Ductless Heat Pumps
Much like reversible heat pumps, as discussed before, these systems work on the same principle, with the significant difference being that there are no ducts.Ductless systems are individual appliances, which can be installed in separate rooms. Easy and quick installation means that your heating system is not too heavy on your pocket, and initial costs are much lower in comparison to ducted heating systems.
Infrared remote controls control most of the ductless heat pumps. Moreover, you can also control them with your smartphone through smart AC controllers such as the Cielo Breez . There are a few different ductless systems currently on the market. Let’s briefly look at them:
The types of ductless heating systems include:
Mini-Split Heat Pumps
Mini-split heat pumps are a type of ductless heat pumps that come with two separate units: An indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit houses the compressor, cooling fan, and evaporator, while the indoor unit has the condenser. Both the units are joined using a small pipe bundle that passes through the wall.
Mini-split heat pumps provide cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Mini-splits are the future of air conditioning. They can match your indoor aesthetics through a sleek and minimalistic design. Moreover, you can install them in residential areas or offices with minimal modifications.
Window Heat Pumps
Window heat pumps , also known as reversible window air conditioners, come in compact packaging and are easy to install. These units are installed on windows or small cutouts in the wall. Different from mini-splits, window heat pumps are an all in one unit. These heat pumps are easy to install, energy-efficient, and well designed, window ACs with heat is the option for you if you have to use cooling and heating all year round in a single room.
Portable Heat Pumps
If you’re considering an appliance to provide spot heating or cooling, portable heat pumps are an ideal option. They are applicable in a wide range of uses and are much more efficient than space heaters during the cold.
Portable heat pumps are small and handy to be used in a room or small area. They are simple to install as you only need to plug them in and no outdoor access is needed to dispel the exhaust air.
4. Ground Source Heat Pumps
All the heat pumps discussed above are air source heat pumps, which extract heat from the air and transfer it. Another system, a ground source heat pump transfers heat between the indoor space and the ground. It takes advantage of the fact that the ground is a near-constant temperature throughout the year, at around 50 to 60oF.
These heat pumps work by flowing refrigerant through underground loops, as deep as 6 feet in the case of horizontal loops or as deep as 15 feet in vertical loops. The heat emitted from the ground passes through the heat exchanger. Fans and blowers then blow this heated air into the room.
Other than the ground, a water source is an option that can be used as a heat source. As with the ground, water also maintains a relatively constant temperature.
Further sub-types of geothermal systems are closed-loop systems and open-loop systems. A closed-loop system constantly recycles the same refrigerant within the system. On the other hand, an open-loop system repeatedly needs new fluid to be introduced in the loops.
Geothermal heat pumps are some of the most efficient heat pumps because they use electricity only to move heat and not generate it. The process is lengthy and the cost to install the system is high. If you’re building a new home or can make the initial investment, ground source heat pumps, and an ideal investment!
5. Space Heaters- Direct Heating
Space heaters are direct heating devices that directly emit heat into the indoor space. They take up heat from the source, rather than by heating the air and then distributing it.
Let’s go over some types of space heaters:
Electric space heaters work by using the heat generated by electricity to warm-up space , much like a toaster, but at a much larger scale. Heat is a characteristic of an inefficient electrical system; hence electric space heaters are costly to operate. Moreover, they always need a supply of electricity to run, and as soon as they turn off, they cannot provide much residual heat.
Gas-fired space heaters use natural gas or propane to provide heat. Hence, the interior space becomes warm when the fuel burns. These portable heaters come in handy for heating small rooms and areas. You need to have proper ventilation, else the buildup of harmful gases can be hazardous and potentially deadly.
A heating method as old as the discovery of fire, indoor fireplaces have found widespread use as a house heating system. They have become an integral part of a room’s décor, helping to set the ambiance of a room and provide a cozy environment.
Wood or gas fireplaces burn the fuel in an open flame, with the exhaust gases vent out through a chimney. To heat the room uniformly, the positioning of fireplaces needs to be taken care of.
As with other open-flame heat sources, care must be taken to provide adequate ventilation, as a buildup of carbon monoxide and other harmful gases can be fatal .
Types of Fireplaces:
There are a few different types of fireplaces currently standard across homes; let’s look at them.
- EPA CERTIFIED WOOD FIREPLACES: Wood fireplaces are EPA-approved and are specifically designed to burn wood more efficiently. They have a sealed door and ceramic glass, which prevent loss of heat. Variable controls allow you to adjust the intensity of the fire and keep it as per requirement.
- HIGH-EFFICIENT GAS FIREPLACES: Gas fireplaces burn natural gas directly through burners and have efficiency ratings as high as 70%. Air circulation needs to be sufficient to prevent the buildup of gases in the room.
- PELLET FIREPLACES: Pellet stoves can also keep the home warm and provide high efficiency as well. They come in many different shapes and sizes so that you can pick up a design according to your room décor.
7. Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating is an older yet less common house heating system among the different home heating systems. However, this is an option where you want the floor to be heated and keep the room warm, rather than a more direct heat source. Under the flow in tubes, hot water circulates. Hence, this hot water, in turn, radiates heat, thus warming up the floor and the room. A pump located in the system continually moves the water throughout the system and keep on recycling it.
Top Heating Accessories for your Heating System
Along with the heating options, there are heating accessories that make the heating process smoother. Smartphones can control these heating accessories. In addition, they not only make the process smoother but also help you slash utility bills. Let’s have a look!
1. Programmable Thermostats
Heating your home sounds well and good, but imagine coming back to a cold house after a long day out. The heating system would take some time to start working and heating your home. A solution to this dilemma is by using programmable thermostats . You can operate your heating (and cooling) systems from anywhere in the world with these “smart” devices and a Wi-Fi network. To be in total control of your home-heating, use an app on your smartphone. Ducted heating systems require programmable thermostats. Location-based triggers and weekly scheduling are some other features of programmable thermostats.
2. Smart AC Controllers for Smart Heating
If you opt to go for a ductless heating solution such as a mini-split or portable air conditioner, then a smart AC controller is the device for you. Snuggled up or comfortable in bed, use your smartphone to be in control of your AC. Smart AC thermostats such as the Cielo Breez Plus gives great flexibility for your heating. Weekly schedules, intelligent temperature settings, humidity triggers, location-based triggers, usage history, air filter status, and other features are what make smart AC controllers such a unique addition and facilitate the home heating process.
With intelligent humidity and temperature triggers, the smart AC controller knows when the temperature is too hot or too cold and can change the AC mode accordingly.
You might have noticed your skin getting uncomfortably dry in the winter months and your nose getting itchy. However, this is a common problem in households, especially when you remain indoors for long periods. In addition, the use of heating appliances, especially direct heating devices such as space heaters, sucks the air’s moisture, making it uncomfortable for you. A solution to prevent this dryness is by using humidifiers. A humidifier keeps the moisture levels in the room at a comfortable level so that you can relax in total comfort.
Some of the benefits of a humidifier are:
- Reduction in bacteria and viruses
- Improved skin health and prevention of dry skin
- Prevent damage to wooden furniture
- Relieve allergy symptoms
- Make your home feel warm
How to Choose the Best House Heating System
With multiple house heating systems available, the answer can be challenging. The final verdict depends on a host of factors, such as your geographical location, age of your home, living space, proximity to the fuel source, and of course, the budget. Going by these factors, you can choose the best heating system for your house, depending upon your specific needs and the budget.
Your location is an important factor while deciding the type and size of the home heating system. Different types of heating systems provide additional advantages for a house. In a location with generally moderate cold, a mini-split or simple space heater can work well. But if you live up in the Northeast, a more heavy-duty system such as a furnace or boiler would be more beneficial.
Consulting a professional would be ideal to choose a heating system. Ensure proper installation for safe and comfortable usage of the heating systems.
Have a great winter season!