Types of Home Heating Systems

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Home heating technologies continue to evolve as days go by and new efficient systems emerge. If you're getting a new system to replace an old one or just buying your first heating unit, there are varieties to consider.

The following are the common types of heating systems. Some may require professional installation, while others are user-friendly. Be sure to choose one that best suits your lifestyle, needs, and budget. Let's get started.

1. Forced Air Distribution System (Furnace)

Also known as the furnace, forced air systems are among the most popular types of home heating systems. Furnaces use either natural gas or liquid propane to burn and heat air, which is then distributed through ducts made of metal or plastic inside your home.

Furnace
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This hot air acts as a heat source for rooms using vents attached to registers located near windows and doors. The main components of the forced air distribution system include the furnace, blower, hot air ducts, cold air return ducts, and vents. They also work well to regulate indoor air quality and ensure the room remains comfortable.

Types of Forced Air Systems

  • Gas furnace: One of the most common types of heating systems is a gas furnace. It uses natural gas or liquid propane to create and distribute heat throughout your home.
  • Electric furnace: This type of furnace relies on electricity to create heat. Sometimes, this electric-powered furnace may be used as a backup system for homes with natural gas furnaces to still distribute heat if there is an unexpected interruption in the gas supply.
  • Oil furnaces: Oil powered furnaces use a pump to move fuel oil from your storage tank into the furnace to be heated and sent through supply ducts for distribution.
  • Propane furnace: Propane furnace is a by-product of fuel oil and gas production. They're usually used by about 10% of households in the U.S.
  • Wood furnace: Wood furnaces burn wood to produce heat. They're usually quite large and have a blower that sucks in cold air from outdoors which is then mixed with hot combustion gasses in the firebox before being sent out in your home through a series of metal ducts found throughout your house.

2. Heat Pumps

Another common heat source for many homes is the heat pump system. The heat pump systems will pump heat to your home from the ground, air or outside water. They do this by starting with a heat source and then running fluid through tubes to transfer that heat into a circulating refrigerant loop in the compressor. From here, it is pumped into your home's forced-air system, where it gets dispersed throughout your house just like forced hot air.

Heat Pumps
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Heat pumps are becoming more and more popular in the United States due to their easy installation versatility in placement. They thrive in their energy efficiency compared with other heating units. They come in different types, including geothermal heat pumps and air source heat pumps.

However, they also have their drawbacks, including but not limited to their higher initial cost, which brings about higher utility bills, noise production, and the need to maintain both the outside compressor unit and the inside air handler.

3. Radiator Heat Distribution System

Also known as boilers, home heating systems are typically used in homes equipped with central air conditioning systems.

They distribute hot water to baseboard radiators throughout the house, which creates heat once they're filled with hot water by the boiler unit. This takes place in two stages. First, cold water is brought into the boiler from your supply line. Then it's sent through a series of metal coils where it's heated to the temperature you have your thermostat set on.

Once heated, the water is sent under pressure through pipes until it reaches its destination, and radiators heat up and spread heat throughout the house. The name is derived from their shape, which resembles a large pan (radiator) used for boiling water to cook food. This type of system is easy to install, it uses low-cost materials, and the newer models are very efficient.

Cooling systems are not usually paired with this type for obvious reasons. However, there are areas in the country where outdoor temperatures remain warm during winter months which makes forced-air heating systems more expensive due to high energy consumption. In these cases, cooling systems can be used in the summer and heating units during the winter to keep costs and energy consumption balanced.

4. Electric Space Heaters

Electric space heating systems are another type of heating system known as electric resistance heating systems. These heaters cost less to buy, encouraging many homeowners to go for them. However, they cost more when it comes to operating costs. Thus, they are not good choices for constantly heated homes throughout the year.

Electric Space Heaters
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These heaters work by converting electric current from your home's wall socket to heat used in appliances such as a toaster or an iron box. They are usually fitted with temperature controls, some are digital while some are manual.

They are usually portable heating equipment available in various sizes and designs to suit different room types conveniently. They work by radiating heat outwardly or downwardly, depending on the design of an appliance. For instance, radiant electric space heaters have fins on their exterior base for heat radiation, while radiant heat sources like wood stoves can radiate heat downwards.

5. Radiant Heating System

Radiant heaters work by sending electric heat or hot water through special tubes on the floor. They are more efficient compared to forced-air heating units since they do not require preventive measures against the leakage of heated air. This advantage makes them cost less to operate, making radiant heating systems popular among off-the-grid homeowners who use alternative energy sources like solar heating systems or windmills for home heating purposes.

Image credit: https://www.constructionkenya.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Radiant-heated-floor.jpeg

These heating systems are known to last very long, giving you enough service that you deserve. However, repairing can cost a lot of money if they develop problems. Their lifespan usually depends on the heat source system that they use.

6. Gravity Air Furnaces

Gravity air furnaces are typically a precursor to forced air furnaces. These furnaces bring in the combustion air from outside, giving them the advantage of not worrying about leaking heated air.

They work by distributing air through metal ducts and work by the physics of rising warm air and sinking cold air. There's a gravity air furnace in the basement that heats air which rises to distribute heat throughout the house.

While they are considered safe by some, you'll need a professional to install one. Moreover, gravity furnaces aren't as energy-efficient and cost more to operate than other heating systems. They are usually found in old homes as new homes no longer install them.

7. Hot Water Baseboard Heaters (Hydronic System)

This type of heating system comprises baseboard radiators that are heated by water. Water-heating boilers heat the water and then distribute it to the baseboard radiators, which in turn release heat into the air.

Hot Water Baseboard Heaters
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They're also known as hydronic systems because they use water and heat it to produce warm air. Their boilers can be fueled by natural gas, liquid propane, electricity, or fuel oil.

On the downside, they generate noise that can disturb the peace of your home and need regular maintenance. However, when installed by professionals, they are safe to use and easy to maintain.

They're good for small spaces and supplement central heating systems. They're only effective if you have enclosed, small spaces and take a lot of time to heat your home. Also, they're costly to install and operate as water-heating boiler systems are usually expensive. You may also need to replace the water heating element from time to time.

8. Gas Fired Space Heaters

These heaters use natural gas or propane to generate heat. They have a built-in fan that blows the warm air into your home. There are three types of these devices:

Floor-standing models – These popular space heaters come in a number of shapes and sizes, including fireplaces. They're easy to use and provide quick delivery of warm air. They're also famous for their ability to heat up small areas quickly. However, they can be hazardous if they fall over or get tipped over by kids and pets.

Water-Filled Radiator Units – These space heaters are energy efficient and gentle to the environment. They work by boiling water in a tank with a built-in electric heating coil. The resulting steam warms a radiator unit and sends warm air into your home or office.

These space heaters can also be wall-mounted or floor furnaces and usually lack ductwork; hence, they produce small heat output. These types usually work best for warming single rooms due to their low heat. Some models use sealed combustion air systems that come with their pipes installed through the wall. They provide combustion air and carry off combustion products.

9. Wood Burning Heaters

Wood-burning heaters are the most used systems to provide heat to the house for people who stay in rural areas. They are one of the most efficient systems since they burn cleanly and do not have poisonous fumes. They are also affordable, produce a lot of heat and need no electricity to function. Because wood is an indigenous material made available through rural areas, it becomes easier to acquire at a lower cost.

Using these heaters will be the best option over buying electricity to heat your house. Not only do they enable you to save money on purchasing fuel, but they also give satisfactory results since their usage is widespread.

FAQs on Types of Home Heating Systems

Do I need a home heating system to work on the entire house?

Regardless of the type you buy and install, a home heating system gives warmth to your whole house. The problem is that only those people who need it will actually use it. So if you're one of those people who keep their room warm even during winter without needing to adjust the thermostat dial much, then a heater might not be necessary.

How much does a home heating system for an average-sized house cost?

A boiler forced air furnace and electric heater is just examples of the most common home heating systems installed at homes. Depending on which one you choose, the costs vary. Electric heaters are less expensive to install but are also cheaper when it comes to running costs. A heating system that uses gas is more costly to install but relatively cheaper in terms of operating cost.

Are there units that provide both heating and cooling systems for homes?

Yes, there are. Heat pumps are systems that provide heating and cooling. It can be installed at homes as it uses electricity for both purposes, providing cooling or heating functions. You can also shop for the best programmable thermostats in the market to regulate the temperature of your home.

Final Verdict on Types of Home Heating Systems

Home heating systems are widely available in today's market. The variety makes it possible to choose from an oil furnace, heat pump, gas furnace, or electric heater. You can also look for a heating system that provides both cooling and heating functions for your home without compromising energy efficiency. There are programmable thermostats you can buy which will help regulate the temperature inside your house.

If your heat source tends to consume more power than you can pay for, there are usually some tips you can use to stay warm without turning on the heat. The goal is to keep your house above the outdoor temperature. It is important for you to look at your heating energy bills so that you can determine if new energy-efficient systems are worth the investment.

Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is a stay-at-home-mom and an expert chef. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her writing about her favorite kitchen appliances on Kitchen Infinity blog.

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