Home Heating Options
The cost of heating a home is rising every year. How does one choose what type of heating unit to install in their home? All the factors that go into choosing can be daunting. Here are just a few options that may help you decide.
Forced Air Heating
Forced air is the most common form of home heating. The components to the system include a thermostat, ductwork and a furnace. All these components work in harmony to keep the house warm. Once the temperature drops below what is set on the thermostat, the thermostat relays a message to the furnace. The furnace ignites, draws in and heats up the cold air and uses a blower to force warmth back into the home. Once the air reaches what is set on the thermostat, the unit turns off. Forced air heating is a very quick way to heat the home.
The advantages of forced air systems include lower initial installation cost. They can also accommodate central air conditioning units, whole house air cleaners and humidifiers. One system offers 4 benefits. If you are in an area that needs both heating and cooling, forced air would be the way to go.
Radiant In-floor Heating
Radiant heat is a very comfortable and an evenly distributed type of heat. The most common installation of radiant heat involves hot water tubing embedded in the floor. The water is heated by a boiler that is fueled by either natural gas, propane, electricity or oil. This is a fairly energy efficient way to warm your home. The heating cycle is a little slower than forced air because the hot water tubing needs to warm the floor and then the floor has to warm the air. It can be expensive to install and if something ever goes wrong with the system (such as a tube bursting) the access to the tubing is very difficult and could be costly. If you want air conditioning, it would require a separate system and ductwork. This is a great type of heat for people with allergies because there are no blowers or fans circulating dust and dander. Also, it doesn’t dry out the air like a forced air heating system.
Pellet stoves can be used to heat just one room (like a basement) or be retrofitted into your current ductwork for whole house heating. Most pellet stoves are self-igniting and have a thermostat so they can turn themselves on and off. Pellet stoves do require daily cleaning out of the ash pot and have to be manually filled with pellets. Once the hopper is filled, however, it should last all day or night depending on the outside temperature and the size of the unit. The internal auger delivers the pellets from the hopper on a constant basis to keep the fire burning at a consistent rate. Pellet stoves do require special venting even if you currently have a chimney, and should be installed by a professional.
Infrared heaters have been around a lot longer than you might think (since the 1930’s). Although they are great to add a little warmth to a single room, most units are not meant to warm a whole house. Infrared heaters are electric and use electromagnetic radiant heat to warm the surrounding area. This is the same type of heat produced by the sun, but without the UV rays associated with sun exposure. The units are very quiet because there is no fan or blower. The outside of the unit does not get very hot, so it is much safer to use than a space heater. There are many versions of infrared heaters on the market today. Opt for a high quality heater because low-end models have a tendency to work only for one or two seasons before needing replacement.
In addition to the above heating sources there is also hydronic heat (very similar to radiant heat), and geothermal heat. Do your homework before choosing a heat source. Keep in mind the initial cost, the long term cost and the maintenance of each unit. You never know how Old Man Winter is going to deliver the season, so be prepared.