Whether you’re building a home, renovating one you already own, or looking to buy a house, you probably have a few questions about heating and heating systems. There are actually several different kinds of heating, each with its own costs, energy demands, positives, and negatives. The following will walk you through what heating options are available and what factors might influence your choice between them.
What Designates Different Heating Systems?
There are three main components of every heating system. There’s a heat source, a heat distribution system, and a control system. If there’s an issue with your heating, it could take place in any of these three components. For example, it’s possible there’s nothing wrong with your furnace, but rather, your thermostat isn’t working. It’s also possible that both of these elements are working fine but the heat distribution system is having trouble moving heated air around the home.
One of the most common types of heating in places like Canada, where the air gets mighty cold in the winter, is central heating. These are heating systems wherein heat is created in a central location and then distributed throughout the home. Two common examples of central heating include boilers and furnaces.
In the United States, boiler systems are very common. This heating system moves hot water (or steam) through pipes into radiators, floor systems, or coils. Boilers can be expected to last anywhere between fifteen and thirty years. Given this life expectancy, energy efficiency can vary widely depending on the age of your boiler system. Efficiency rates can be anywhere between 50% and 90%.
One of the major draws of boiler systems is their cleanliness. Because air isn’t being blown around the house, the propensity of boiler heating to aggravate allergies is almost non-existent. People with respiratory struggles, allergies, or toxin sensitivities might prefer boiler systems for this reason; there are no vents to clean or filters to change, and the air particulate matter isn’t impacted. This also has no impact on humidity levels within your home, which might be something you’re sensitive to. The drawback of boiler systems is that they can take a bit longer to kick into full gear than other heating options, as the water within needs to heat up before they become effective. You might also not like the look of radiators or how much space they take up.
Another common type of heating system, furnace systems work by warming air and then pushing the air through ducts throughout your home. Furnace systems also last for somewhere between fifteen to thirty years, and a furnace system that’s well-maintained can sometimes last longer. When it comes to repairs and maintenance, furnace repair services are available in most townships because, again, this is an extremely popular option. You can expect efficiency to range between 59% and 98.5%, depending on the age of your system.
Heat pumps can both warm and cool a home. They function by drawing heat from the surrounding air and using this for heating. There are also some alternative options that use the ground as a source of heat (called geothermal). You can even find heat pump systems that use water sources like a pond or lake to draw heat from. Efficiency is between 6.8 and 10 heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF). Of course, if you live in an extreme climate, this option might not be ideal for you. It’s possible the air outside is too cold or too hot to meet your needs during some seasons. You might be drawn to this option for its efficiency or its lack of need for ducts.
These systems can be very efficient, but again, they only really suit mild climates. You can expect a heat pump system to last around fifteen years. It typically costs between $4000 and $7000 to replace.
Electric Resistance Systems
Electric resistance heating systems are typically used to supplement heating in homes. They use electrically-powered baseboards to heat whatever room they’re in. These are excellent options for areas that don’t need heat all the time, like seasonal rooms and basements. They can end up being expensive to run depending on the cost of electricity in your area. When planning for the future, always assume that electricity costs will increase. If you’re wrong, no big deal; you have a bit more cash to spend. But if you’re right, you’re prepared.
Electric heaters tend to be inexpensive and quick to install, making them excellent choices for someone who needs cheap heat and needs it now. You can expect them to cost somewhere around $450 to $1200. They require very little maintenance and no changes to your home in terms of ducts, pumps, handlers, or distribution equipment.
If you have circuits that are old or struggling, however, this option might not be right for you. It’s possible for them to overload a circuit system.
Active Solar Systems
Active solar heating systems are those that rely on the sun to warm either liquid or air for heating purposes. One of the major benefits of active solar heating is the system’s ability to store heat for later use. They also have a nice life expectancy of twenty years or more. Of course, relying on the sun means that the sun needs to be out and visible for the system to draw power. Many people who seek out active solar heating have a backup system that they can use if there’s an extended period of grey, cloudy skies. But depending on how much space you have to store saved-up energy, this might not be necessary.
Once in place, this option tends to be the least expensive. People find that solar systems typically cost around 5% of the total cost of constructing a new home but save about 46% of their monthly power bill. Some utility infrastructure setups even allow people with solar systems to sell their excess power to the local utility company, meaning these can, if you’re in a sunny area, earn you money.
The above information should have made it clear that there are a lot of different heating options depending on your needs. When looking at homes to buy, it’s a good idea to ask the previous owners what their heating bills usually are. It’s worth noting that you can amplify a heating system’s efficiency by ensuring your home is properly sealed and by improving the insulation of the building.