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Find a heating professional near you

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11 near you

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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What is the most common type of heating system?

The most common type of home heating system is a forced-air heating and cooling system. This type of heater involves a furnace, which is commonly powered by natural gas, forcing air through a series of ducts that distribute the hot air through different rooms in a house. Furnaces can run on other types of fuel, including electricity, propane and oil. This type of heating system is quite popular because it doubles as a path for air conditioning in the summer.

What is the most efficient heating system for a house?

Geothermal heating tends to be the most efficient way to heat a house when compared to traditional HVAC systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Geothermal heat pumps (also called ground-source heat pumps) transfer energy to and from the ground to supply heat, cool air and hot water.

Note that one of the most important ways to boost efficiency, save electricity and lower your heating bills is to make sure your house is weather-tight and well-insulated.

How do I know if my heater is broken?

The first way to tell whether your heater is broken is to feel the vents — if cool air is coming out, there’s a problem. However, it could be a tripped circuit, loss of power or a different problem. For example, if you hear loud or unusual noises, this could also be a sign of breakage, as most modern heaters are fairly quiet. Finally, look at your power bills. If there’s an unusual spike in prices, your heater could be working improperly and running inefficiently.

Reach out to a heating and air specialist near you to repair your heating system.

What do you do if your heat isn't working?

Start by checking your thermostat and making sure it’s on heat mode. If the display is out, change the batteries. You should also check your circuit breaker to see if the circuit has tripped. And check to see if there are any issues with your filters or furnace. 

When in doubt, contact a heating and air specialist near you to diagnose and fix the problem.

How does a central heating system work in a house?

A central heating system consists of a boiler, heat pump or furnace. The furnace contains several parts, including burners that deliver and burn fuel, a blower, heat exchangers, a blower and a flue. The furnace will push air through the heat exchanger. Then, it will pump the warmed air through your air ducts to distribute heat throughout your home.

In the summertime, a central heating system can also provide air conditioning to cool and dehumidify your home.

What is a dual fuel heating system?

Dual fuel systems combine two types of heat fuels — typically gas and electric, the latter in the form of a heat pump — to boost heating performance and efficiency. These systems work with your furnace to deliver both hot and cold air.  A major advantage lies in the power of a heat pump, which provides cool air in the summer and heat in the winter.

What is a radiant heating system?

A radiant heating system can be installed in your floors or wall panels. A radiant floor heating system warms your home from the ground, providing uniform heating throughout your home. These systems are quiet, and they don’t require ductwork.

How does a hot water baseboard heating system work?

In a hot water baseboard heating system, a boiler heats water and then the water passes through the system’s pipes and into the baseboard radiators in your home. Baseboard heating systems are generally quiet, and you’ll experience less heat loss when compared to a forced-air system. However, you can’t use radiant basement heating for cooling purposes.

When should you replace a heating system?

The better care you take of your heating system, the longer it will last. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors estimates the following lifespans for heating systems:

  • Heat exchanger: 10-15 years
  • Heat pump: 10-15 years
  • Furnace: 15-25 years
  • Electric radiant heater: 40 years

If your heating system is broken, hire a contractor or a repair service to take a look at it. They can help you determine if it makes financial sense to replace your system or spend money on repairs. The good news is that replacing your old furnace will give you the opportunity to take advantage of newer, more efficient furnaces that can save you money on heating bills from the first cycle. 

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