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.
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.
Many experts say a heating system should be serviced at least once per year. Specifically, the best course of action is to service a heating system in the fall before colder weather arrives. And, you should get your air conditioner serviced in the spring before the weather heats up.
It’s especially important to hire a professional to perform repairs whenever you hear strange sounds, such as clanking, knocking or banging.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.