Heating System for a House

best heating system for an old house

Central Heat for House

Most of North American households depend on a main heating system to offer heat. A heater works by blowing heated air through ducts that deliver the warm air to rooms throughout your home via air registers or grills. This type of heating system is called a ducted warm-air or compelled warm-air distribution system. It can be powered by electrical power, gas, or fuel oil.

What is the Best Heating System for a House?

Inside a gas- or oil-fired heater, the fuel is combined with air and burned. The flames heat a metal heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to air. Air is pressed through the heat exchanger by the “air handler’s” heater fan and after that required through the ductwork downstream of the heat exchanger. At the furnace, combustion items are vented from the building through a flue pipeline. Older “atmospheric” furnaces vented straight to the atmosphere, and squandered about 30 % of the fuel energy just to keep the exhaust hot enough to securely increase through the chimney. Present minimum-efficiency furnaces minimize this waste significantly by using an “inducer” fan to pull the exhaust gases through the heat exchanger and induce draft in the chimney. “Condensing” heaters are created to reclaim much of this leaving heat by cooling exhaust gases well listed below 140 ° F, where water vapor in the exhaust condenses into water. This is the main feature of a high-efficiency heating system (or boiler). These normally vent through a sidewall with a plastic pipeline.

Heating system controls regulate when the numerous components of the heating system turn on and off. The most crucial control from your perspective is the thermostat, which turns the system– or a minimum of the distribution system– on and off to keep you comfortable. A normal forced air system will have a single thermostat. But, there are other internal controls in a heating unit, such as “high limitation” changes that are part of an invisible but important set of safety controls.

The performance of a fossil-fuel heater or boiler is a measure of the quantity of helpful heat produced per unit of input energy (fuel). Combustion effectiveness is the simplest measure; it is simply the system’s performance while it is running. Combustion performance is like the miles per gallon your car gets cruising along at 55 miles per hour on the highway.

In the United States, furnace effectiveness is managed by minimum AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). AFUE estimates seasonal efficiency, averaging peak and part-load scenarios. AFUE represent start-up, cool-down, and other operating losses that take place in genuine operating conditions, and consists of an estimate of electrical power used by the air handler, inducer fan, and controls. AFUE is like your car mileage between fill-ups, consisting of both highway driving and stop-and-go traffic. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the heater or boiler.

Boilers for houses

Boilers are special-purpose water heaters. While heaters carry heat in warm air, boiler systems distribute the heat in hot water, which gives up heat as it goes through radiators or other devices in rooms throughout your house. The cooler water then goes back to the boiler to be reheated. Hot water systems are frequently called hydronic systems. Residential boilers typically use gas or heating oil for fuel.

In steam boilers, which are much less common in houses today, the water is boiled and steam brings heat through your house, condensing to water in the radiators as it cools. Oil and natural gas are typically utilized.

Rather of a fan and duct system, a boiler uses a pump to distribute hot water through pipes to radiators. Some hot water systems circulate water through plastic tubing in the floor, a system called radiant floor heating (see “State of the Art Heating”). Essential boiler controls consist of thermostats, aquastats, and valves that control flow and water temperature. Although the cost is not minor, it is usually a lot easier to install “zone” thermostats and controls for specific rooms with a hydronic system than with forced air. Some controls are standard features in brand-new boilers, while others can be added on to conserve energy (see the “Modifications by Heating System Technicians” section on the heating upkeep page).

Similar to furnaces, condensing gas-fired boilers are relatively common, and substantially more efficient than non-condensing boilers (unless extremely advanced controls are utilized). Oil-fired condensing boilers are unusual in the United States for a number of reasons associated with lower hidden heat capacity, and capacity for greater fouling with traditional fuel oil.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are simply two-way air conditioners (see comprehensive description in the cooling systems section). During the summer, an a/c works by moving heat from the fairly cool indoors to the reasonably warm outside. In winter, the heat pump reverses this technique, scavenging heat from the cold outdoors with the help of an electrical system, and discharging that heat inside your house. Nearly all heat pumps utilize forced warm-air delivery systems to move heated air throughout the house and we can call it one of the best solutions to heat a large house.

There are two fairly typical types of heat pumps. Air-source heat pumps use the outside air as the heat source in winter and heat sink in summertime. Ground-source (likewise called geothermal, GeoExchange, or GX) heat pumps get their heat from underground, where temperatures are more continuous year-round. Air-source heat pumps are much more typical than ground-source heat pumps due to the fact that they are less expensive and easier to set up. Ground-source heat pumps, nevertheless, are a lot more efficient, and are frequently selected by consumers who plan to stay in the same house for a very long time, or have a strong desire to live more sustainably. How to figure out whether a heat pump makes sense in your climate is talked about further under “Fuel Options.”

Whereas an air-source heat pump is installed much like a central air conditioning conditioner, ground-source heat pumps require that a “loop” be buried in the ground, typically in long, shallow (3– 6′ deep) trenches or in several vertical boreholes. The method used will depend on the experience of the installer, the size of your lot, the subsoil, and the landscape. Alternatively, some systems draw in groundwater and pass it through the heat exchanger instead of using a refrigerant. The groundwater is then returned to the aquifer.

Since electricity in a heat pump is utilized to move heat instead of to generate it, the heat pump can deliver more energy than it consumes. The ratio of provided heating energy to taken in energy is called the coefficient of performance, or COP, with typical values ranging from 1.5 to 3.5. This is a “steady-state” step and not directly equivalent to the heating season efficiency element (HSPF), a seasonal procedure mandated for score the heating effectiveness of air-source heat pumps. Converting between the measures is not simple, however ground-source systems are normally more efficient than air-source heat pumps.

Direct Heat for Small House

Gas-Fired Space Heaters

In some areas, gas-fired direct heating equipment is popular. This includes wall-mounted, free-standing, and floor heating systems, all characterized by their lack of ductwork and relatively small heat output. Since they lack ducts, they are most useful for warming a single room. If warming numerous rooms is required, either the doors between rooms should be left open or another heating technique is necessary. Much better models utilize “sealed combustion air” systems, with pipes set up through the wall to both provide combustion air and complete the combustion items. These devices can supply acceptable performance, particularly for cabins and other buildings where large temperature differences in between bedrooms and primary spaces are appropriate. The designs can be fired with natural gas or propane, and some burn kerosene.

Unvented Gas-Fired Heaters: A Bad Idea

Gas or kerosene space heating systems that do not have an exhaust vent have been sold for years, however we highly dissuade their use for health and safety reasons. Referred to as “vent-free” gas heating appliances by manufacturers, they consist of wall-mounted and free-standing heaters as well as open-flame gas fireplaces with ceramic logs that are not in fact connected to a chimney. Producers claim that since the items’ combustion effectiveness is very high, they are safe for constructing occupants. However, this claim is only legitimate if you keep a nearby window open for sufficient fresh air– which defeats the purpose of extra heat. Dangers include exposure to combustion spin-offs, as talked about in Ventilation, and oxygen exhaustion (these heating systems must be geared up with oxygen depletion sensing units). Since of these hazards, a minimum of 5 states (California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Montana, and Alaska) forbid their usage in homes, and numerous cities in the United States and Canada have banned them also.

Electric Space Heaters

Portable (plug-in) electrical heating units are low-cost to buy, but expensive to use. These resistive heating systems include “oil-filled” and “quartz-infrared” heating systems. They convert electrical present from the electrical outlet directly into heat, like a toaster or clothes iron. As described even more under “Selecting a New System,” it takes a lot of electrical power to provide the very same amount of helpful heat that natural gas or oil can supply onsite. A 1,500- watt plug-in heating unit will use practically the whole capacity of a 15-amp branch circuit; thus, including much additional load will journey the circuit breaker or blow the fuse. The cost to run a 1,500-watt system for an hour is easy to compute: it is 1.5 times your electrical power cost in cents per kilowatt-hour. At nationwide average rates– 12 cents kWh for electrical energy– that heater would cost 18 cents per hour to run– and quickly cost more than its purchase price. On the other hand, for intermittent use, it is the “least-bad” solution when options would need major financial investments to enhance ductwork for a particular area, for instance. Simply keep in mind, electric resistance heat is usually the most costly type of heat, and it is, therefore, rarely advised.

“Electric baseboard heat” is yet another kind of resistive heating, much like a plug-in area heating system except that it is hard-wired. It has two primary virtues: the installation cost is low, and it is simple to set up individual room thermostats so you can deny the heat in spaces that aren’t being used. Running costs, when it comes to all resistive systems, are usually very high, unless your home is “super-insulated.”.

Wood-Burning and Pellet Stoves

Wood heating can make a good deal of sense in backwoods if you enjoy stacking wood and stoking the stove or heating system. Wood rates are normally lower than gas, oil, or electrical energy. If you cut your own wood, the savings can be large. Toxins from wood burning have actually been an issue in some parts of the country, triggering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out policies that govern pollution emissions from wood ranges. As a result, new designs are quite clean-burning. Pellet stoves provide a number of advantages over wood stoves. They are less polluting than wood stoves and provide users higher benefit, temperature control, and indoor air quality.


Gas (and many wood) fireplaces are basically part of a space’s decoration, offering a warm glow (and a way to get rid of secret documents), but typically not an effective heat source. With customary setups that depend on air drawn from the space into the fireplace for combustion and dilution, the fireplace will generally lose more heat than it offers, due to the fact that so much warm air is drawn through the unit and needs to be replaced by cold outdoors air. On the other hand, if the fireplace is supplied with a tight-sealing glass door, a source of outdoors air, and a good chimney damper, it can offer useful heat.

Cutting-edge Heating

Glowing floor heat normally describes systems that flow warm water in tubes under the floor. This warms the floor, which in turn warms people utilizing the space. It is highly controllable, thought about reliable by its supporters, and is pricey to set up. It likewise needs a really knowledgeable system designer and installer, and limits carpeting options and other floor finishes: you do not want to “blanket” your heat source.

Ductless, Mini-Split, Multi-Split. Residential ductwork is reasonably unusual outside North America. “Ductless” heat pumps, which disperse energy through refrigerant lines rather of water or air, are widely utilized. Big field trials in the Pacific Northwest recommend that they can have great winter performance, and be really cost-efficient where replacing electric resistance heating. Like ground-source systems, relative immaturity of the market assists ensure that whole-house multi-split systems bring premium rates.

Integrated heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration for houses is being seriously studied in some countries. The standard premise is to use a little generator to fulfill a few of the electric need of your home, and recuperate the waste heat (usually more than 70 % of the heating value of the fuel) to heat your house (hydronic or water-to-air systems) and make domestic hot water. These systems are not yet commonly offered. They are likely to have the best economics in houses with high heating costs due to the fact that your home can not be probably insulated, such as solid stone or brick houses.


Updated: April 11, 2016 — 6:40 pm
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