During this time of year, we are often reminded of how expensive it can be to heat our homes. The U.S. Department of Energy says that heating costs make up 30% of the average home’s electricity bill.
Even though there are many ways to cut down on these costs, one good thing you can do is make sure your home has a good heating system.
Although you have to pay money upfront, you will save money in the long run because a more energy-efficient heating system uses less energy to run, which can lead to lower heating bills.
Home Heating System
Every year, heating systems in the United States put out more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide and about 12% of the country’s sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
With conservation efforts and a new high-efficiency heating system, you can often cut pollution and fuel bills by one-third and, in some homes, by half.
Most of the time, high-efficiency systems can cut costs by half or more, and the most efficient heating systems can cut costs by up to 70%. So, even though a method that works better usually costs more at first, it can save a lot of money in the long run.
Remember that whatever kind of heating system you buy needs to be the right size to give you the amount of heat you need.
Get a pro to calculate your home’s heating load to find out how much you need to find the best way to heat your home.
Common Types of Heating Systems
Some homes have multiple heating systems, mainly if they include a basement or an additional area heated by a different system from the rest of the house. As a homeowner, you should know about these home heating systems.
Central Heat vs. Direct Heat
Central heating systems, like Lennox Furnace Alaska, heat pumps, or a boiler, heat your house by sending heat through ducts or radiators connected to equipment in the middle of the house.
People usually think of direct heat as supplemental heat, like space heaters, but there are direct heating systems on the market that can heat a whole house. Direct heating systems are easy to install as a retrofit, which is their main benefit. However, they are more expensive to run than central heating systems.
Types of Central Heating Systems
1. Gas furnace
Gas furnaces may be the most common way to heat a home in the US. A gas furnace burns natural gas or propane to heat the heat exchanger, which is controlled by the home’s thermostat.
The heated air moves through the home’s ductwork with the help of a blower, and the byproducts of burning the fuel are let out of the house.
- Newer gas furnaces are very energy-efficient, which means they are better for the environment than other ways to heat your home. Check the AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, rating to ensure you’re getting a right system. The AFUE rating should be as high as possible.
- An electric heating system costs more to run than a gas furnace.
- Gas furnaces are more expensive to buy and set up than electric furnaces and heat pumps.
- Gas furnaces need to be maintained and checked regularly and correctly. If gas furnaces aren’t taken care of, they can get loud and inefficient, and cracks in the heat exchanger can let carbon monoxide out, which could kill you.
2. Electric furnace
Electric furnaces are standard in apartment buildings with more than one unit and in places where gas service isn’t available or isn’t a good idea. The main difference between a gas furnace and an electric furnace is how the air is warmed.
Air is heated in an electric furnace by passing over a system of coils that are heated by electricity. A blower then pushes air through the ductwork in a home.
- It costs less to buy and install an electric furnace than a gas furnace.
- Electric furnaces last longer than fuel-powered ones because they don’t need to burn fuel to heat the air.
- Depending on where you live, it can cost a lot to get electricity. Electric furnaces cost more to run than other types of central heating systems.
- At first glance, electricity may seem like an eco-friendly fuel, but you should learn more about how your power is made. For example, if your electricity comes from a power plant that uses coal, an electric furnace is not a green choice.
3. Electric heat pump
Furnaces make heat, which takes a lot of energy. Heat pumps move heat from one place to another. Heat pumps use less energy than other heating systems, so they are better for the environment and, in most cases, cheaper to run.
- Heat pumps work well in warm weather and dry out the air inside.
- Mini-split heat pumps don’t need ductwork, which makes them perfect for basements and other places where ductwork can’t go.
- Standard heat pumps are not suitable for homes in places with freezing winters because they warm the air by pulling heat from the outside air and putting it inside.
- In icy weather, standard heat pumps may switch to a backup heating system, usually electric resistance heat, to keep the temperature set on the thermostat. However, this can cause electricity bills to be high.
4. Boiler heating system
Boiler heating systems, like Weil-McLain Boilers Alaska, use water instead of air to move heat around. Boiler systems heat homes by sending hot water or steam through radiators or radiant floor heating systems. Most radiators are mounted on the wall or baseboards.
- Most of the time, boilers use less energy than traditional furnaces because the steam or hot water they make doesn’t lose heat as it goes to the radiators in the house.
- With a boiler system, you have more ways to heat a room. Traditional furnaces can only heat rooms through air ducts. Boiler systems, on the other hand, can use radiators and radiant floor heating.
- Boilers are not a good choice for retrofitting into an existing space because they need radiators or a radiant floor system.
- The most efficient way to power a boiler is with natural gas. Electric boilers can be used if natural gas or propane service isn’t available or is too expensive, but the cost to run them is likely to be high.
Types of Direct Heating Systems
1. Gas-fueled space heater
Space heaters that run on natural gas or propane are often used in places that don’t have heating, like garages, daylight basements, and outdoor areas that have been turned into rooms.
- Natural gas and propane are cheaper than electricity, so space heaters that run on these fuels are cheaper.
- Gas-powered space heaters give off the heat right away, and many models have a thermostat that helps keep the temperature steady.
- Space heaters that use gas should vent to the outside so that carbon monoxide doesn’t get into the house. Installation is a little more complex than with other direct heating systems because of this.
- Like many electric space heaters, there must be a cool-touch grille option on gas-powered space heaters. Also, keep children and pets away from space heaters that run on gas.
2. Electric space heater
Electric space heaters are an easy way to warm up a room that is too cold. You can buy them in stores; all they need is a power outlet.
- There are different kinds of electric space heaters, like fans, ceramic, and heaters that look like radiators. You can find a suitable space heater regardless of your budget.
- Electric space heaters have safety features, like grilles that stay cool to the touch and sensors that turn the unit off if it falls over.
- Electric space heaters use a lot of power, so they can cause your electricity bills to go up.
- Large, oil-filled radiator-style space heaters are usually more expensive and harder to move around than smaller electric space heaters.
3. Wood stove
Wood stove technology has come a long way since the days of smoky, pot-bellied stoves. Stoves approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are efficient and burn cleanly, so they are much better for the environment than a typical wood-burning fireplace.
- Wood and other things that can be burned are cheap and easy to get.
- The EPA’s certification program for wood stoves makes it easy to find stoves that cleanly burn wood. The most eco-friendly choice is to look for pellet or wood stoves with catalytic converters.
- Wood and pellet stoves need to be vented to the outside. Installing a wood stove can range from free (if you do it yourself) to several thousand for a custom installation with a double wall flue system through your roof. Installation in an open fireplace is usually cheaper than in homes without chimneys.
- To store the fuel for the stove, you’ll need a dry, covered place. If you want to use your wood stove all the time, you may need a lot of space to store wood.
What Makes a Heating System Efficient?
It helps to know what “efficient” means, so you know what to look for when you’re looking for a system or trying to figure out if the one you already have is efficient.
When choosing between different types of Home Heating Products in Alaska, you have to consider the following:
- Energy efficiency – Generally, AFUE rating is the most crucial information. This measurement tells you how much of the energy (usually electricity or natural gas) the system uses goes directly to heating your home and how much goes to waste.
- The power source for your home – You might not be able to get some types of fuel, which could limit your options. For example, when deciding between a boiler and a furnace, a boiler is not a good choice if you only have electric power. If you don’t have natural gas, you can use propane instead.
- Your local climate – Even though heat pumps work well, there may be better choices in very hot or cold places. You might feel more comfortable with a boiler or furnace.
- How big your house is – No matter what kind of home heating you choose, getting the right size is essential. If your unit is too small, it will have to work harder to keep you comfortable, which is not a good use of resources.
- Certain needs – If you have allergies, a hot water or steam system with a boiler is better than an air-moving furnace or heat pump.
- Smart controls – For example, smart thermostats are easy to connect to newer systems and can make adjustments to keep you comfortable and use less energy.
If you know about the different home heating systems, you can choose the best way to heat your home or look for a home with the type of heating system you want. If you know what system works best for you, you could save time and money.
Since this topic can sometimes get very technical, you would want an expert to look into it.
Our team at HeatSource Mechanical has been offering heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) services to the Mat-Su Valley region for over 35 years. Call us now if you need assistance deciding on the ideal home heating system for you!