Gathering the correct information when selecting the right heating system for your home takes time and effort. Today, numerous alternatives are safer, more effective, and far more convenient. Our goal is to guide you to find the ideal heating system to keep your whole family warm and cozy!
Here are the three most typical types of heating systems in the region, as well as some facts about each to help you better understand them and choose the best one for your needs.
- Space heaters
HeatSource Mechanical has provided home heating products in Wasilla, Palmer, and Eagle River for over 35 years! We have been voted “Best of the Valley” for delivering superior products, elite craftsmanship, and stellar customer service to our Mat-Su Valley since 2013!
Three Most Common Types of Heating Systems
Boilers generate hot water or steam. A hydronic distribution system is used if the boiler produces hot water. Pipes are used in this system to deliver hot water to baseboards, radiators, or a radiant floor.
Steam boilers are becoming less common. They require a higher operating temperature and are less efficient than hot water boilers. If the boiler generates steam, it is distributed throughout the house via pipes and radiators.
It is also possible to have hybrid distribution systems that produce both heated water and air. A radiant hydronic system, for example, can be used throughout a home, and then a fan blows air through heated water coils for distribution in a garage or workshop.
Types of Boilers
Natural draft boilers depend on the fact that hot exhaust from the combustion process rises. Since the exhaust is hot, it goes up the flue. As the hot exhaust gasses rise, they create a draft that pulls new air into the combustion chamber. Natural draft boilers are less efficient than mechanical ones because they use a lot of air in this process. If the air pressure inside the house is lower than that outside, a natural draft boiler can backdraft, letting dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide into the house.
With a mechanical draft boiler, combustion air is drawn in by a fan. The fan also stirs up the air in the combustion chamber, which helps the fuel burn more completely. Most of the time, these are more efficient than boilers that use the natural draft.
Sealed combustion boilers use a duct to bring outside air directly into the combustion unit and a flue to send the exhaust outside. The chamber where the fire occurs is sealed off from the rest of the house. Poisonous exhaust gasses like carbon monoxide (CO) can’t get into a home with these boilers.
Condensing boilers are more efficient than standard combustion boilers. A condensing boiler can reclaim heat in the exhaust gas by cooling it until water vapor condenses. A second heat exchanger captures the gas’s latent heat after condensation. The acidic condensate water requires stainless steel or PVC for the heat exchanger and pipes. Condensing boilers must drain into the sewer system. In homes with corroding drain pipes, a neutralizing filter can be added. A fan blows cooler exhaust gas, which can’t leave the flue on its own, outside the building.
Non-condensing boilers have to run at higher temperatures, which makes them less efficient. But they don’t need a drain and can be made of materials that would eventually rust in a condensing boiler, like iron, steel, or copper.
Tips: A heating professional should check boilers annually before the heating season. The heating expert will inspect the boiler’s vents, heat exchanger, and flue, as well as the pressure, air intake, and boiler efficiency, to ensure proper operation. For electric boilers, the contractor will check its systems and electric connections. While the product comes with a manual, you can always ask the contractor for additional tips on its maintenance.
Furnaces generate heated air, which is used with a forced air distribution system. Ducts are used to distribute heat throughout a home.
In the United States, furnaces are the most commonly used residential heating system (Energy Star, 2009). Furnaces heat the air that is ducted throughout a building. Fuel is mixed with air and burned in a combustion chamber in natural gas or oil furnaces. A fan pushes air through a heat exchanger into the distribution ductwork. Meanwhile, combustion gasses must be vented from the structure via a flue. A combustion chamber is not present in electric furnaces. They instead use heating elements to convert electricity into heat. A blower forces air through the heating elements, and the heated air is routed to the distribution system.
Types of Furnaces
For natural draft furnaces to work, the hot exhaust from the fire has to rise. Since the exhaust is hot, it goes up the flue. As the hot exhaust gasses rise, a draft pulls in fresh air through a vent into the combustion chamber. Natural draft furnaces are less efficient than mechanical draft furnaces because they use a lot of air in this process. If the air pressure inside the house is lower than that outside, a natural draft furnace can backdraft, letting dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide into the home.
A fan pulls air into a mechanical draft furnace so that it can be burned. The fan also stirs up the air in the combustion chamber, which helps the fuel burn more completely. Most of the time, these are better than natural draft furnaces.
Sealed combustion furnaces use a duct to bring outside air directly to the combustion unit and a flue to send gas outside. The chamber where the fire occurs is sealed off from the rest of the house. These furnaces are safe because harmful gasses like carbon monoxide (CO) can’t get into a home.
Condensing furnaces are more efficient than standard combustion furnaces. A condensing furnace can get the heat back from the exhaust gas by cooling it to the point where water vapor from the combustion condenses out. The gas gives off heat when it condenses, and a second heat exchanger takes it. The condensate water is acidic, so the heat exchanger and pipes are made of materials that won’t rust, like stainless steel or PVC pipe. Condensing furnaces have a drain that lets water go into the plumbing system for wastewater. A neutralizing filter can be added to the drain line of older homes with pipes that could rust. They also have a fan to blow the cooler exhaust gas, which needs to be more buoyant to leave the flue out of the building.
Because they must operate at higher temperatures to prevent condensation, non-condensing furnaces are less efficient. They do not require a drain and can be made of materials that would corrode in a condensing furnace, such as iron, steel, or copper.
Tips: A heating professional should check furnaces annually before the heating season. First, the technician will inspect the furnace, vents, heat exchanger, and flue, adjust pressure and air intake controls, and measure the furnace’s efficiency to ensure it works perfectly. Then, a contractor will have to check the electric furnace system controls and connections. Using its manual as a reference, you can also check your furnace and air filters. It tells when and what to study. For instance, you’ll need to change the air filter every few months for most furnaces. If uncertain, ask a heating contractor for advice.
Space heaters heat the air in a room, which is then moved around by convection. They don’t make as much heat as a furnace or boiler. Some electric space heaters work by sending heat out into the room. They can heat a room or cabin, but they don’t have a separate system for putting out the heat.
Types of Space Heaters
Wall-mounted or freestanding gas or oil-burning space heaters are available. Fuel is burned in a combustion chamber. The heated air is distributed by convection using a fan.
Pipes installed through a wall supply combustion air to sealed models and exhaust combustion products. A sealed combustion design prevents poisonous backdrafts from entering the home. Unvented space heaters are dangerous (and are illegal in Alaska). Others have safe, natural draft systems. Most households use sealed combustion cabinet heaters. Modern models have programmable thermostats, heat exchangers, and fans. As a result, they typically consume less electricity.
Electric space heaters use the same method as a toaster or iron to turn electricity from the wall socket into heat. The heat from this source then moves around a room through radiation and convection.
Tips: A heating professional should check combustion space heaters before the heating season every other year. Service includes cleaning and checking all appliance parts. Check and maintain your combustion heater. Consult the manual for checkpoints. Some models need monthly filter cleanings.
Keep electric space heaters clean and away from the furniture. Check your appliance’s manual for safety and maintenance tips.
Understanding the various home heating systems will enable you to come up with the best decisions about how to heat your home or which one you prefer when looking for a new home. Knowing which system is best for you can save you time and money.
Most often, it’s best to call a professional HVAC technician to help you update your home’s heating system based on its size, layout, and regional climate.
HeatSource Mechanical is your best bet for these needs. We are your local Lennox Premier Dealer. We also recommend and install Weil-McLain boilers, Rinnai High-Efficiency Space heaters, and other high-quality products and services that provide total home comfort. For more information, visit Home Heating Products Alaska.
If you have questions about our products or services, please contact us immediately!