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Heating Systems: The difference between Forced Hot Air, Forced Hot Water, or Electric

burnham-boiler

With the temperatures creeping lower and lower, keeping your house warm may be top of mind. But it can be hard to know which type of heating system will be best for your home. Here’s a quick run-down on the three major heating systems and a few tips about how to find the best one for you.

Heating System 1: Forced Hot Air

How it works:

In a gas, propane, or oil forced hot air system, fuel is used to heat air in your furnace that’s released through your house via warm air ducts.

Efficiency rating (for new, high-quality furnace):

  • Gas – 90-97% efficient
  • Oil – 83-89% efficient
  • Propane – 88-95% efficient

Pros:

  • Forced hot air systems are easily upgraded to include central air conditioning by using the fan of the furnace and the same ductwork.
  • They’re compatible with high-efficiency air filtration systems and ultraviolet air purification systems to clean the air and remove allergens and bacteria.
  • Forced hot air warms up the house quickly.

Cons:

  • Without a humidifier, forced hot air systems can dry the air in your home.
  • Because natural gas is piped directly to your home, you’ll need to make sure that you have access to a municipal gas supply before installing a gas furnace.

Tips to improve efficiency:

If your heating system uses air ducts, make sure your air ducts are insulated and installed properly. Improperly installed air ducts may have bends or sags that deter the air flow, or leak where the ducts connect. Have one of Cranney’s HVAC specialists take a look at your air ducts, and replace old, less-efficient ducts with up-to-date ones.

Heating System 2: Forced Hot Water

How it works:

Forced hot water systems use a boiler to heat water, and then circulate the heated water through baseboards, tubing within the floor, radiators, or hydro air units.

Efficiency rating (for new, high-quality boiler):

  • Gas – 90-97% efficient
  • Oil – 83-89% efficient
  • Propane – 88-95% efficient

Pros:

  • Forced hot water systems retain heat for a while after the system shuts off.
  • They can be used for radiant heat, which means you don’t need baseboards and/or radiators, and will give you a nice, warm floor to walk on.
  • Hot water boilers can also be used to heat domestic hot water.

Cons:

  • Baseboards and radiators can take up space in the home.
  • Unless it’s a hydro air system, forced hot water isn’t compatible with air filtration systems or central air conditioning systems.

Tips to improve efficiency:

If you have hot water baseboard heaters, make sure to keep the heating elements clean. This can be done by removing the front cover and vacuuming off the element inside. Also, try to keep space between your furniture and the baseboard heaters. This will allow you to get the full benefit of your boilers.

Heating System 3: Electricity

How it works:

The two major types of electric heating are electric resistance heating and heat pumps. Electrical resistance systems create heat through heating elements, while heat pumps transfer heat from outside your home to inside.

Efficiency: Efficiency in electric heating can vary dramatically according to which heating system you pick.

Pros:

  • You don’t need to be hooked up to a gas line or schedule oil refills to use electric heating.
  • Heat pumps provide both heat and air conditioning.
  • Electric heating systems are extremely quiet.

Cons:

  • Heating your home with electricity is generally more expensive than heating it with gas, propane, or oil.
  • Electric heat typically dries the air in the home.

Tips to improve efficiency:

Make sure you’re getting the most out of your heating system by having a well-insulated house. Investing in quality windows can reduce heat leakage and combat drafts.

Ready to Install Your Heating System?

Now that you’ve got the basics, we’d be happy to chat more about the best heating option for you! Give us a call at [site_info_phone_numnber] and we’ll get you on the phone with one of our experienced technicians. We’ve been keeping the greater Boston area warm for over 30 years, and we’d be happy to help you install a new heating system to keep you toasty this winter.

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