For as long as we’ve walked the planet, humanity has always needed a way of staying warm. When it’s cold outside, indoor comfort helps with that. Today’s heating has advanced considerably, and new technology has created many different ways to keep a modern home warm.
This blog will help make modern heating easier to understand by explaining how three of the primary heating technologies work and comparing some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Furnaces are the modern evolution of that same heating technology used since the dawn of time: burning fuel to create heat. A controlled, enclosed flame provides energy efficiency along with the ability to easily turn your furnace on and off as needed.
Today’s modern furnaces run on natural gas because it’s packed with energy, low-emission and is generally inexpensive. The gas is burned in a “burner” and the heat generated is passed into the air through a heat exchanger. The warm air from your heat exchanger is then pushed throughout your home using your central duct system and your blower fan. Unlike a traditional fireplace that can generally only heat the space immediately around it, the fire from one central furnace can effectively heat an entire home.
The terms “heat pump” and “furnace” are often used interchangeably, but this is a mistake. Aside from the fact that both of these devices can heat your home, they really couldn’t be more different. Furnaces actually generate heat by burning fuel, whereas heat pumps collect heat from outside and send it indoors where you need it.
This often confuses or surprises people—if it’s so cold outside, how is a heat pump able to collect heat? The truth is that even on a day that feels extremely cold, there is actually a fair amount of heat energy outside, even when the temperatures drop well below the 40 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat pumps collect this energy by essentially reversing how your air conditioner works: they collect the heat from outside and carry it indoors. This does come at a cost: your outdoor unit will become freezing cold through the heat collection process and that means heat pumps need to periodically run defrost cycles which shut off your heater for some time. However, some advantages include sensational energy efficiency and completely emission-free heating.
Many heat pump systems can be coupled with an air conditioner in order to get all your heating and cooling from the same energy-efficient unit. Likewise, sometimes heat pumps are also coupled with a gas furnace to create what are known as “dual fuel” heating systems. This setup offers homeowners dependable heat from both of these technologies and reduces their disadvantages.
Boilers are the least common of the three types of heating we’ll discuss today, but they’re also one of the most effective. Water is actually an excellent vehicle for carrying and transferring heat, and boilers utilize this principle to spread heat throughout your home. A boiler is essentially an extremely high-power water heater. The water this system produces is then pumped out to your home through specialized plumbing lines, where it reaches radiators, floor heating grids, and more. As the water passes through these mechanisms, it radiates the heat it has collected and warms your home. The water that has cooled off then returns back to your boiler to repeat the cycle.
Modern boilers are extraordinarily efficient and heat water to tremendously high temperatures faster while using very little energy. They’re also tremendously effective at heating everything from small to large spaces and can be engineered for precise zoning. Some boiler systems can also double as your source of hot water, completely replacing the need for a water heater. However, the big downside to these systems is that leaks can be devastating. They’re also extraordinarily difficult and expensive to install if your home isn’t built with one from the start. Generally, boilers are more common in older buildings that may not have central heating or cooling ductwork and in areas where below-freezing temperatures are common.
If you need your heating system fixed, choose the experts at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar to make sure it’s done right. Call us at (408) 868-5500 today.
Elsewhere on Our Blog
This month we also took a look at two other topics about which, as a homeowner. you may have questions. First, we took a look at an important concept known as the “payoff period” and how it pertains to solar. When you’re looking for a solid investment in your home, solar is popular because it’s a self-funding upgrade that pays for itself. But how long will it take to do that? You can figure it out for yourself using a few simple numbers. Check out our blog to learn how!
We also took a look at outdoor electrical setups and how you can make them safer. Using electricity outdoors is becoming more and more common and while it’s certainly safer today than it has been in years past, it’s still important to make sure you’re doing things right. Even a small mistake can lead to serious injury or a major electrical problem. Check out our blog for some helpful safety tips for safe outdoor electrical use—they could come in handy when decorating this holiday season!