What's The Best Fit For Your Home?
All home heating systems are designed to increase the temperature inside a living space to make it more comfortable, and they operate by harnessing energy from a fuel source such as natural gas, electricity, liquid propane, oil, or solar power. Some heating systems only warm the interior of a home, while others share components with cooling equipment and are known as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC). There are many types of systems to choose from, and each one has its pros and cons. In this article, we explore the most popular types of heating systems so you can decide which option is best for your home.
1. Furnace-Based Forced-Air Systems
Forced-air systems that use a furnace to generate heat can be fueled by natural gas, liquid propane, oil, or electricity. Air is warmed by the furnace's burner or heating element and is pushed by a blower fan via a network of ducts to registers in each room throughout a home. A separate set of ductwork sends the air back to the furnace from cold-air returns. When a thermostat senses that a room's temperature is below the setting, it sends a signal to the furnace and the heating cycle begins again. For a more comfortable and healthier environment in a home, air filters and humidifiers can be added to forced-air systems.
To have central air conditioning in a home, a separate outdoor unit is required, but the system can share the same blower and ductwork as forced-air heating systems, allowing for effective climate control and energy efficiency all year long.
2. Heat Pump Systems
Heat pumps can warm or cool a home and are powered by electricity. In heating mode, a heat pump absorbs heat from the ground or outside air (even cold air) and releases it indoors. In cooling mode, a heat pumps absorbs the heat inside a home and releases it outdoors. In either mode, air is blown over an evaporator coil, transferring heat energy from the air to refrigerant. That heat energy is circulated in the refrigerant and passed over a condenser coil where it is released as a fan blows air across the coil. The warm or cool air is then pushed into a home through existing ductwork or via a ductless unit called a mini-split.
Mini-split heat pumps have two main components: a wall-mounted, indoor air-handling unit and an outdoor compressor. These ductless units allow for temperature control in individual rooms, and make good retrofit add-ons to houses with radiant, hydronic (hot water), or other heating systems that are “non-ducted." They can also be a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible.
3. Hybrid Heating Systems
A hybrid heating system, also known as a dual-fuel system, combines an electric heat pump with a gas-powered furnace to maximize performance and energy efficiency. When temperatures outside are moderate, between 40- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump works effectively to keep a home warm. If the outdoor temperature falls below 40 degrees, a heat pump may struggle to produce enough heat. With a hybrid system, the gas furnace will automatically take over, keeping a home toasty, even in the coldest weather. When temperatures rise in springtime, the heat pump resumes service and goes into cooling mode, offering year-round comfort and convenience.
Since hybrid systems are comprised of a heat pump and a gas furnace, they are more expensive to purchase, install, and maintain than either component alone. However, for homeowners who live in areas with moderate to cold climates, a hybrid system can be very effective at boosting energy-efficiency which in turn can result in cost-savings over time.
4. Radiant Heat Systems
Radiant systems operate by heating water in a boiler that is fueled by solar energy, natural gas, liquid propane, or electricity. The hot water is distributed through a network of plastic tubes that are installed underneath or inside the flooring materials in each room in a home. The tubes heat the flooring and furniture rather than the air in a space. Radiant systems supply only heat, not air conditioning.
Radiant heat systems tend to warm-up more slowly and take longer to adjust than forced-air systems, but they provide an even, consistent temperature over time. There are also radiant heat systems that use electrical wiring installed under flooring materials such as ceramic or stone tile, but they are less energy efficient than hot water systems and are typically used in small rooms such as bathrooms. They primarily heat only the floor, not the room itself.
5. Boilers, Radiators, and Hot-Water Baseboard Heating Systems (Hydronic)
A hydronic heating system uses water or steam to heat a home. The boiler and radiator system operates by using natural gas, propane, oil, solar power, or electricity to heat water in a central tank. The heated water or steam goes through a network of pipes to old-style upright radiators or to more modern, low-profile baseboard heaters that are located throughout a home. The hot water causes warm air to be pushed upwards, displacing the colder air. When the water cools down, it returns to the boiler through the pipes and is heated once again. This type of system distributes heat consistently and evenly throughout a home, but the radiators or baseboard heaters must remain unobstructed by window coverings or furniture. Boiler-based systems offer only heat, not air conditioning.
6. Active Solar Air-Heating Systems
An active solar air-heating system can reduce a home's carbon footprint. These systems work by drawing in fresh air and heating it via coated black aluminum panels. Special collectors absorb the thermal energy, then solar-powered fans push the heated air throughout a home's ductwork. An active solar air-heating system typically works alongside an existing HVAC system to improve energy efficiency and reduce home heating costs.
At Meridian Homes, we specialize in luxury remodeling and custom home building in the Washington, DC area. Our mission is to create exceptional residences that exceed expectations. Our highly personalized design process and careful management of every project have earned us a reputation over many years for outstanding client service and solid, beautiful craftsmanship. Contact us today to begin your custom home or remodeling project.