The Heating Basics

Heating Basics

Everybody should know where their heating system is located in the house, the type of system it is, what type of fuel the system burns and how to shut the system down. There are many different types of heating systems, and every house heats differently. It is also important to know how old the unit is and what units in the building the furnace supplies. Knowing how to manage your heating system and having a general knowledge of how it works is incredibly important. Every home owner should assess their heating system and the operating cost and determine if they have an older system or high heating bills.

Determine the following factors to identify your heating system:
I. Fuel/heat source i.e. (Natural gas, oil, electric)
II. Type (steam, hot water, hot air)
III. Delivery system (how does the heat get distributed throughout the house)

Give us a call anytime and we will walk you through the steps to find out!

I. Heating systems need fuel to operate:

Coal – Coal is no longer in use and any units which still use coal should be replaced.
Oil – Is good for some applications if gas is not available to the building. We would suggest replacing unit with high efficiency gas unit; however we will service an oil unit and always respond to any no heat calls.
Propane – Used in rural applications.
Natural Gas – This is the most common and preferred way to heat a house in an urban setting. Many oil heating systems have been switched to natural gas. It is very clean and allows for low maintenance high efficiency heating systems.
Electrical – The system simply uses electricity as opposed to fuel.
Solar – Many more modern houses and green buildings are taking advantage of this power source. It is usually utilized in rural areas however it is becoming a more prominent heating option.
Geothermal – Although rarely used this heating system, is extremely cost efficient. Expensive for initial installation but it is a very clean and environmentally friendly system.

II. & III. Different types & delivery methods of heating systems:

Steam – Radiators
There are many ways a steam heating system can be designed, but they all function the exact same way. The boiler heats the water and the steam is pushed through the pipes to the radiators. Then the condensate from the cooling steam flows back down the same pipe. The condensate runs all of the way back to the boiler and is re-used.

Gravity Hot Water – Radiators
Gravity hot water heating systems work off of the upward flow of hot water, as heat rises. The boiler heats the water in the pipes and radiators throughout your home. The heat from the water in the radiators is transferred first to the metal radiators and then to the air. As the water loses its heat, it sinks and flows back to the boiler through the same supply pipe. Gravity systems tend to heat unevenly and have to use larger size pipes. Many of these systems are changed to forced hot water system.

Gravity Hot Air – Ducts
Gravity hot air heating systems work under the same principals the gravity hot water system. However, they utilize hot air as opposed to hot water. The process occurs just like the gravity hot water system above. Cool air is heated and unaided, rises through the air ducts and is distributed throughout the house. When the air cools, it falls back down through the same ducts to the furnace to be heated again. Gravity systems tend to heat unevenly and have to use larger duct sizes. Many of these systems are changed to forced hot air systems.

Forced Heating Systems – All forced systems will have a pump or blower motor on the boiler or furnace.

Forced Hot Water (hydronic) – Radiators, Baseboard, Convectors, Runtal Radiators
Forced hot water systems are usually heated by gas- or oil-fired boilers. Occasionally, they may use immersion-type electric resistance heating coils. Forced hot water pressurized the heating lines and pumps the hot water throughout the house to heat it more evenly and allow for all heating units to receive the same quantity of hot water.

Forced Hot Air – Ducts
In forced hot air heating systems, the furnace pulls air into the heat exchanger through the cold air return. The air is heated inside the furnace, and then returned into the home through additional ductwork. The heat is directed into the various rooms by heat registers. It is possible to have more heat in one room than another by opening and shutting heat registers throughout the house. Forced air home heating systems can run off of gas, oil or electricity. Sizing the cold return is very important to protect the integrity of the heat exchanger.

Radiant Heat – PEX floor piping (under slab or sub floor)
A radiant heating system is a modern way of heating a building. Each of the floors or just sections of the floors in a building are heated from directly underneath. It is most commonly used in new construction work where the floors and ceilings are already open to allow for easy installation. Hot water runs through the plastic PEX tubing and the heat from the hot water rises into the room above.

Solar – Solar power is a source of energy that continues to grow but has not reached a point where it can be efficiently harnessed and utilized in a productive manner. There are some buildings with the latest technology that do utilize this type of energy for heating systems. However, it is uncommon and expensive. These systems can be either forced hot water of forced hot air.

Geothermal – Like solar heating, this system can run off of both water and steam. Geothermal heat pumps are an energy-efficient way to heat your home, as it uses the natural occurring heat below the surface of the earth to heat the home. With a geothermal home heating system, water is pumped through coils below the earth’s surface where it is heated naturally by the heat below the surface of the earth. This warmed water returns to the geothermal unit, where the heat is extracted and pumped into the home. The initial cost of a geothermal unit is high, but they are extremely energy-efficient. This makes a geothermal unit less expensive to run on a monthly basis.

Give us a call anytime! 617-436-5229