There are so many ways to heat a home. Most commonly, the furnace is used to heat a home but have you ever wondered what other methods are used? Well, look no further, because today we’ll be diving into these methods from the common to the uncommon.
A furnace is a central-heating system that works by bringing in air through the cold air returns, the air handler forces it through a metal heat exchanger that transfers the heat to the air, which is then distributed throughout the registers in the home. The heat exchanger is heated by the burners in the furnace which are fueled by gas, oil or electricity.
The exhaust from the furnace is then vented through the chimney or through an outside wall using plastic piping.
A boiler is essentially a water-heater. It works in a similar fashion to a furnace but instead of heating the air, it heats water. A pump then circulates the water throughout the home which releases heat when it passes through the radiators. The cool water is then returned to the boiler and the process continues. There are also steam boilers, which circulate steam throughout the home which condensates in the radiators and the cool water is then returned to the boiler.
A heat pump works in the same way as an air conditioner, by removing the heat from the air. Instead of removing the heat from the air within the home, it removes whatever heat from the outside air it can and distributes the heat throughout the home using forced air. In the summer, it reverses the process and functions the same as an air conditioner, by removing the heat from the inside air. There are also geothermal heat pumps, which transfer the heat from underground throughout the home. Geothermal heat pumps are much more expensive as they require a loop being buried underground and is very dependent of the conditions on the soil and area. These systems are more efficient and are most commonly used in homes where people plan on living for a long time.
When thinking of space heaters, you think of those small, fan-like units that plug into the wall. While those are great, there are better space heating options.
Gas space heaters are commonly used as an alternative to a furnace for smaller spaces, for example a cabin or studio apartment. These heaters can either be wall-mounted or free standing. They run on natural gas, propane or kerosene. The combustion air is brought in through piping and the exhaust is carried out of the space in the same way. There are also vent-less space heaters that run in a similar way, but don’t have any piping. These are good for spaces where easy-piping isn’t an option such as the middle of an apartment or on a shared wall of a multiple room cabin.
Wood burners are exactly what they sound like. They are fueled using wood as opposed to gas or oil. Because wood is a much cheaper fuel source than gas and oil, the savings are great. These are commonly used in rural areas as fueling them can be done solely by the homeowner.
We commonly think of fireplaces as a purely decorative part of a home but that’s not always the case. While a traditional fireplace that burns logs and is vented through the chimney may provide heat to a room, it’s not a practical heating method. Fireplaces with glass doors and combustion air from the outside rather than the inside can provide a much larger amount of heat to the home.
Floor heating is a unique system. It uses a boiler but instead of the radiators to release the heat into the room, it uses tubes under the flooring that transfer the heat to the floor. This is a very complex system that can prove to be very expensive and is more of a luxury option.
Ductwork may be very common in America but not so much around the world. Ductless mini-splits are similar to heat pumps in that they use refrigerant to heat and cool the air. The difference is that instead of using ductwork and forced air to distribute the heat, they use wall-mounted units. These are very cost efficient and effective.