7 Different Types of Home Heating Systems: Which Is Best for The Pacific Northwest?
There are several types of heating systems to choose from. Learn about the different types of home heating systems and the best options for your property in the Pacific Northwest.
As temperatures drop, you may be cranking the thermostat to keep your home warm. In colder parts of the country, energy bills can be a major annual burden. Heating is more expensive than any other system, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But not all heating systems have the same impact on your comfort, wallet or the environment. Here’s what you can expect from different types of heating systems—and how to decide on the best choice for your home.
Types of heating distribution systems
Before diving into the specifics, it helps to understand the basic components of heating systems and how they work. Each heating system has three parts:
- Heat source: The heat source could be a furnace, boiler or heat pump. The heat source provides warm air or water for heating.
- Heat distribution system: The heat distribution systems move the warm air, steam or hot water throughout the home.
- Control system: The control system is usually a thermostat and controls the heat distribution.
Central heating systems
Central heating systems produce heat from a central place and then distribute it throughout the house. Boilers and furnaces are examples of central heating systems.
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Boilers are one of the most common types of heating systems in the U.S. They distribute hot water or steam through pipes to your home’s radiators, floor systems or coils. Energy efficiency can be 50%–90%, depending on the boiler’s age. You can expect a boiler to last 15–30 years.
Furnaces are another popular type of heating system. Furnaces work by heating air and sending it throughout your home with air ducts. A furnace’s energy efficiency can range from 59%–98.5% and you will have to replace it within 15–30 years.
Heat pumps can work for heating and cooling the home. These systems pull heat from surrounding air for heating. The efficiency is 6.8–10 HSPF, or heating seasonal performance factor. You can expect a heat pump to last for 15 years.
Active solar heating
Active solar heating systems use the sun to warm liquid or air for heating. You can use the heat or store it for later. The life expectancy for a solar heating system is 20+ years.
Electric heating, or electric resistance heating, converts electricity into heat. The efficiency is 95–100% and the system will last for 20+ years.
Portable heaters may be an affordable solution if your main heating system doesn’t work well or is too expensive to run. They can be particularly cost-effective if you only need to heat one room. Some portable heaters work by convection, which circulates the air in a room. Others may use radiant heating—an option that sends heat into its direct line of sight.
Heating distribution systems
Heating distribution systems are necessary to move air, steam or water throughout the home for heating. These types of heating distribution systems are among the most common:
- Electric baseboards: These zone heaters send warm air out the top and pull cooler air to the bottom.
- Forced air system: These systems move air from a furnace through air ducts and vents.
- Hot water baseboards: These use wall-mounted baseboard units and hot water for heating.
- Radiant heating: You can install this with floor, ceiling or wall panels. The system moves heat from a hot surface to people or objects.
- Steam radiant: These systems use radiators to transport heat.
Home heating options: Which is best?
There are several factors to think about before choosing a heating system. Depending on where you live, some fuel sources may be harder to get—like natural gas in the Northeast, for example.
The climate of where you live may also impact your decision. If the temperature is warm year-round, you may get by with only a space heater. But in places with cold winters, a central heating system may be most effective. Energy efficiency may increase the initial cost of a heating system, but you could save on utility bills later.
The size of your home also matters. Ideally, you should seek professional guidance before making a big, costly decision on your heating system. A general contractor can help you decide on the best choice for your home. Here are some of the basics to kick-start the process.
Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.