Forced air is the most common heating solution. A furnace heats air that is then pushed through ducts by a blower to heat the house. Furnaces can accomplish this by using various fuel sources such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity. The advantages of this method are the air may be filtered, humidified or dehumidified, and it is relatively inexpensive as a furnace can achieve a high AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). The disadvantages of this method of heating are some furnaces can be noisy, and they require regular maintenance and filtration to work properly.
Radiant heat can come in many forms, from a stove that uses wood or coal, to hot water tubes in the flooring, or a hot water baseboard system. A boiler is used to heat the water, which can be fueled by electricity, natural gas, oil, or propane. There are also wall mounted and radiant ceiling panels available. The advantages of radiant heat are it can be a more even heat distribution, it doesn’t circulate airborne particles, and is fairly efficient. The disadvantages are a slow heating up cycle, it can be expensive to install, access to hidden piping if maintenance problems emerge, and air conditioning requires a separate duct work distribution and cooling system.
Steam Radiators are not often used today, but can be found in older homes and buildings. Steam systems come in two varieties, one-pipe and two-pipe systems. With one-pipe systems the water and steam travel in the same pipe but in opposite directions. In two-pipe systems steam flows in one pipe and water condensate returns in another set of pipes. These may be fueled by natural gas, propane, oil or electricity .The advantages of radiators are they can be efficient and warm spaces quickly, and radiant heat is comfortable. The disadvantages are they can be unsightly, the locations may limit furniture placement and window coverings, and air conditioning requires a separate ductwork distribution and cooling system.
Geothermal is emerging as a very efficient way of heating and cooling, but it is still very costly. Geothermal heat pumps use the natural heat storage capacity of the earth or ground water to provide energy efficient heating and cooling. The advantages of using Geothermal heating and cooling are it can save homeowners 30 to 70 percent on heating and 20 to 50 percent on cooling costs over conventional systems, and they can provide domestic hot water. The disadvantage of Geothermal is really just the initial cost. Geothermal systems can be thousands of dollars more (50-150%) than conventional systems.
Solar Power. Homeowners can use either solar air heating devices for preheating of ventilation air or solar water heating devices to supplement hot water heating systems. Solar energy can also be used to boost the performance of heat pumps, and an absorption heat pump will actually allow you to power an air conditioning system with solar energy. The advantage of going solar is of course it is a free, renewable energy source with the only disadvantage being the initial cost and set up.
We can’t forget the fireplace either. In some cases one or more fireplaces, typically wood burning, are used to supplement heating or even as a sole measure of heating.Ever been on a vacation somewhere and stayed in a cabin with only a fireplace to keep you warm? Get that firewood ready!
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