Winters in Westchester and Fairfield can be brutal. With so many heating systems to choose from, it can be difficult to make an informed decision about choosing the most efficient system to keep you and your family warm. Read on to see the different options available to homeowners to find the best one that fits your needs.
While you can use individual room heaters, most homes have a centralized heating system for efficiency and ease.
A residential heating systems consists of:
- Thermostat to control the temperature and the entire heating system.
- Central unit that typically consists of either a furnace, boiler or heat pump.
- Distribution system consisting of ductwork or pipes for steam systems. These help carry the heat from the central unit to the rest of your house.
- Venting system to get rid of air and gases made in the central unit while burning fuel to create heat.
Types of Heating Systems
There are 3 types of heating systems: Central Ducted Heating Systems, Ductless Heating System and Direct Heating System. We will discuss the first 2 in detail below. Direct Heating systems the conventional way of heating directly from the heat source. These include things such as gas space heaters, electric space heaters and fireplaces.
Ducted systems generate heat in a central heat source and are delivered to the rest of the house through a series of ducts or pipes. There are 3 main types of ducted heating systems: Furnaces, Boilers and Heat Pumps.
Furnace are “forced air” heating systems that distribute air that is warmed by the furnace's burner or heating element through a network of ducts. Furnaces can heat the air with electricity, propane, oil, and natural gas.
Furnaces are referred to as HVAC systems as they are usually paired with central air conditioners. While furnaces are relatively inexpensive and can combine cooling with heating capacity, they tend to need replacements more frequently than other heating systems. They also require ductwork and take up space in walls.
Boilers heat water which is then turned into steam. The steam is sent through a series of pipes and radiated throughout the home using radiators, baseboard heaters, or panels set into the floor, walls or ceilings.
Boiler/radiator systems can be fueled by natural gas, liquid propane, fuel oil, or electricity, are also quieter than furnaces and create less airborne allergen issues. They are, however, significantly more expensive to install and cost more money to run.
The newest home heating (and cooling) technology is the heat pump. They are two-way systems, meaning they keep your home cool during summers and warm during winters. Heat pumps work by absorbing heat from outside the home (from the air, the ground, and less often from a body of water) and then transferring this heat inside the house using a heat exchanger. This process can be reversed in the summer.
A heat pump can save 30% to 70% on home heating costs and 20% to 50% on home cooling costs when compared to other systems. However, the initial installation costs are much higher than the other heating systems. They also work best in moderate climates, where temperatures rarely dip below freezing.
Ducted systems don’t require any ducts or pipes around your house, and are easy to install. They do however require a separate system in each room and don’t heat the entire house.
The most popular ductless system is Minisplit Systems. Other less common systems include window and standing ACs with heat.
Mini-splits are heating and cooling systems that allow you to control the temperatures in individual rooms or spaces. They include an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. The outdoor and indoor units are linked through a hole in the fall for a conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain.
Unlike traditional, ducted systems that can take several weeks to install, ductless systems are less invasive to your home and can be set up in as little as a day. Since the cooled air is delivered directly to the room, instead of through ducts, mini-split systems considerably reduce inefficiencies in your home. The EPA estimates that by switching to a ductless system, homeowners can reduce energy use by 20 to 30 percent each month.
How To Pick The Right Heating System For Your House
Choosing an heating system for your home can be a daunting task. Consider the following factors when making the decision:
- Cost: When it comes to HVAC equipment, the initial price is only one part of the equation. You should also factor in the expenses you will pay for utility bills, as well as service and repair over the lifetime of the system. Some heating systems like a minisplit have higher up front costs, but save you money in the long run, while others like furnaces are relatively inexpensive but have higher utility costs.
- Efficiency: The efficiency of your HVAC system is crucial to your home’s comfort. Whichever heating system you choose to go with, be sure to check the Season Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), which shows the machine’s overall efficiency in the home. If you're installing a furnace, research the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency of different models to choose the most efficient one.
- Climate: The different climate between regions highlights the importance of getting recommendations relevant to your area. People living in areas with cold winters like ours spend more of their money on heating than cooling. If you have to select between a more efficient furnace and air conditioner, you may find it a wiser choice to focus on the furnace.
- Ease of Installation: Ducted systems require a lot more time and changes to your home than ductless systems. If you have an older home, a ducted system might not be an option for you. If you’re building a new home or undergoing renovations, you might be able to install a ducted system.
Heating is a major expense for homeowners living in cold climates. Use these heating tips to cut your energy bills while keeping your home cozy all winter long.
- Insulate Your Home: No matter how efficient your home heating system, poor insulation can leave your home feeling drafty and lead to high energy bills. Fill your attic with fiberglass, mineral wool or cellulose insulation to prevent the heat your furnace produces disappearing up through the roof. If the weatherstripping around your doors and windows is badly worn when winter rolls around, replace it to eliminate drafts. Learn more about how window insulation can reduce your central air heating costs.
- Use a Programmable Thermostat: Don’t waste energy heating your home while you’re not there. Use a programmable thermostat to turn off your heating system automatically when you head out to work and turn it on again when you’re on your way home. According to EnergyStar, installing a programmable thermostat can save them anywhere from 10 to 30% on the space heating and cooling portion of their energy bills.
- Use the Sun: Take advantage of the best heating system: the sum. Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home.
- Maintenance: Remember that your HVAC systems are more than just appliances. If you suspect a problem with your ductwork or insulation, be sure to ask your technician for an inspection of these areas as well. The equipment used to heat your home requires service on at least a yearly basis.
- Change Air Filters: Changing the filters is the single most straight forward HVAC maintenance task for you to do. When the air filter is dirty, it slows down the process of heating or cooling, and can negatively affect the building’s indoor air quality. Dust gathered on old filters gets circulated throughout your home when you turn on your HVAC unit. If you have serious allergy problems, consider investing in a HEPA air filter.