Keeping Your Home Comfortable All Year Long
From air quality to energy efficiency, making the right choice in selecting your home’s HVAC system is a decision not to be taken lightly.
A home’s HVAC system is responsible for keeping residents warm in winter and cool in summer. It’s something that, if you’re building a house or renovating or remodeling, you want to get right. Aside from comfort levels, energy consumption is critical. According to the Department of Energy, a home’s HVAC (or heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system is responsible for as much as 48% of a home’s energy consumption.
With years of experience recommending and installing systems in new and existing homes, our team can guide you toward the system that will keep your toes toasty and your wallet full.
Boiler with Radiant Heat and AC
If you have ever lived in a home with radiators, this is the modern update of such a heating system. A boiler, which may run on electric, natural gas, or propane, heats water to a very high temperature and then forces the water through looped pipes embedded in your flooring. The heat produced is among the most comfortable—neither too dry nor too humid—and such heat is more evenly distributed as well. Since there is no air being moved, dust and allergens aren’t an issue, which means indoor air quality is better with a radiant heating system than a forced-air system.
But it’s an expensive system to install and can take more time than other options to heat up. Repairs may come with higher costs as well since the pipes are embedded. And a separate air conditioning system is required.
Electric Furnace and AC Split System
An electric furnace is one of several forced-air options and can be thought of most simply as a giant space heater. A practical HVAC system in many parts of the U.S., especially warmer weather areas, with an electric furnace, a furnace blower fan pulls in untreated air, heats or cools it, and forces it through your home’s ductwork.
Electric furnace and AC split systems are often used in vacation and second homes, which makes up for the system’s overall relatively poor energy efficiency.
Geothermal Heat Pump System
An extremely energy-efficient option, a geothermal heat pump system uses the earth’s natural heat to warm or cool water circulating through a network of underground pipes. It’s a popular system with those seeking to limit their environmental footprints and who are conscious of their energy usage. Geothermal systems should last for several decades before needing major repair or replacement. Homeowners can save as much as 65% on their energy bills, and such systems are multi-functional; they may also supply hot water.
But they are the most expensive of all currently available HVAC systems and are particularly pricey to add to an existing home. Repair costs are also higher than with many other systems.
Mini Split Heat Pump System
A system growing in popularity in the United States, the mini-split offers efficiency, lower energy costs (with savings of $1000 to $2000 per year possible), and is ductless! The system relies on several smaller heating and cooling units located strategically throughout and outside the home—zones controlled independently of one another. A multi-split is an excellent option for remodels and renovations and can be electric-, gas-, oil-, or propane-powered.
A mini-split heat pump system is an expensive system to install, however, due to its relative newness on the scene, and repairs can be costly because of the difficulty in tracking down replacement parts. Furthermore, in regions that experience sub-zero winter temperatures, mini-split technology may not be enough to heat a home consistently.
Standard AC and Furnace Split System
A dominant HVAC system throughout the U.S., a standard split system is another forced-air option that heats by pulling in air, warming it, and then forcing it through ductwork to heat the home. Such systems are prevalent in regions where air conditioning isn’t necessary, and newly installed systems powered by natural gas are extremely energy-efficient, saving homeowners money. They are also environmentally friendly.
However, standard split systems may develop leaks, especially in the ductwork, introducing carbon monoxide as a serious health risk. And forced air systems may negatively impact anyone who suffers from severe allergies, as dust and other allergens are quickly spread.
Standard Heat Pump and Air Handler Split System
A standard heat pump system can be an excellent all-in-one option. When heat is needed, the system forces cold air out of the home, and when cooling is needed, it pulls warm air out. An indoor circulating air handler ensures a consistently comfortable temperature.
Standard heat pump systems are more affordable and more energy-efficient than many other options, but they require ductwork and can spread allergens. They also aren’t the best choice for regions that routinely experience sub-zero winter temperatures
Oil vs. Propane/Natural Gas for Your Home’s Heating
If you’re building a custom home or renovating an existing home, consider your heating options carefully. One option may work better for your home type or the area you live in than another. Home heating isn’t a decision to be made lightly.
Oil isn’t the best option if you want high energy efficiency, and most oil heat systems become less efficient as they age. However, oil heating systems are typically easiest to repair because parts are more readily available. With oil, you’ll likely use a boiler or a furnace that will require a permanent place of its own. You’ll also have to store extra oil in a tank, which will require additional dedicated space. But oil-burning heating systems can be the right choice in certain circumstances. Furthermore, newer model systems are more efficient than ever before.
- Furnaces: The gas from furnaces is released through a chimney. Older model furnaces not only lose efficiency as they age, but they also lose efficiency as their internal temperature increases, which is a flaw (albeit a necessary flaw) in their functionality. Modern furnaces use a fan to transfer exhaust and convert it into heat. Furnaces also produce a lot of condensation. But they do warm spaces effectively.
- Boilers: Boilers work by boiling water. The water then moves through the home, and the heat exits through heating elements like baseboard heaters, radiators, or radiant flooring. Once the water has cooled, it returns to the boiler, where it is reheated and the process repeated.
The oil heating is produced via a combustion chamber. The oil is ignited, and the energy from the burning oil warms and circulates the air or boils the water that the furnace or boiler uses to heat. Furnaces and boilers need to be cleaned and refreshed with new oil routinely.
Natural Gas/Propane Heating
More commonly installed today than oil heat is natural gas and propane-fired heating systems. They work more efficiently and are cleaner to run. They also do not require as much maintenance since they use natural gas or propane as their fuel source. If you opt for propane, you’ll need to replace the tanks occasionally, but propane is a clean-burning fuel source that doesn’t cause emissions like oil does.
A few different types of gas and propane-fueled heating systems are available:
- Forced Air: Most modern homes use forced air heating and cooling systems. Air enters the system and is then heated or cooled based on your preferences. When the gas combusts, however, the system will shed CO2 and condensation. Because of this, natural gas and propane heating systems should not be vented into the home. Instead, off-gassing must be released outside of the house so that inhabitants aren’t poisoned by a build-up of CO2. or carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
- Hydronic: As with boilers, hydronic heaters use water to deliver heat through the home, but they do so in addition to heating with forced air. Hydronic heating uses heated water that travels through the home, heating the space. That water is then cooled by a fan and repurposed to be heated once more.
- Space Heaters: Space heaters take up less space than traditional units. They are typically used to heat individual rooms rather than an entire house. They are energy efficient since, in addition to using natural gas for fuel, they heat smaller spaces.
Natural gas-fired heating systems are highly efficient. Thus, they typically cost much less to operate than oil, and the units are usually much smaller and require less maintenance.
Propane-fired units function similarly, the main difference being that they use an igniter to light the propane. Once ignited, the flame is distributed through the system and sends heat waves throughout the space.
While they shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces because, again, they need to off-gas to the outdoors to avoid CO2 poisoning, the energy efficiency and general functionality of natural gas and propane-fired heat is suitable for most modern homes.
There’s no question about it. You want heating and air conditioning that is comfortable, efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. Our team can help you determine which HVAC option is right for your family and home.
For more information, call us or click here to schedule your complimentary, no-obligation consultation.