There are several types of heating systems that may range from simply blowing hot air through air ducts or built-in systems in your home or building.
- Forced Air System. A Forced Air System is the cheapest and the most common type of heating system used not just for heating, but for cooling homes and establishments. Air is heated in gas furnaces and distributed to various rooms through air ducts. Oil, electricity, propane or natural gas is its source of fuel to generate heat. This system can be used for heating and cooling as well.
- Geothermal Heat Pump. The most technologically advanced heating system introduced in the market is the Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP). A ground loop geothermal system is used to source and store natural heat that is later distributed for heating or cooling. Like new solar energy technologies introduced, installation of a GHP is expensive but in the long run, you gain huge savings on the costs of maintaining a heating and cooling system.
- Radiant Heating System. The most comfortable and considered natural type of heating system is the Radiant Heating System. Heat is distributed through hot water tubing embedded directly under the floor surface or inside the floor structure. For the ceiling, radiant panels are installed. Heat is also distributed through cookers or heating stoves. Energy saving heaters and boilers the use wood or coal can be used to heat water. It is quite expensive to install but is safe. Heating may be slow, but once warmed up, the temperature becomes stable. Some eco-friendly homes have even integrated solar energy technology with their installed heating system.
- Hot Water Baseboard System. The Hot Water Baseboard System or the Hydronic System uses convection and radiation to heat a room. Boilers are used to heat hot water that flows into "fin-tube" baseboards mounted in the walls. This system is considered the most energy efficient and comfortable.
- Steam Radiant Heating System. The oldest heating system that is rarely used today is the Steam Radiant Heating System with cast iron upright steam radiators. Heat is distributed from steam boilers connected with radiator units, and steam piping.
Steam radiator heating systems, hydronic baseboards or radiant heating systems all use boilers to produce hot water or steam. They are energy efficient and use electricity, oil, propane or natural gas as a fuel source. There are two types of boilers commonly used, the hot water boilers that are compact, small, low maintenance and energy efficient; and the steam boilers that have pressure gauges, a special gauge glass, automatic feeds and blow off valves as part of the complete system.
Whatever type of heating system you choose to purchase and install, make sure it suits your needs. Consider the following in making your choice:
- The availability of the energy or fuel source and its cost.
- How heat will be distributed in the location and the types of equipment needed to convert fuel to heat.
- The cost to install, maintain and purchase the complete heating system.
- The proven level of efficiency in heat delivery.
- The impact on the environment when heating fuel to use the system.
With the introduction of solar energy technologies, soon heating systems that use gas furnaces, heaters, cookers and boilers may be a thing of the past. Most, if not all heating and cooling systems, will use more sophisticated and complex gadgets and appliances to generate heat or cool the living or working space.