With the rising costs of energy, efficiency gained in heating and air conditioning results in money saved. Investigating these options may provide a better HVAC system for your home.
Radiant heat uses a contained loop of water to heat a living area. Simply stated, water is heated in the boiler and pumped through pipelines to a radiator. The radiator is designed to maximize exposure of the heated surface to the air, exchanging heat from the piped water to the room air. As the water cools through the radiator, fresh hot water continues to enter the system and pushes the cooled water into the return loop to the boiler. Radiant heat maintains a steady room temperature and is great for homes with allergy sufferers, as dust is not blown through the home. Unfortunately, radiant heat is not able to quickly adjust room temperature up or down and may only heat a room to a maximum level. Radiant heating systems are unable to carry a central air system because air ducts are not used.
Forced Air Heating
Forced air heat warms air in a central location before distribution throughout the house. Gas, electric, or solar heating elements are used to warm the air. Warm air is pushed into the ductwork by a blower and is distributed throughout the house. Force air systems allow for quick temperature adjustments because the central heating element is precisely controlled. Because forced air is not a closed loop, the furnace will cycle on an off to achieve and maintain temperature settings (radiant heat constantly cycles). Forced air systems easily accommodate a central air conditioning unit.
Central Air Conditioning
Central air conditioning functions in the same manner as a forced air heating unit, only by replacing the heating element with a chiller. Because it emits heat, the chiller is located along the exterior of the house in open view (landscaping and/or a fence easily conceal the unit). After chilling the air, the blower distributes the air through the ductwork. Like forced air heat, a central air unit will cycle on and off as directed by the thermostat. These systems quickly adjust the temperature and humidity of a house to desired levels.
Window Air Conditioning
Depending on climate and housing conditions, a window air conditioner may satisfy cooling needs. Window air conditioners are best suited for single room applications and are sized based on the square footage of the room. Adding fans assist a single window unit in cooling a smaller home. While newer units have programmable thermostats, most window units run continuously to achieve and maintain cooling.
Space heaters supplement a forced air or radiant heating system in removing the chill from an area. Common applications for space heaters are on spring and fall days (when too warm to run the furnace), three season rooms, and outbuildings (garage, shed, etc.). These are not intended as primary heating sources for homes as they are expensive to operate over long periods of time and add a potential safety risk by placing the heating element in the living area. Electric space heaters are manufactured to provide either radiant or forced air heat. Propane and kerosene heaters are acceptable for use in well ventilated areas.