Frequently Asked Questions About Residential Heating & Cooling
From large houses and condos to mobile homes and tiny cottages, virtually every home in America uses some form of heating and cooling system. But despite how commonplace they are, the ins and outs of heating and cooling systems are a mystery to most people. After all, unless there’s a problem, there’s not much reason to give them much thought.
But this means that many homeowners are in the dark about how to take care of their systems or when to replace them. So this article will answer a few of the most common questions homeowners have about the many heating and cooling systems used today.
What Are the Different Types of Central Heating Systems?
There are three main kinds of central heating systems used in homes - heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers. Heat pump systems feature two separate units - one indoors and one outdoors - that draw heat energy from one area and transfer it to another. For instance, in ‘heat’ mode, a heat pump will absorb thermal energy from the outdoor air and distribute it through the home’s air duct system. One nice thing about heat pumps is that they serve both the heating and cooling needs of the home simply by reversing the process.
Furnaces, on the other hand, can use the same ductwork used by the cooling system but are only designed for heating. Furnaces use electricity, natural gas, or oil to produce heat which is then pumped by a blower fan through the air ducts. While typically not as efficient as heat pumps, furnaces are generally the superior option in extremely cold climates.
Boilers differ from the other two in that they don’t use air ducts to deliver heat throughout the home. Instead, the boiler unit heats water using either gas or electricity, then pumps it through a circuitous network of pipes to several radiators, baseboard heaters, or floor heaters installed throughout the home, which radiate the water’s heat into the surrounding space. This is called radiant heating. While less common, this is a highly energy-efficient heating method that allows for excellent zone control in individual rooms.
What Are the Options for Ductless Heating?
Ductless mini-splits use heat pump technology, with one unit inside and one outside to heat a space. But instead of distributing air through ducts, the indoor unit delivers it directly to the room in which it’s installed. Each room will have its own unit, which can mean a fairly hefty upfront cost - especially for a larger home - but the increased efficiency and precise zone control are well worth it for many homeowners.
Window-mounted heater units operate by the same principles as heat pumps, but the whole system is contained in one unit. Since they’re not quite as powerful as mini-split systems, these are usually better suited to very small homes, guest houses, or individual rooms such as insulated garages.
How Often Should Heaters Be Serviced?
As a general rule, heating systems should ideally be serviced every six months. Heater maintenance should be performed in the early fall to get the unit ready for winter. This applies regardless of what kind of unit or system the home uses.
Routine heater service generally involves cleaning the unit and its components, testing the safety mechanisms and electrical systems for proper function, lubricating mechanical components, checking for anomalies or performance issues, calibrating the thermostat, and giving the whole system a general tune-up. Though it often gets put off or overlooked, professional maintenance is the key to ensuring peak efficiency, catching potential problems early, and extending the life of the unit.
About Gene Johnson Plumbing & Heating
The family-owned and operated Gene Johnson Plumbing & Heating has been Seattle’s trusted heating service company since 1976. Their transparent, competitive pricing, outstanding service, community involvement, and unbeatable guarantees have earned them numerous awards and thousands of happy customers. They offer membership perks and 24/7 emergency service, so there’s no one better to call for heater services in Seattle, WA!