Understanding Electric Heat Sources

Electric heaters are electrical devices that convert electrical current into heat. They work similarly to a hair dryer, drawing air into the system and through a heat exchanger. The electric heating elements then heat the air, which is then pushed into the ducts of your home by a blower. Depending on where you live in North America, you may need some type of heating to keep your home comfortable.

From Houston to Dallas, most homes have an oven, but not all regions favor the same type of heating system. Natural gas or propane is favored in most parts of the Midwest, while many northern cities still have boilers and radiators. To help customers save money by understanding how they use energy, we've put together this basic guide to the different types of home heating systems. There are two main types of heating systems: forced air and radiant air. Forced air systems use a blower or fan to draw air into the system, where it heats up and circulates throughout the house.

They can be loud and require routine air cleaner changes to work well, but they tend to heat homes quickly. A forced air system consists of return air ducts, a blower, a heating or cooling unit with heat exchangers housed within the air handler cabinet, a chamber where air exits the air from the air handler, and a network of supply ducts. Radiant systems rely on convection to move heated air through the house. The heated air rises and is replaced by cooler air, which heats up and rises, etc. Because these systems operate passively, they tend to heat rooms slowly and don't filter dust or allergens from the air.

However, they are usually inexpensive to purchase, install and maintain. Electric resistance heating is 100% energy efficient because all electricity is converted to heat. The heating elements of an electric oven are in direct contact with air, so the air heats up very quickly. This makes them very efficient but costly to operate during prolonged cold climates. Installation costs for these systems vary significantly depending on the circumstances. Electric resistance, natural gas and propane systems are often the most affordable option in new construction and in homes with existing duct networks.

But if you need to install a duct system in an existing house, the cost of the duct network can be several times the cost of the heater itself. Ductless systems may be the cheapest option if only one room is heated, but because a separate system is needed for each heated space, the cost of installation and equipment increases with the number of systems. Airflow is essential for any forced air system, and the filter is usually its bottleneck. All forced air systems have a filter that needs to be replaced or cleaned at a certain time; failure to do so can increase operating costs and increase system wear and tear. Any system with an outdoor condenser installed at ground level (this excludes geothermal heat pumps and ductless systems) requires additional DIY maintenance.

The condenser should be kept free of weeds and debris and should occasionally be cleaned with a soft hose to remove dirt. All other maintenance should be performed by a licensed HVAC professional once a year, ideally before the start of the heating season. This maintenance should be performed every year, no matter how well the system works. Annual maintenance extends system life, optimizes energy efficiency and ensures system safety. Radiant systems operate silently and don't hit occupants with bursts of hot air like forced air systems do. However, they tend to work slower to heat a room compared to forced air systems because they rely on convection to heat the air and circulate it around the room.

Some types of radiant systems work faster than others; they can also be more efficient than forced air systems with duct loss problems. Allergy sufferers may prefer radiant systems because lack of air circulation doesn't cause allergens. However, because these systems circulate water as steam or liquid, radiator systems can be prone to problems such as clogs and leaks. The installation costs of radiant systems tend to be even more difficult to estimate than those of forced air systems; passive solar heating elements are an integral part of home construction and could add anywhere from a few thousand to several tens of thousands of dollars to total construction costs. With boiler-based systems, boiler installation costs range from a few thousand dollars (comparable to electric, gas or propane furnaces) for smaller boilers to five-figure sums for larger boilers. If radiators, hydronic baseboards or floor heating pipes are installed, cost is linked directly to number of units or square feet of floor; therefore cost increases with size of house.

Similarly, cost of installing electric underfloor heating is usually reduced to price per square foot; total cost depends on size of house. In typical home operating costs for these types of heating vary significantly depending on type used; electric resistance tends to be most expensive while natural gas or propane are usually least expensive option in areas where they are available. In addition homeowners should factor in cost associated with maintenance such as filter changes for forced-air systems or cleaning condenser for outdoor units. No matter what type of heating system you have in your home it's important that you understand how it works so you can make informed decisions about how best to use it efficiently while keeping your family comfortable during cold months.

Roberta Burgees
Roberta Burgees

Typical tv lover. Professional tv maven. Avid food advocate. Passionate music advocate. Typical beer buff. General musicaholic.