A wide range of heating systems and heating equipment is available today, with options ranging from fireplaces and wood heaters to portable heaters and furnaces. The most significant difference between these systems is the way the heat is delivered and the type of fuel used to produce heat.
In times past, the fireplace was the heart of the home. The fireplace was traditionally used to cook meals and keep the home warm, and wood was the only option to fuel the fire. Fireplaces were supplemented with hot water bottles, or a hot brick, placed at the foot of the bed to maintain warmth overnight. Today, the fireplace is often used as a supplemental heat source.
Modern fireplaces are often fueled by propane, natural gas or electric, but some homeowners rely on wood for an authentic, cozy warmth. Wood heaters are a spin-off of the traditional fireplace. Modern wood heaters are very energy-efficient, and are clean burning when compared to older models. A fireplace or wood heater is very useful in regions with snowy winters, as no electricity is needed to produce heat.
Electric and gas, whether natural gas or propane, are among the most popular heating methods in homes today. The heat is controlled with a thermostat, which is located inside the home. The types of furnaces available include the following:
- Electric furnaces, or HVAC units, pump heated air into the home through a system of ducts. This system is very convenient, as it typically warms the home with little effort from the homeowner.
- Wood-powered furnaces are a less common option than electric furnaces. Heat is produced by burning wood in an outdoor furnace, and the heat is pumped through the ducts with electric. This option does require more work since the furnace must be filled with wood at least once daily.
- Oil furnaces are often used in very cold climates and in older homes. Oil furnaces are as effective as gas or electric, but do require slightly more work to use, as oil is pumped into the system on an as-needed basis throughout the winter. The cost of fuel for an oil-based system is much higher than either electric or gas.
Boilers are also very traditional when compared to modern furnaces. Boilers work by heating water into steam, producing heated air. The heated air is directed into pipes, and the heated pipes produce warmth in the home.
Propane heaters include furnaces, which heat the home in the same manner as electric furnaces, and wall-mounted heaters. Wall-mounted propane heaters are typically attached to a propane tank, which is filled as-needed during the winter. You can easily add a wall-mounted heater to rooms in your home that aren’t connected to the furnace.
Portable heaters, or space heaters, are an efficient option when heating a small space. Portable heaters are also used to supplement the home’s main heating system. A wide range of portable heaters are available, including oil-circulating and ceramic heaters. Portable heaters are efficient when the home is well-insulated, and can operate using a very small amount of electricity.
Some types of space heaters increase the risk of fire, especially when the space heater is used improperly. Closed heaters, such as radiators or oil-circulating space heaters, are often considered a safer option than other types of electric heaters.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Heating in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.