To heat our homes in the winter we need fuel efficient systems capable of combating winter storms and low temperatures. Fuel in the form of electricity, gas, oil or coal is consumed providing heat. Some heating systems utilize radiant heat. A fire place, wood stove or the classic steam radiator are a couple of examples of radiant heating. They radiate heat from a single source and do not incorporate any means to circulate air depending on external resources to circulate the heat throughout the room. Radiant heat systems are usually restricted to a single room.
Types of Heating Systems
Modern forced air systems provide efficient temperature control to all rooms in the typical home. Forced air systems incorporating a fan/blower system to circulate temperature controlled air through the house provide for an even and comfortable home environment. Warmth is provided by heat pumps and emergency heating elements and requires electricity to operate. Other heat sources are electrical furnaces, natural gas, oil and hydronic coils. Hydronic coils depend on a source of hot water, either a boiler or a geothermal source. Coal and oil have fallen into disfavor for ecological reasons and most heating depends of electrical power or natural gas. If you are in a high sunshine location, solar energy can provide cheap electrical power. These sources are problematical in the winter and are compromised by a high incident of clouds and other atmospheric conditions. Heat pumps gobble up heat from the outside and “pump” it into interior to be circulated by the fan and blower system. This involves an evaporation and condensation cycle which is the conversion of vapor to liquid. The media used for this is a refrigerant commonly known as Freon. Before Freon, ammonia was used. It is fairly efficient, but consumes electrical power. Any conversion heat system is less efficient than direct production through the consumption of fossil fuels.
Indoor Air Comfort & Air Filtration
Many are unaware of the second requirement of air systems. Filtration, modern air filtration must conform to MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) standards. The higher the MERV rating, the finer the filtration media is and can trap smaller particles. The fewer the airborne contaminants; the healthier the air is in the home. Filtration must be balanced with the airflow requirements of the system. The finer the filter media is, the more it restricts air flow. You need to increase the area of the filter to compensate, providing the needed air flow. This means larger or multiple filters. Not a real problem in newly built homes, but in older systems you might have to stick to courser filter media.
Importance of Changing Air Filters
Allergy sufferers require the finest media practicable. Pollen, dust, lint, dust mites, dander both human and pets, mold spores, and on and on. These pollutants need to be removed from your environment, to provide for healthy air in the home. Some fine media can even filter out bacteria and viruses slowing or stopping the spread of disease and sickness in the home. Forced air provides low maintenance and fuel efficient heating and cooling systems, but do require a somewhat rigid filter change regimen.