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Furnaces and Whole House Heaters

Although some homes still use a fireplace to heat them, most modern homes rely on "whole house" systems that can be controlled by a thermostat. The following provides basic information on your options.

Heat Source

There are three modern choices for the source of your heat:
  • electricity - electric heat is the simplest and cleanest form of heating as it does not need refueling, is not combustible, and warms without burning. Two common methods are using heating coils or a heat pump. However, electric heat is not as efficient as gas and oil and so is more expensive to operate
  • gas - natural gas is available in most urban and suburban areas. It's advantages include clean burning and continuous supply (via a pipe). It's down side is the rare potential for gas leaks that could lead to an explosion
  • oil - heating oil has the advantage of portability (no need for a pipe running from the energy company to your house) and low flammability. Its down side is the soot produced during combustion and the need to store and refill the oil tanks on your property.

Heat Circulation

There are three choices for how the heat is circulated around the house:
  • forced air - a fan circulates heated air through ducts to the various rooms of the house. Forced air systems tend to remove humidity as well and so may require a humidifier. Also, the air should be filtered to prevent circulating dust and dirt; this furnace filter can also be used to clean the air in your home
  • radiator - hot water or steam is circulated through pipes (which take less room) to radiators (which take more room than a vent and can become extremely hot in steam systems). Optionally, a fan can then circulate the room's air past the radiator's coils
  • floor/wall systems - some homes use hot water

    piping or small electric heating coils embedded in walls and floors to warm the house without the intrusion of blowing air or visible radiators. However, while such systems can provide a cozy house, they deliver their heat slowly and so cannot quickly heat a cold house.

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