Furnaces aren’t the only way of heating a house. There are loads of alternatives like heat pumps, boilers and different kinds of furnaces to choose from.
So while you need to have it replaced anyway, now is a perfect time to think of the benefits and drawbacks of the other heating methods you could choose from. Let’s take a look at some!
Furnace replacement Denver: What’s so great about furnaces?
Furnaces work by blowing hot air strategically around the house. They can be powered either by natural gas, another kind of fuel, or electricity. It’s based on the most basic concept of heating: burning things!
The natural gas or fuel that furnaces use is mixed with air and burned, which produces the hot air that heats your home. Older furnaces use wood or coal, but these have become more uncommon, especially in urban areas. The trick is that rather than just producing heat for the air around them, furnaces produce heat for the whole home, by piping hot air around the house through ducts in the walls. The air is transported using energy-efficient pipes, clad in material that keeps the heat inside.
Furnaces are common because they’re very cheap to run, especially when they run on electricity. The fact that they’re common also means that they’re cheaper and easier to repair than the alternatives. So if your furnace has broken down, it might be a good option simply to have a replacement of the same kind!
Furnace replacement Denver: What are heat pumps?
Heat pumps are an amazingly efficient way of heating your home. They don’t work in the same way as furnaces: nothing gets burned, or consumed, as fuel. The only fuel needed to run a heat pump is plain old mains electricity. So how do they work?
Heat pumps are basically the same as air conditioning units, but in reverse. They use the same components- compressors, condensers and so on- but the system runs backwards. So instead of taking heat out of the air indoors, and sending it outdoors, a heat pump takes heat from the air outdoors, and brings it indoors. We’ve covered exactly how air conditioning units (and therefore heat pumps) work here, so we won’t go into too much more detail. But in basic terms, heat pumps pipe refrigerant gas around a closed circuit, and use pressure to change its temperature. The evaporation and condensation of the refrigerant transfer energy from the inside, out (or the outside, in).
Heat pumps are brilliantly efficient. When you burn fuel, typically some of the energy is ‘wasted’ as light. The same goes the other way round, which is why old fashioned light bulbs are called inefficient. An incredible 90% of their energy goes into creating heat, not light. Heat pumps are remarkably efficient: believe it or not, when you put 1 kilowatt of energy into a heat pump, it actually generates 3 kilowatts of heat. That gives heat pumps a Coefficient of Performance (or CoP) of 3. If you’re interested in saving money on your heating, heat pumps are a great replacement for furnaces, so long as you have the space.
Furnace replacement Denver: What are boilers?
Boilers are essentially a different kind of furnace. But rather than hot air being pumped around the home, boilers use hot water and steam. That’s why boilers are referred to as a hydronic heating system- they use water. Obviously the water isn’t piped through the ducts into your rooms, flooding them, because the system is closed. But the water is piped through radiators, which gradually get hot as the water warms them. Radiators hold onto their heat for a long time, providing a great source of warmth around the home.
Boilers keep the air in your home healthier than furnaces, which can be dangerous if run on gas. They’re common enough that the vast majority of HVAC repair companies can fix one for you. They’re a lot smaller, so you can save space in your basement or under the stairs, but that isn’t a great trade-off considering their disadvantages. Crucially, the main problem with boilers is that they’re typically more expensive than the alternatives. They’re more common in Europe, the United Kingdom being an example.
Furnace replacement Denver: Are there any other kinds of heating system?
The vast majority of heating systems in the United States are either heat pumps or furnaces. The rest are generally boilers and other similar systems. But there are a few other methods of heating your home, some of which are even more efficient and even more environmentally friendly.
Solar air heat collection, or solar energy generally, is a great way of heating your home without resorting to use fossil fuels. The former works by heating up the air, not through condensation and evaporation like air conditioning, but by the warmth of the sunlight itself! While the sun is shining, and the sunlight falls on your collector, it holds onto the heat throughout the day. Air is then drawn in through the collector, and warmed before it enters your home. Solar energy, collected through more familiar solar panels, can also be used to power generators, boilers and furnaces.
Furnace replacement Denver: Which should you choose?
The kind of heating system you choose depends on your circumstances. If you live in a tiny apartment, a boiler might be a good choice, because it saves space. If you’re looking to heat the whole home, a furnace or a heat pump might be a good option. They’re cheaper to repair too.
If you’re looking for maximum efficiency and savings, green alternatives like solar air heat collection rank high. The only problem is that you might struggle to find a local firm that can fix them for you if anything goes wrong. So have a think: what matters most to you?