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How to Choose the Right Type of Home Heating System in Louisville, KY

how to choose

Selecting home heating systems for residences in the Louisville area can puzzle many homeowners, as there are many heating system choices available. The most common are central forced air systems such as a natural gas furnace or heat pump systems that are electric heaters such as geothermal heat pumps and air source heat pumps, but they certainly aren’t your only option! Types of heating systems that may be appropriate for use in your home may include boiler systems that offer radiant heating such as conventional boilers or energy efficient condensing gas fired boilers and oil fired condensing boilers, other hydronic systems such as radiant floor heating and dual hot water systems, hybrid dual fuel heating and cooling systems that double as an air conditioner, ductless heat pumps with zoned heating, and alternative heating systems such as electric space heaters, gas fired space heaters, and pellet stoves.

All the many types of heating systems utilize different equipment and many run using a different fuel source than other models. Some use supply and cold air return ducts to send heated air throughout the house, while others use radiators, baseboard heaters, or piping to deliver radiant heat. Some only produce warm air while others also operate in air conditioning mode.

Choosing heating systems that will function well in your home and work for your household can be a challenge. Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling offers the details on various heating units, straight from our NATE-certified heating and cooling professionals, so you know you’re getting accurate information. Read about the different options, how they work, and how they compare in terms of energy efficiency, affordability, and application.

Central Furnace Heating System Options

Most homes in Louisville and throughout the U.S. get their hot air from furnaces. These systems are forced air systems that deliver heated air through ducts. The central furnace will generate heat by combusting fuel and using a metal heat exchanger to raise the temperature of circulating air. Atmospheric and sealed combustion air furnaces exist, with sealed models pulling in fresh, outdoor air at all times while atmospheric models intake air from the home for combustion – sealed combustion air models are generally considered safer and are more energy efficient due to their sealed combustion chamber.

A modern central furnace utilizes a properly pressurized system for the distribution of warm air through the ducts and home. In the past, gravity air furnaces were common – a gravity air furnace relies on gravity and heat rising for distribution. Gravity air furnaces may still be in use in some older homes throughout the area but upgrading to modern forced air systems is advisable thanks to their improved efficiency and smaller footprint.

Natural gas furnaces are the most commonly used type of furnace heating system, though models that burn fuel oil or liquid propane and electric heaters are available. The energy efficiency of a furnace is measured by the unit’s annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) – a gas furnace can offer an AFUE up to 98% for the most energy efficient models while the electric heaters can be up to 100% energy efficient. Even so, most homeowners opt for gas furnaces as they produce lower energy bills, because the price of natural gas is typically lower than both electricity and heating oil.

Heating Systems Using Heat Pumps

A heat pump is used in types of home heating systems that transfer heat instead of generate heat through combustion. A heat pump moves heat from one source to another – two types of heat pumps are commonly used in homes, air source and geothermal.

Heat pumps are most often configured as central forced air systems, using ducts to distribute warm air. They are split systems that utilize a separate heat pump unit and indoor air handler. The heating method used in this heating system also allows this equipment to double as air conditioning systems, so a heat pump can also act as a home’s air conditioner as well as the heater. All heat pumps are electric heaters and certain systems may be configured for active solar heating as well as passive solar heating.

Because they transfer heat and don’t burn a fuel source, these heating systems are highly energy efficient – moreso than all heating systems that burn fuel. When operating as an air conditioning unit, their efficiency is similar to a conventional air conditioner.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are more common in homes as they are more affordable and less complex to install. This split forced air system is composed of an outdoor unit and air handler installed inside the home. Heat is moved between the indoor air and outdoor air, depending on whether heating or air conditioning is needed.

Ductless Heat Pumps

Ductless heat pumps are types of air source heat pumps that do not use ducts to send warm air across a home. Also called mini split heat pumps, these are split forced air systems composed of one small outdoor compressor unit that can connect to multiple indoor air handlers. Instead of utilizing one central air handler, many indoor air handlers are installed directly within living areas and are controlled separately. As a result of this configuration, zoned heating and great energy efficiency are standard. The lack of ductwork also produces better indoor air quality than other forced air systems.

Ductless heat pumps are often chosen for their extreme flexibility. With no need for ducts, these heating systems can be installed in homes that either don’t have ducts or cannot have ducts installed for space or budgetary reasons. They can be set up to provide heat across the entire home or just one area – they are commonly installed in new home additions that are not connected to a home’s central forced air system.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Also called geothermal heat pumps, ground source heat pumps move heat between the Earth and the home’s air. These heating systems utilize an extra component called the ground loop that absorbs heat energy from the Earth and circulates it to the heat pump, installed indoors, which serves as a heat exchanger between the sources and an air handler circulates heated air. Ground source heat pumps are commonly used in central forced air systems for whole home heating but can be configured for hydronic heating system use and radiant heat.

Ground source heat pumps offer the most energy efficient heating available, producing as much as 5 times more heat energy than electric energy consumed by the heating units. Geothermal systems can be set up as heating systems as well as hot water systems, providing for the household’s hot water needs as well. Due to the ground loop, these heating systems are typically very expensive to install but they do offer long service life and extremely low energy bills.

Boilers

Boilers are a type of heating system that heat water, and the resulting hot water or steam is used for radiant heating throughout the house. Boiler systems are most often hydronic systems and pipe hot water through pipes and radiators or baseboard heaters installed across the home. The radiant heat these heating systems offer doesn’t result in heated air; rather, they give off heat to warm people and things in the space. They offer great air quality as these heating systems don’t circulate air and its pollutants throughout the house.

Heating systems using boiler heating units run off natural gas, fuel oil, liquid propane, or electricity in some models. In the past, boilers were often wood burning or powered by coal. High efficiency models include condensing gas fired boilers and oil fired condensing boilers, which offer an AFUE starting at 90% whereas conventional boilers start at 80% AFUE. If you already have boiler heating, installing a new boiler may be the right heating system choice for your home – the pipes and radiators are expensive to install but are long-lasting, so replacing a boiler in an existing system is far more affordable than installing an entirely new boiler heating system.

Radiant Floor Heating

Additional hydronic systems include radiant floor heating systems. These types of home heating systems are installed within the floor, in new construction as well as existing homes. A boiler or water heater that is powered by electricity, natural gas, or fuel oil generates hot water, and hot water is circulated through a system of pipes installed inside the home’s floors. This home heating system produces radiant heat and doesn’t heat the air.

The hydronic option for this home heating system is typically chosen for larger heating needs like whole home heating. Electric heaters can be installed within the flooring or walls of a home to produce radiant heat, but these heating units are typically used for small space heating applications.

Alternative Home Heating Systems

  • Hybrid dual fuel home heating systems combine two types of heating systems, each using a separate fuel source. Often a natural gas furnace is used alongside an electric air source heat pump. These systems are forced air, central heating systems that are split or packaged. The combination of two types of heating systems allows the home to be heated using the most energy efficient fuel source depending on the current conditions and outdoor temperature. With a heat pump, they can be used as heating and cooling systems.
  • Space heaters can be used as temporary or permanent heating systems, most often in smaller spaces. Electric space heaters are typically portable and models are available offering various heating methods, such as radiant heat or convection heat. An electric space heater is typically considered safer to use than a gas fired space heater. Gas fired space heaters using natural gas, propane, or kerosene are often used to heat larger spaces and may be installed permanently or temporarily, depending on the model. Vented models include a flue to vent combustion gases outdoors while unvented gas fired heaters do not. Unvented gas fired heaters are considered more portable but are not well suited for all uses.
  • Pellet stoves are a newer alternative to wood burning stove heating systems. They burn pellets made of renewable resources as a fuel source to generate enough warm air for a smaller area and are often used to combat cold air in parts of a home that need supplemental heat.

Heating Systems for Louisville Homes

Choosing a heating system may be a tough choice if you aren’t familiar with your options. Work with Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling to learn about the many types of home heating systems and find the right solution for your needs. Contact us today to request an appointment.

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