How Heating Works in a House


Types and Operations of Heating Systems Including the Pros and Cons

How Your Home’s Electrical System Works

Shopping around for the right heating system can be a strenuous process, especially for us Iowans, since heating our homes is so important, especially in the brutally cold winter months.

Just like we have the ability to customize our homes to fit our needs, we also have the ability to select the type of heating for our home. What works for one home might not work for every home, though, weighing out all of the pros and cons will help you in your search.

Here’s a brief primer on how heating works in general and what you can expect when finding the right heating solution for your home.

How Your Home’s Electrical System Works

There are two different types of heating systems. Forced air systems pull in air from your home, and then use a blower fan to release the hot air back into your home. Radiant systems use convection and/or radiation from the environment to deliver heat into your home.

Type of Forced Air Systems

  • Electric resistance heating
  • Natural gas/propane systems
  • Heat pumps
  • Ductless heat pump / AC systems (aka “split system”)

Types of Radiant Systems

  • Boiler-based systems
  • Radiant floor heat
  • Passive solar

What are the different types of heating elements?

Propane, heating oil, electricity, natural gas, and wood pellets.

What heating operations are available for homes?

  • Furnaces: use forced air to distribute heat throughout the house
  • Boilers: use heated water to distribute heat throughout the house
  • Heat pumps: use outside air to distribute heat throughout the house

Now, let’s take a look at the advantages versus disadvantages for each heating operation.

Type Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • Life expectancy of 15-30 years
  • Provides cooling as well energy efficient
  • Tend to be noisy at times
  • Life expectancy of 15-30 years
  • Energy efficient
  • Less variation in temperature
  • On the more expensive side
  • Only provides heat
Heat Pumps
  • Very energy efficient
  • Provides cooling as well
  • Easy installation
  • If the temperature is freezing, they cannot perform as well
  • Expensive installation

How does heating work?

Let’s start off with a quick refresher on how heat moves. Heat moves up due to its lower density, while cool air moves down due to its higher density. Heat transfers through convection, conduction, and radiation. In other words, heat doesn’t stay put. We all notice when heat moves from something hot to something cold: for example a cup of coffee sitting out.

The second law of thermodynamics means that heat moves to cold. Another way to look at this is your home and the temperature outside. We’ve all heard that if it’s cold outside, we turn our heater on, and crack open a window, that we might not be very excited when our bill arrives in the mail. This is due to the heat being drawn to the cold weather, causing your home to experience “heat loss.”

Regardless of your home’s primary heating appliance, the goal – heating your home – and how it achieves that goal is relatively similar. Since furnaces tend to be the primary source of heating for Iowa homes, we’ve used that as our example.

Related Topic: What Is the Difference Between Boilers and Furnaces?

Let’s take a “behind the scenes” look at our home’s heating process:

  1. The burner delivers and burns the fuel of choice
  2. The fuel then passes through the heat exchanger
  3. Cool air from your home flows across the heat exchanger to become warm air
  4. Once warmed, the air then flowers through a system of ducts to distribute around your household

Is your heating system up to the task?

Service Legends offers a 36-point heating and furnace inspection and tune-up to assure your system is in optimal condition. Our heating experts provide residential furnace repair services, including complete central-heating safety check and HVAC system inspection.

Call the Service Legends local heating contractors at 515-657-6634 and schedule your 36-point furnace inspection & tune-up. Book your furnace repair, inspection, replacement, or maintenance today.

515-657-6634Request Appointment Online

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