With the climbing cost of home heating fuels, people across the Northeast have been looking for ways to make their homes more efficient during the winter. In addition, many are looking for cleaner alternatives to burning fossil fuels and have begun exploring green energy technologies for powering and heating their homes.
Skillings & Sons has been drilling and installing geothermal systems for nearly 30 years, and have learned this source of energy can be efficient, clean and cost-effective. Below, we take a look at the different kind of heating systems and how to decide which one is right for you.
Types of Heating Systems
There are two basic types of systems for heating buildings, combustion-based systems, which require burning a fuel, like heating oil or natural gas, and heat transfer systems, which capture and concentrate heat from another source, like the ground or the air outside the home.
Most central heating systems today are combustion-based, and typically use a furnace or a boiler to generate heat to disperse throughout the home. However, it is becoming more common for homeowners and builders to choose non-combustion systems that transfer heat from one location to another.
Heat Transfer Systems
Heat exchange system can either be air-source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps. Air-source heat pumps operate by capturing heat from outdoor air and transferring it inside the building while geothermal systems capture and transfer heat from the earth. Nearly all heat transfer systems can be reversed to provide central air conditioning in the summer months, and some can even be designed to provide the home’s hot water.
Geothermal Heat Pump Systems
A geothermal system requires a small well drilled into the ground and pipes installed to circulate water – either in sealed pipes or drawn from within the ground – into the home and the heat pump system. The water or water solution circulates underground, absorbing heat from the earth. The heat pump exchanger takes that warmth and brings it into the home heating system. The exchange system inside concentrates the earth’s thermal energy to transfer it into warm air circulated through standard ductwork.
Because heat pumps run on electricity, and very little at that, the homeowner will no longer need to purchase fuel for the heating season. It also reduces the amount of pollution the home emits since there are no gasses or particulates being released into the air. Nearly all geothermal systems can also provide low-cost domestic hot water, making these systems generally 2.5 to 4 or more times more efficient than resistance heating and water heating alone.
How to compare heating systems?
Homeowners typically look at installation costs, maintenance costs, price of fuel and efficiency when looking for a replacement heating system. More and more, people are also looking at carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions as well. We suggest looking at the overall cost of the unit over the life of the system, or how long you plan to be in the home. Factor in the cost of the unit and installation, as well as an estimated cost of fuel. Fuel combustion units require carbon monoxide detectors and regular maintenance to ensure they are operating safely, so factor in those costs as well. Then add in any other considerations you may have, such as the impact on the environment. Depending on your personal views, this may carry more weight for some than others. If you are particularly sensitive to dry air in the winter, this may be another reason to choose a geothermal heating system, which is known to have a far less drying effect on a home than combustion units.