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What To Consider When Buying A Residential Heating System

Oct 10, 2007
Selecting a new home heating system for your home is an important decision. There are many factors to consider, such as the age, size and layout of your home, its overall energy efficiency, location, budget, and even your lifestyle. Do you want an integrated system that addresses your heating, air conditioning and air quality needs together? Or are you simply replacing or adding a new system?

Other questions include: What are the tradeoffs between up front installation costs versus energy costs over the life of the system? Is it worth spending a little more now to save you a lot more money over time? How will your purchase affect the resale value of your home? What can you expect in terms of guarantees, warranties and ongoing service?

Here are a few guidelines that we hope will be helpful.

New Construction or Remodel

If you're building a new home or undertaking a major residential remodel, look to have a system custom designed to integrate your heating, cooling and indoor air quality systems. The architect and engineer on your project should give you a wide range of options and explain the pluses and minuses of each. The relative economy of forced air versus radiant heat may vary with energy costs.

The different types of heating systems to choose from include:

Forced Air

These types of furnaces provide your home with even heat by circulating it throughout your home through ducts. This circulating system is also known as forced air.

When purchasing these kinds of heating systems, be sure to request "sealed combustion." These furnaces use outside air to burn the fuel. Not only does this increase energy efficiency, but it also reduces the possibility of introducing dangerous gasses into your home.


A Boiler typically heats your home by circulating heated steam or water through a series of pipes and a baseboard or radiator-type heat exchanger. Unlike a forced air furnace, a boiler does not circulate air through the house, which might make the air inside the home feel dryer and stuffier.

With rooms with vaulted ceilings, radiant floor heat is more efficient and provides a warmer and more comfortable area than forced air heat. The heat remains on the floor where it can be felt underneath all kinds of floor cover.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are an energy-efficient way of heating (and cooling) your home. In places where gas is unavailable or electricity makes the most economic sense, heat pumps are your best option.

Electric Resistance

Electric resistance heating, typically found in the form of baseboard heaters, electric wall heaters, electric radiant heat, electric space heaters, electric furnaces, or electric thermal storage systems is often used in multi-family dwellings. The unit has an electric heating element enclosed in metal piping. The heating unit warms air, which rises to the top of the room while cooler air in the room is drawn into the bottom of the heater. Each unit has its own thermostat, which permits different temperatures in each room.

Cost Considerations

A new heating system can cost several thousand dollars. In considering what system is right for your needs, you need to decide on a fuel type, cost, a reliable contractor, and a sufficient warranty. It may be a good idea to ask a reputable contractor to evaluate your heating and cooling needs, particularly if your system is more than 10 years old.

To help decide the best heating system for you, check out The Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings. This guide allows you to calculate economical savings and energy efficiency that will accompanies various systems.
About the Author
For more heating tips and information, visit Wolfe Plumbing - serving the heating needs of Orange County, NY, including Newburgh and Middletown.
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