Gas, Oil, Electric - What's Best for Heat?

Real Estate

Most homes have a furnace located somewhere in their basement. For apartments it works a bit differently and for homes with no basements - the furnace could be in the attic. Larger homes normally have two or more zones of heat/ac. The controlling units may be located in both the basement and the attic. With electric baseboard - there is no furnace at all! So many sources for heat exist: natural gas from a pipeline in the street, propane gas from a tank that may be buried underground, oil, like propane must be delivered. Geothermal heat works with a series of wells pulling heat from the earth. Electric heatpumps use just electricity to spark your heatsource.

So how exactly do these heating and cooling units work?


~ Reprinted from, by LINDSAY LISTANSKI

Heating- There are three components to a typical heating system: a heat source, distribution system, and the controls (the thermostat on the wall).

Most homes rely on a furnace, a boiler or a heat pump as the heat source.

Furnaces heat air and then circulate the warm air through a system of ducts. The heat is delivered to the living area through registers that are attached to the ducts. This type of system is called a forced-air system.

Boilers heat water and then circulate either the warm water or steam through pipes. Radiators and baseboard heaters supply the heat to the rooms.

Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling by transferring hot and cold air between the inside and outside of a building. (see A Primer on Heat Pumps below)

Air Conditioning- All air conditioners, as well as all types of refrigeration, work the same way—they take heat from one area and move it to another area.

In a central air conditioning system, a fan draws air through ducts to an evaporator coil that removes heat and moisture from the air. The cool air is then blown back into the room. The original heat is transferred to a refrigerant that flows to an outdoor unit that contains a compressor and a condenser, which releases the heat into the outside air. Window air conditioners work the same way, except that everything is contained in one cabinet.

Central air conditioners typically use the same ducts used by a forced-air heating system, but they can also be standalone units that rely on their own system of ductwork. Ductless air conditioners are also available. 

The Controls: Both heating and cooling systems are controlled by a thermostat that is located somewhere in the living area. A basic thermostat has one temperature setting, but programmable models let you set a variety of temperature settings based on the time of day. This allows you to reduce the need for heating or cooling when you’re not home, so you don’t waste your money or energy resources heating and cooling empty space. Some models, like the Nest, learn your daily schedule and automatically update the temperature accordingly. Programmable thermostats help you manage your energy usage and could save you money, including through energy rebates offered by utilities. Check with your local provider to see if they offer discounts and rebates to customers using energy-saving HVAC components like programmable thermostats.


Need more info on heating? Call us at 717-379-4479.