For centuries, humans have found ingenious ways to heat their homes, probably starting from gathering around a fire at the mouth of a cave. The methods for keeping warm during the cold months has advanced considerably since then and includes geothermal heating, solar heating, forced air, and radiant heating. Here is some information on several types of heating systems.
The theory behind forced air is simple. Warm air is heated and then forced through ducts and up through registers. There are different types of forced air heaters that use different types of fuel to heat the air. These can be gas or propane, oil or electricity.
Most of these heaters come in the form of large boxes found in the basements of houses. They are fitted with air filters, blowers, heat sources, air ducts and plenums. Heaters that serve as coolers in the summers also have refrigerant lines and are called heat pumps. Gas, propane and oil heaters now have light sticks that have taken the place of pilot lights. These save money because, unlike pilot lights which had to stay lit all the time, light sticks only come on when the thermostat asks for more heat. Heaters also have combustion chambers or burners where the fuel mixes with the air to produce flames. Electrical heaters lack both light sticks and combustion chambers, for the air is heated via electrical resistance.
Heat pumps and hydronic coils are also ways to heat the house. Heat pumps work by pulling in air from the outside, warming it and distributing it through the house. It works in the opposite direction when the cooling season arrives. A hydronic system uses both forced air and hot water.
Advances in technology have made these heating systems extremely efficient, and most need only routine maintenance once or twice a year to keep them in top shape. However, a homeowner should be aware of the signs that a heating system needs a tune-up. These include a system that cycles on and off too often, a system that does not deliver enough heat or delivers no heat at all, has a blower that runs all the time or smokes. Squeaks, knocks and rumbles are also signs that the unit needs to be looked at.
Sometimes the problem can be as simple as a thermostat that’s been set too low or a circuit breaker or fuse that’s been turned off. The homeowner should make sure that the heating unit is getting power, then turn on the reset switch most heaters have.
A heating system might not be running because its motor is overheated. The homeowner should oil the motor and reset the system. If the motor doesn’t come on after a couple of tries, it’s time to call a heating repair company in Las Vegas.
Sometimes, problems with the burner are caused because filters or valves are dirty. Valves need to be cleaned and filters need to be replaced. However, if the unit smokes, a professional should be called in.
Gas and oil systems have flues that vent poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide to the outside. If the flue is blocked by debris or a bird’s nest, these need to be cleaned out. A dented flue pipe or a pipe whose joints have come loose also needs to be replaced.
This is heat that comes from coils or pads that are installed beneath the floor or in the walls. The heat source can be water or electricity, and homeowners describe this sort of heat as uniquely sensuous. Radiant heating is silent, considerably more efficient than forced air heating and best of all, usually requires no maintenance after it’s installed. Rarely, something goes wrong with the wiring of an electric radiant heat system, which requires the homeowner to use a tone generator and probe to find the problem beneath the floor. When the broken connection is found, the probe makes a noise. The tile or carpet can then be taken up and the wiring repaired.
Radiators work when water is heated in a boiler and either steam or hot water is then circulated throughout the house. The heat is delivered to the rooms via old-fashioned, upright, coiled radiators or baseboard convectors. The maintenance of these systems is also easy, for water or steam simply needs to flow unimpeded through the pipes. A clogged air vent stops the flow of air or steam, so the vent needs to be cleaned with a wire from time to time or replaced. Hot water radiators also need to be bled at the beginning of the heating season.
Solar heating works through collectors placed on a homeowner’s roof that gather the sun’s energy. This energy is mostly used to heat water, which can be stored in a tank. Right now, the worth of solar energy depends on where the homeowner lives. Solar energy does best in places where there are a lot of cloudless days and a lot of hot sun, like the American southwest. In most other places, solar energy still has to have supplemental heating.
This heating system works on the premise that the ground always stays at a constant temperature, both in summer and winter. With this system, pipes are buried in the ground near the house and bring warm air inside during the cold months and vent warm air during the hotter months. The pipes can also be laid in nearby bodies of water. Geothermal heat also works best in a mild climate.
Problems with the boilers may also be due to power being shut off or thermostats being set too low. A boiler that doesn’t give enough heat may not have enough water or be clogged with mineral deposits. Flushing the boiler might help, but if it doesn’t, an HVAC professional should be called.
Radiators also need to be pitched just slightly toward the return pipes to make sure that water doesn’t accumulate inside the coils. Sometimes all that’s needed for this is a wooden shim placed under the radiator’s foot.