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We’ve already had some chilly nights in the Lexington, Kentucky, area this fall. Whether you’ve turned your heat on or not, it’s important to understand the basics of what it takes to stay warm. From heater type to fuel type to energy efficiency, heating systems can be complex.

Heating System Basics

Every heating system moves warm air to replace cold air. To do so, they need something that creates heat. In other words, they need fuel. Once the heat is generated, it’s transferred from the source to the air via a heat exchanger. A distribution system moves the heated air throughout the house. The unit produces heat based on the temperature set on the thermostat.

Heating Fuels

Heating costs money, and lots of it. A big chunk of winter utility costs comes from heating your home. Exactly how much depends on your heat source and how well your system functions.

Natural gas, propane, and heating oil provide heat sources for most furnaces. Electricity can fuel furnaces or electric baseboard units, but its increasing cost over recent years has caused many homeowners to shy away from electric-only systems.

Heat Distribution Systems

Heated Air

Warm air units fire when the thermostat calls for heat. The fuel combusts, heating the exchanger, and cool air moves over the heated exchanger when the blower comes on. The heated air travels through the house via the ductwork and registers. As the air cools, it returns to the furnace in the return duct. The process continues until the thermostat signals that the air is at the right temperature.

These kinds of heaters are very common. You can install indoor air quality products, such as purifiers and humidifiers, to make the air cleaner and more comfortable. Without good filtration, these units carry dust, dirt, and allergens throughout your house.

Hot Water

Hot water heating systems follow the same principle as heated air units, but they use water to circulate heat instead of air. Water gets heated in a tank and is pumped to radiators or baseboard heaters. Once cooled, it comes back to the boiler tank to get heated again. Rather than having a thermostat, these systems used an aquastat to measure water temperature.

Geothermal systems fall under the water heat category. But instead of the water being heated in a tank, it’s warmed by the earth.

These systems yield a consistent temperature and don’t stir up dust and allergens. They’re quiet, too. Radiators are old-fashioned and take up space, while baseboard heaters limit furniture and curtain options.

Improving Efficiency and Lowering Costs

Make sure your windows are locked for a better seal. You can cover windows and patio doors with plastic to help prevent drafts. Caulk around window and door frames and any outlet boxes on outside walls to reduce heat loss.

Make sure there’s no light between outer doors and their frames. If there is, fix the weatherstripping. Drafts at the bottom are easily remedied by adjusting the threshold. Just turn the screws in the bottom of the door frame counterclockwise until you can’t see light anymore.

Buy insulated curtains, especially for north-facing windows. Open drapes during the day for warmth from the sun, and close them at night to trap the warm air.

Close registers in rooms you don’t use regularly. Make sure working registers are clean, open, and unobstructed. Change your filters at least once a month. If you don’t have any allergy or asthma concerns, a simple fiberglass filter will do.

Don’t use your exhaust fans for long periods. They pull warm air out of your house quickly. Keep the door open when you shower so that heat travels through the house.

Have your furnace tuned up. Regular maintenance improves efficiency and provides you with peace of mind during the cold months. Small issues caught during a tuneup won’t turn into costly repairs later on.

At Stivers HVAC, we can help with any heating issues you have. Call us at 859-286-6450 if you need maintenance, repairs, or installation.

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