- Air Conditioning systems
- Financing Options and Barter Payments Available!
- High-efficiency tankless water heaters
- Indoor Air Quality
- Integrated systems
- Oil- and gas-fired boilers and furnaces
- Pellet-fuel boilers and furnaces
- Radiant and other forms of heating/cooling delivery
- Solar heating
- Wood-fired boilers and furnaces
Regardless of how you generate heat, you still need to deliver it to the living areas of your home in order to get any use out of it.
This can be the traditional forced-air ductwork or hot-water baseboard that nearly everyone is familiar with, or it can also be more advanced systems like high-velocity air ducts, in-floor “radiant” heating systems, modern panel radiators, etc.
Forced Air Heating and Cooling:
Let’s start simple. Forced-air ducts. Everyone has seen this sort of heating/cooling system. Originally, there was a furnace in the basement, and large ductwork which let the hot air flow upwards through the house, then fall back down through a very large return duct to the furnace, to be heated again. This was called a gravity flow system, and is probably one of the least effective ways to deliver heat. Once electricity became available, fans were used to force flow, which allowed for much smaller ductwork and much better control over heating. This was the birth of forced-hot-air heating systems.
These systems are now used for both heating and cooling, and are a very common method for conditioning the air in houses, stores, office buildings, etc. They rely on pulling a large amount of air at low velocity through intermediate-sized ductwork. While there have been no “big” changes in conventional forced-air systems, improvements like more efficient furnaces and variable-speed blowers that adjust the temperature and flowrate of the air to match the heating or cooling demand have certainly improved comfort and efficiency (particularly electrical efficiency), and reduced noise levels.
High-Velocity Forced Air:
The next generation of forced-air systems are high-velocity systems. In a high-velocity system, several small (2” inside diameter) ducts are used in each room. Because of this, these systems are often called “Small-Duct, High-Velocity,” or SDHV systems. These several small streams of air cause a mixing effect in the room air. That means the cold air doesn’t settle to the floor, and the warm air rise to the ceiling; all the air in the room is maintained at the same even temperature, and the ducts do not collect and distribute dust like conventional systems. High-velocity systems also remove more humidity from the air during the summer when high humidity levels cause as much discomfort as the temperatures do. Because of the mixing effect, the air outlets don’t need to be installed near exterior walls like conventional air registers. That, coupled with the small duct size, make high-velocity systems ideal for retrofitting air conditioning to existing homes with hot water heat, as well as for new construction with space challenges that don’t allow for bulky, conventional ductwork.
The fan in the system is typically left on all year, drawing about as much electricity as a 50watt lightbulb, and helping to maintain comfort by mixing the air, even when it doesn’t need to be heated or cooled, as well as to continuously clean the air. People who have these systems in their homes typically find that the dehumidification and the mixing of the air mean they are comfortable with the thermostat set higher in the summer and lower in the winter, saving energy. Care must be taken by the installer to size the system correctly and install the proper components for each application, as high noise levels can result if the system is designed and/or installed improperly.
We use Hi-Velocity Systems equipment, and their website has a pretty good explanation of how high-velocity works.
Hot Water Baseboard:
Probably the most common method of heating in our area, forced-hot-water baseboard convectors are one of the simplest means of heating a house. Hot water flows through finned piping inside an enclosure, which heats the air in the enclosure. That air flows up through the vents, pulling cool air in from below to be heated. This process is called convection, and is an effective and inexpensive method for heating air. Baseboard convectors are nothing fancy, but they are also extremely cost-effective.
In-Floor Radiant Heating/Cooling:
The most effective method to heat objects is conduction (direct contact). In-floor radiant systems use tubes embedded in a slab or fitted under wood or other flooring to directly heat the floor. The huge surface area of the floor then gently radiates heat to you, in addition to directly conducting heat to the air as well as your feet. This is one of the most even and comfortable methods of heating, and has even been used for cooling in some applications. The small temperature difference between the radiant surface and the air makes for a very gentle heat or cooling effect, while the large area of that surface allows the house to be heated very effectively and very efficiently. There is simply no more efficient way to heat or cool a building, be it a house or a garage or a greenhouse, or any other sort of building. Of course, a typical installation may require thousands of feet of tubing, insulation, transfer plates, and other material, in addition to controls at the boiler to take advantage of the efficiency opportunity, so the installation cost is higher than baseboard, however the long-term savings as a result of the greater energy efficiency will typically pay for the increase in cost.
Radiators are no longer only for steam. Nor are they made from large blocks of cast iron. Modern steel panel radiators combine both convective and radiant heating into a small, wall-mounted package. Fins on the back of the unit create a convection effect, drawing cool air in from the floor and heating it, while a smooth front face gently radiates heat into the room. A single panel radiator two feet tall by three feet wide can replace over 20 feet of baseboard convector. A typical room can be heated with radiators installed under the windows, freeing up the wall space that would normally need to be left clear to allow baseboard convector to function. Thermostatic radiator valves installed in each room give you room-by-room temperature control for unmatched comfort. Accessories can allow shelving or towel bars to be installed on the radiator, and the radiators can be custom-painted to match your room, for great flexibility in design. Radiators are even available in the form of a towel rack that heats your bathroom and keeps your towels warm and dry at the same time. We use DiaNorm panel radiators, as they offer exceptional quality at a reasonable cost.
Hybrid systems may use a combination of hot water and hot air for heat delivery. For example, a small room with many windows may simple require too much heating for its limited floor space to effectively be used for radiant heating (walls and ceilings can be used for radiant, as well, but less effectively). Someone desiring cooling in addition to radiant heating might opt to install a high-velocity system for cooling, and also use it to add extra heat to certain rooms that need more heat than the radiant flooring can deliver.
Other Options can include things like:
Water-to-air heat exchangers that allow a hot water system to be used in conjunction with forced-air heating.