What is Forced Air Heating?
Forced air heating is a system of providing heat in the home to maintain the temperature at the desired level. Forced air heating systems are one of the most common types of HVAC systems used in homes.
The term ‘forced air’ describes how the system function. Primarily, it forces heated air around the ductwork in your warm. As the forced air moves around your home, the ambient temperature rises.
How do Forced Air Heaters Work?
A forced-air system comprises the following components: a thermostat, a heat exchanger, ductwork, and a blower. Other features of a typical forced-air system include an air plenum and a fan limit switch. The ductwork is made of two types: the supply ducts and the return ducts.
The return ducts take in cold air from the surroundings. The cold air then moves to the heat exchange, where it is heated. After heating, hot air currents are taken through the blower.
The blower provides the force needed to push the heated air currents all around the supply ductwork. The supply ductwork covers all the rooms in the house; therefore, one can effectively warm the entire home using a forced-air heating system.
A forced-air heating system operates automatically. When the rooms’ temperature falls within the preset level, the thermostat signals the heaters to switch on. When the temperature in any room rises to the desired level, one can stop the heating process by turning off the room’s air vent.
Is Forced Air Heating Gas or Electric?
Forced air systems can utilize either gas or electricity to produce heat energy. The electric current or gas serves as a fuel used to produce the heat used to warm the home.
Forced air heating systems that utilize gas have burners and heat exchangers. The gas is burned in the burner, and the heat energy is taken through the heat exchanger before being distributed across the house via the ductwork.
Forced air systems that utilize electric current have unique heating elements. Electric current passes through the heating element to produce massive heat energy. The heat is then used to warm your house and improve the ambient temperature in rooms.
Forced air systems that use electricity produce cleaner energy than those which use gas. Burning gas involves soot and gases such as carbon monoxide if the oxygen levels are low.
Although forced air systems that burn gas do not present the danger of carbon monoxide gas poisoning, they nevertheless produce a lot of soot.
Additionally, it is cheaper to install a forced-air heating system that utilizes electricity than burns gas. One needs to have a heat pump to use a forced-air heating system that burns gas. Forced air systems that use electric current do not need any additional components apart from well-designed ductwork.
Moreover, the combustion process in forced air heating systems that burn gas may produce some noise. Electric forced-air heating systems do not make noise when operating.
Is Forced Air Heating Good?
Forced air heating is suitable for either keeping your house warm during the cold days or cooling it during the hot summer days. Here are some of the key pros and cons of using a forced-air heating system in your home.
Pros of Using a Forced Air Heating System
- Prompt heating. Forced air systems deliver prompt heat in all rooms of your house. The heated air is moved through the ductwork to increase the temperature of the atmosphere immediately. Thus, everyone in the house feels and stays comfortable almost immediately after a forced-air heating system is switched on.
- Easy installation. Forced air systems can utilize the existing ductwork in your house. The ductwork may have been designed to be used for a central heating system in your home. Moreover, installing new ductwork for forced air heating is cheaper and less involving than establishing other types of heating systems, including an in-floor hydronic heating system.
- Reliable source of heat. Forced air heating systems are more reliable than other heating systems. This is because the components of forced air heating systems hardly break down. However, the costs of repairing a faulty forced air heating system may exceed those of replacing a radiant heater.
Cons of Using a Forced Air Heating System
- Poor air quality. Forced air heating systems can contribute to the contamination of your indoor air. The system may carry particles and other contaminants, including dust, along with the heated air into your house. If mold grows inside any of the system’s components, dry mold spores may be carried with the heated air into your home.
- Forced air heating systems that utilize gas produce noise. The process of gas combustion in the furnace and the action of the blower generate the noise. Although the noise that such heating systems generate is not very loud, it may be enough to distract light sleepers.
- Heavy maintenance needs. Leakages in the ductwork are a common problem in forced-air heating systems. You will have to invest a considerable amount of money and time in preventing leakages and maintaining your ductwork integrity. If anything goes wrong with the supply or intake ductwork, then the heating quality in your system will drop significantly.
How Long Does a Forced Air Furnace Last?
A forced-air furnace can last anywhere between 15 and 20 years. The lifetime of your furnace depends on how well you maintain it. If not properly maintained, the furnace may last far less than 15 years.
Having a long-lasting forced air furnace delivers value for your investment. Here are a few things that you can do to maximize the lifetime of your furnace.
- Keep your air conditioner clean. If you have an air conditioner on the top of your furnace, ensure that it is always clean. Air conditioner coils produce a lot of moisture. If you ignore the moisture, it will drip down to the furnace and cause a considerable degree of damage.
- Regularly replace the air filter. It is a good practice to replace the air filter of your furnace after every three months. A faulty air filter lets debris get into your furnace. An accumulation of waste in the furnace is one of the leading causes of these components’ short lifespans.
- Conduct regular checks. Get a certified HVAC technician to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of your furnace’s mechanical status at least once per year.
What is the Difference Between Forced Air and Central Heat?
There are several differences between the forced air and central heat. Forced air refers to a heating system that comprises a network of ducts. Heated air is pushed through the ducts to spread warmth across the entire home.
Central air refers to a component of this system used to provide a cool breeze in your home. Thus, central air is an air conditioning component, while forced air refers to the entire heating system.
The purpose of using a forced-air system is to maintain a uniform temperature in a building. Air is heated at a central location and then channeled through the building in ducts.
One can regulate the temperature of any room at a time by turning off the vent. Forced air systems begin to circulate heated air when the temperature falls below the predetermined point.
The main goal of using central air is to condition the air. A condenser dissipates very cold refrigerants to the surrounding air. The cool air is then taken up and circulated in the building.
Fuel type used
Forced air systems can use either electricity or gas. Forced air systems that utilize gas have furnaces and heat pumps. Forced air heating systems that use electricity have heating elements that convert electric current into heat energy. Central air systems use electricity to deliver chilled refrigerants to the surrounding air.
Heat Pump VS. Forced Air
Heat pumps are electrical devices that you can use to warm or cool the air in your home. Unlike forced air systems that have furnaces for heating the air, heat pumps do not generate heat.
The devices move the hot air from an outside source through the house to increase the temperature. Alternatively, the devices can push warm air out of a room to cool the indoor environment.
Although heat pumps serve a similar purpose to forced air heating systems, there are essential differences between them. Primarily, heat pumps are ideal for use in homes that are in moderate climates.
This is because the heating range of heating pumps is limited. They derive warm air from either the outside environment or the ground. Forced air systems are more effective in very cold environments because they generate heat in a furnace used to warm the air.
Using heat pumps to either warm or cool your house is more environmental-friendly than using a forced-air system. Forced air systems that burn fossil fuels produce gasses and soot in the process.
However, air-source and geothermal heat pumps extract heat from the warm air outside or the ground, respectively, without burning fuel.
Radiator VS. Forced Air Heating
Radiator heating is another viable alternative to forced-air heating systems. However, before choosing between these two heating methods, it is essential to compare the pros and cons.
Here is a brief comparison of the radiator and forced-air heating methods.
Radiators are large devices that occupy space in your house. You must figure out where to position them so that you do not interfere with the area in your rooms.
On the contrary, all the components of forced air heating systems, including the ductwork, are invisible. Once the installation is complete, you do not have to worry about space.
The costs of purchasing and installing a forced-air heating unit are higher than those of buying a radiator. Moreover, installing forced-air systems requires the additional input of certified technicians and the purchase of other materials. You can effectively forego these additional costs if you use a radiator for heating.
Forced air heating systems require heavy maintenance procedures. You must regularly check and replace the filters, ensure that the thermostat is working, and occasionally repair the ductwork. Radiant heaters are more convenient because they do not need close attention to remain in good working condition.
Baseboard Heating vs. Forced Air
Baseboard heaters are small electrical heating devices that are usually installed near the floor in your house. They are a good source of warmth in areas that are very difficult to heat, such as hallways.
Baseboard heating is better than conventional large-scale forced air heating in several ways.
Baseboard heaters hardly produce a sound when operating. On the contrary, forced air heating systems are loud because of the action of blowers and fans. If you are keen on having a heating solution that does not produce noise, choose baseboard heating over forced-air heating.
Forced air heating systems are by far more effective than baseboard heaters. Forced air heating systems distribute heat evenly across the entire house, whereas baseboard heaters provide supplemental heating in limited spaces only.
It is very cheap to maintain baseboard heaters. Once the devices are correctly installed, one can conveniently forget about them for even 20 years. You will hardly have to carry out checks and repairs on your baseboard heaters. However, forced air heating systems need heavy maintenance services to remain in excellent shape.
How Much do Forced Air Heating Cost?
The total cost of a forced-air system may be as high as $1600. The total includes the amount used to purchase the components, which varies significantly from $700 and the additional installation and maintenance expenses.
The following breakdown outlines the average amount of money you may spend purchasing, installing, and maintaining your forced air heating system.
A forced air gas furnace may cost as low as $700 and as high as $900. The costs vary with the quality and size of the system. An HVAC specialist can help you select the right type of system for your house.
This estimate assumes that your home has a comprehensive duct system. If the home does not have such a system, you will incur additional costs of installing one. Installing a duct and ventilation system is a costly and time-consuming process.
You need an HVAC specialist to install the forced air heating system in your house. Ideally, the work takes up to 10 hours and involves purchasing additional components such as pipes and tubes. Your HVAC technician will estimate the cost of other piping and tubing during the installation process.
The main running cost of a forced-air heating system is fuel. Whether your system utilizes gas or electricity, you will continuously spend money to keep it running. The amount of money that you spend on fuel depends on several factors, including the size of the unit, its efficiency level, and the cost of the fuel type.
Having a heating unit that is of the right size for your house and has a high fuel efficiency rating can help keep your running costs low.
Maintenance and Repair
Occasionally, you will need an HVAC technician to check one or several system components for any faults. The total cost of repair and maintenance services will depend on the extent of the damage and the number of times that you let your technician check the system.
Tips You Should Know About Forced Air Heating
Forced air heating systems can provide a reliable and easily manageable source of heat in your home. Here are a few tips about this heating and cooling system that you need to understand.
- Carry out routine maintenance and checks. Let a certified technician carry out regular checks on your system. Such checks are essential because they can enable you to detect and correct faults in time.
- Use a programmable thermostat for your comfort. A high-quality programmable thermostat helps you to accurately determine when the heating system starts to heat air in the house. Always ensure that the thermostat is in excellent condition and replace it if necessary.
- Ensure the filters are clean. Clean filters will prevent the entry of dust and other particles into your house. It is a good idea to replace your filters every three months. You can always check the filters if you realize that dust particles are seeping into your indoor space.
- Set the ceiling fans to function correctly. Your ceiling fans can interfere with the work of the heating system if they are not set correctly. Ideally, ensure that your ceiling fans are set to pull up cold air currents and push down warm air. When the fans function this way, the ideal ambient temperature will be maintained.
- Check the ductwork for dents and holes. Small holes in the ductwork can cause two major problems. One, particles may quickly enter your ductwork and find their way to your house if there are small holes in the system. Two, your heating system operates may fail if there are dents and holes in the ductwork. Inefficiencies occur because the heated air fails to travel perfectly around the house. To prevent this scenario, regularly check your ductwork for these small faults.