Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Home Heating systems in the modern home

Modern Day Construction for custom homes Part 18

In today’s modern world of construction things are changing year to year faster than they did decade to decade in any other previous time period. In this multi part series I will traverse through an entire house starting with the foundation and working my way up to the roof and then to the finishing’s. I will explain what has changed in the last twenty years in custom home building.

One thing that you should be able to take away from this is how important it is to not just hire the right general contractor to build your custom home but how important it is to hire one that is up on today’s building methods.

Home Heating Systems 

Twenty years ago you had limited options for heating, depending on where you lived. Electric baseboard and electric forced air furnaces were the norm. Also a lot rural houses had oil furnaces. Low to medium natural gas furnaces where starting to become more common in the larger cities.

Today there is a plethora of heating options, depending on where you build your house. Here are the most popular ones;

Ground source heat or Geothermal heating. Geothermal heating is a newer idea in North America, it has been used in places like Iceland for decades. The basic principal of it is that pipes are installed 8 feet in the ground outside of your home, depending on the size of the home will determine the size and amount of loops of pipe you will require. The pipes travel from the outside through your basement wall into your furnace. The liquid inside of the pipes absorbs the heat out of the ground, it is then circulated back to the furnace where it is pressurized and then fed through the furnace. The furnace blows air across these lines using the heat from the lines to warm up the air that is passing through the furnace into your duct work, this warm air is what warms up your home. If the system is run in reverse you receive air conditioning in the summer from the lines absorbing the cold from the earth. This is the most efficient heating system known today. It runs on electricity but barely uses enough electricity for you to notice on your electrical bill. The pipes can also be run into your hot water tank giving you free hot water in the summer time. This system when installed in the country is installed 8 ft under the ground in a field or in a pond that is at least 8 ft deep or if you are on a large body of water like a lake or a large river. In town it can be used by drilling wells vertically into the ground. This system is the best system you can have for heating, but it is also costs the most to install as well.

High efficiency natural gas furnace. This furnace is the best bang for your buck. Natural gas furnaces have come a long way in the past two decades, they use very little gas to make a lot of heat compared to they older models. The units are also significantly smaller than most other types of furnaces, they do not take up a lot of space in a mechanical room. The duct work is usually larger than the furnace. You can only get natural gas if you live in town or close enough to town that there is a natural gas line installed on your road. You also have to make sure that the furnace can be properly vented, you will have to clear the snow away from the intake and exhaust ports in the winter. Natural gas furnaces do not do air conditioning; you will require a separate electric air conditioner on the outside of your house.

Propane furnace. Propane furnaces are a cheaper option for people that have no access to natural gas and cannot afford geothermal. Propane is about a quarter of the efficiency of natural gas and is on par with oil furnaces. You will have to have a large propane storage tank installed on your property and have it filled once or twice a year depending on your heating requirements. Propane furnaces just like natural gas furnaces do not do air conditioning. You will require a separate electric air conditioner on the outside of your house.

Oil Furnaces. Oil furnaces are still used in rural areas. Oil furnaces have become more efficient in the last two decades. But they require you to have a holding tank installed in the basement of your house. Oil furnaces can be smelly and if they are not taken care of properly there can be oil leaks. Insurance companies have raised the premiums on them because of the potential liability of oil spill clean ups in and around your home. Oil furnaces do not do air conditioning, a separate electric air conditioner on the outside of your home will need to be installed.

In-floor radiant heat. There are two types of in-floor radiant heat, natural gas and geothermal. In floor heat is basically pipes laid under your flooring that have water circulated through them at a certain temperature. This warms the floor up which in turn warms the air above it. This is a wonderful way to heat a home because you are heating the air at the floor and since warm air always rises you always have warm air rising past you. So with in-floor radiant heat you never have cold spots in the home, the heat is evenly distributed throughout the home.

Air source heat pumps. This is a unit that runs on electricity that converts the air outside to heat or cooling in the same way the geothermal does. It is not as efficient as geothermal but can be cheaper to install, it is more efficient than just a propane, electric or oil furnace on its own, but it is also more expensive to purchase in the beginning. Heat pumps work best when paired with a furnace to help move air around the home. Heat pumps do air conditioning as well and usually do it extremely efficiently. Newer models of heat pumps coming on the market are extremely efficient and are able to make heat out of air as cold as -30 c.

Look for part 19 coming soon....

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.


  1. Home heating systems are at the forefront of keeping your home comfortable. Heating systems are also the gas hogs of most homes. They use about thirty percent of the energy used by a house. There are many types of heating systems homeowners can choose from including forced air, radiant heat, hydronic (under floor) and steam radiant.

    Heating & Cooling Systems Mississauga