Keeping your home warm in the wintertime is much easier with a whole-home heating system, but if you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t think much about how it’s happening unless something isn’t working right. 

If you’re not sure what kind of heating you have, the odds are it’s a forced air heating system. Understanding how it gets the job done and knowing how to handle it if something goes wrong will ensure that it’s in working order when you need it most. 

What is forced air heating and how does it work?  

A forced air heating system works by sucking cold air through return ducts and delivering it to the furnace, where it is heated. Next, the heat exchanger pushes warm air through the supply ducts to heat your home through various air vents throughout the house. Each air vent can be closed to seal off heated air from rooms you aren’t using. 

Furnaces may be powered by natural gas, propane, or electricity, depending on the system design. The temperature is controlled through a thermostat that detects the indoor temperature and flips the switch on when your home drops below the temperature you have it set on. 

To keep your system running at its full potential, you’ll need to perform annual inspections and maintenance to address common furnace problems. This will ensure that you aren’t wasting energy and your home stays comfortable throughout the winter, and it can save you money in the long run.

While you can and should change the air filter regularly on your own, it’s best to hire a professional for yearly services. An HVAC repair person will inspect the ductwork to look for damage or clogs that are interfering with the airflow, and clean the registers and ducts as necessary. They will also clean the furnace and the combustion chamber, recalibrate the thermostat and inspect the blower belt as needed. 

Benefits of forced air heating

One of the main reasons that forced air furnaces are so popular is their longevity. With proper maintenance, they can last anywhere from 20-40 years before replacement, while most other systems require replacement after 15 years. They are also relatively cheaper to purchase and install than other options, and most professional HVAC installers will have experience working with them. 

Forced air heaters can easily combine with a central air conditioning system using the same air ducts and thermostat, so if you already have a standard AC unit you won’t have to install ductwork to add a furnace. 

Drawbacks of forced air heating

One of the major drawbacks to this style of heating is that it can lower your indoor air quality by recirculating stale air throughout your house. It also tends to remove moisture from the air, which can dry out your skin and lead to sinus issues. Both of these drawbacks can be counteracted with the right tools. A high-quality air filter can remove dust and germs, and a carbon monoxide detector can help you detect a gas leak. 

Another drawback to the efficiency of forced air homes is that you can’t control the temperature from one room to the next as effectively as a more modern system like a heat pump. While closing and opening the vents gives you some control over the temperature in different rooms, it adds extra pressure to the ducts that can result in damage or leaks over time, and it makes it harder for you to run efficiently. 

Forced air systems may need some extra help to evenly heat your home. An HVAC specialist can repair or seal leaky ductwork and add insulation to prevent heat loss and dampen noise so your system runs quieter and more efficiently. 

Alternatives to forced air

If it’s time to replace your heating system, or you’re installing whole-home heating for the first time, there are a lot of options. While a forced air system with a furnace is the most common choice, it’s not always the best option for your particular situation. 

Boilers are the second most common option in the US, and while they may seem outdated, they do have their benefits. Boiler systems distribute heated water throughout the house that releases heat either from radiators or from radiant floor heating pipes installed underneath the floor. The major advantage with these systems is the lack of hot air and the more gradual, even heating it provides your home. 

A heat pump uses an air exchange system to move hot air to and from your home, allowing it to cool and warm your house. These versatile systems work well in areas with mild winters, and they offer much higher energy efficiency ratings than traditional central air and heating systems. 

An HVAC contractor can help you weigh the cost and benefits of each different system and help you determine the right choice for your home. It’s crucial to choose a company knowledgeable about all types of systems to ensure you get the best system for your home alongside the experience required to get it up and running. 

Keeping your home cozy year round

Simpsons Sheet Metal is a family owned company offering HVAC repair and installation services to the Santa Rosa area for nearly 40 years. Our experienced team is committed to providing expert care and service to ensure your  HVAC systems are operating at peak efficiency for lower utility bills and even cooling and heating throughout your space. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.