Heating your home, especially for homeowners who live in colder areas, is an essential part of living comfortably. After all, no matter how beautifully decorated or well-designed your home may be, you won't want to spend much time there if its' so cold you can see your breath!
In the past, heating a home was a relatively simple thing. However, with the recent surge in “green” living, as well as a renewed interest in keeping families healthy, heating systems, and the professionals who install them have seen big changes in the industry.
Systems which use less energy have become increasingly popular. Combined systems are the norm these days, especially in new construction; it is easier and more efficient to have your heating, cooling, moisture control and air filtration controlled by one system instead of four separate ones. Air filtration is another big innovation. Instead of the heating systems of years past, which often blasted irritants like pollen, mildew and dust into a room when the furnace kicked in, today's systems use advanced filtration to ensure your family is not breathing toxins.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at these trends, and give you the basics on each. With a little advance knowledge, your search for a reliable heating contractor will be much simpler.
Heat pumps, many industry experts believe, are the future of heating. These devices actually bring heat from other sources...such as a naturally heated underground spring or the ground itself...and use it to heat your home. Currently, these systems are not widely available, and can be very costly. However, as with all new technology, the price is sure to drop rather quickly. Keep in mind that your location plays a big part in just how efficient a heat pump can be.
Hybrid systems are the most popular current trend in heating. These combine the energy-efficiency of a heat pump with the reliability of an electric or gas-powered system. Just as with stand-alone heat pumps, your location plays a big role in determining whether a hybrid system is really the best choice for you. An experienced and knowledgeable heating contractor who is familiar with your area will be able to explain your options.
Of course, there are traditional systems which use less power. These are a very popular trend, since they offer reliability and energy savings. Just like other energy-efficient appliances, the systems themselves haven't changed all that much, but the manner in which they consume energy has become much more efficient. Not only does this mean a lower monthly bill for you, but it also reduces your impact on the environment.
Keep in mind that an energy-efficient system is still more expensive, initially, than a traditional system. However, for most homeowners, this initial cost is offset by the savings that the new system generates. It will take a while for the system to “pay for itself,” but the savings are real, and they do add up.
If you're considering an energy-efficient system for your home, be sure to read up on current, local tax laws. Many areas now offer a tax break for those with “green” appliances of any kind, and these savings can be significant. You should also do thorough research before making any purchases to ensure that you're saving as much as possible, since these systems are costly.
If you are building a new home, or renovating the air system in an existing one, you may be interested in combining two or more systems. It's more efficient, and, in most cases, much more convenient. Instead of different controls for heating, cooling, air quality and moisture control, you can now easily program and set each of these elements from one thermostat or keypad.
It's up to you how many elements to combine. After reviewing your home's current setup (if applicable), an experienced contractor can help you arrive at a decision which makes the most sense for your individual needs and preferences.
If it's been a while since you updated your home's heating system, or if you're new to the world of home heating, there are some options out there which may surprise you.
For years, people have been annoyed at the clouds of dust that sometimes come flying out of heat vents when the furnace turns on, especially the first time it turns on after a summer of disuse.
We now know that these dust clouds aren't just irritating. They're potentially harmful to your family's health. Allergens like pollen, household irritants such as fumes from carpeting, and even toxic molds can be hiding inside that dusty gray cloud.
When a person breathes these pollutants in for a prolonged period of time, a host of health problems can develop, ranging from severe allergies to cancer. Thankfully, the most advanced home heating systems available today feature air filtration elements which can filter out a large percentage of these dangerous contaminants.
While indoor air quality is sometimes overlooked, due to all the media information we receive about outdoor air quality, it should not be ignored. Most of us spend more time in our homes than we do outside. A house doesn't have natural breezes blowing throughout it most of the time, bringing us fresh air. This means that when a contaminant is in the air within a home, it is actually much more dangerous. Air filtration just makes good sense for your family's health.
The amount of moisture in the air is also something that we don't think about too often. Only when it's extremely dry or extremely humid do we usually take notice. However, excessively moist or dry air can be damaging to your family and to your home itself.
When the air is too dry, irritating symptoms like itchy eyes, itchy skin and nosebleeds can occur. For those who already have nasal allergies, this can be almost unbearable. Ensuring that enough moisture is in the air can help control this. It also slows the effect of overly-dry air on your home's wooden surfaces. This includes flooring, furniture and walls. Cracks and splitting are much more likely to occur if the air is too dry.
On the other hand, having too much moisture in the air can bring about another set of issues. Bacteria in the air can multiply more rapidly in moist environments. A large number of people simply find it uncomfortable to breathe when the air is too humid. Home surfaces are not designed to endure long-term excess humidity, and you may notice warping if the air is too moist for an extended period of time.
Just as innovation has led to air filtration systems which are built into heating systems, it has also led to moisture control elements. These systems are also built into the heating system and allow you to adjust the moisture in the air to ensure that it's at a safe and comfortable level for your household.
In the most advanced systems on the market today, all of these elements...along with air-cooling systems...can be controlled from one convenient keypad. You can also install separate keypad controls in different areas of the home, allowing individual family members to adjust the air wherever they are. This can come in especially handy when a room is not used often. It can be sealed off from heating and cooling, to save energy costs, but still kept at good air-quality and air-moisture levels. This ensures that when the room is used, the air within it will not have become unhealthy and stagnant.
For years, dollar-savvy homeowners have been turning the thermostats down or off during the night, or when away on vacation. It's important to remember that you don't need the same temperature of air to be comfortable while snuggled under blankets as you do when you're up and walking around.
Programmable thermostats are an excellent way to save energy and money. These thermostats, once programmed by you, automatically turn the heat down at a certain time each night. This relieves you of the chore, and ensures that you'll never waste money again because you were too tired and forgot to turn it down. In addition, studies show that we sleep better in a cooler home!
Finding the Right Contractor
Determining which contractor to work with doesn't have to be an intimidating process. There is a great deal of very helpful information available online, at websites which specialize in connecting homeowners to contractors and other workers.
You can research a contractor's work history, their licensing and insurance and, in some cases, read reviews written by former customers. These first-person reviews are extremely helpful in making your decision, since you're allowed a glimpse of what the contractor's work is actually like, from somebody who's experienced it first-hand.
It's always best to choose a contractor who has experience in the field. If you're planning on installing a state-of-the-art combined hybrid system with separate controls for each room in your home, try to find a contractor who has experience with more than just old-fashioned, gas-powered furnaces. It's always best to talk to several different contractors who meet your specifications, and then make your decision based on who you feel the most comfortable dealing with.