Understanding Central Heating
Winter is coming to a close, but the nights can still get cool. Cool enough that sometimes, a few of us may still turn on the heat for a few hours. A central heating system is wonderful – when it is working correctly. The house gets warm all the way through, spreading heat evenly through each room. But when it isn’t working, central heating repair becomes something you have to worry about.
What is central heating?
Basic central heating is a system that provides heat to the entire home after being generated in a central location, typically a closet. Once the heat is generated there, a blower motor forces the warmed air and distributes it throughout the home via the air ducts.
Central heating systems typically work in the same manner that central cooling systems work, moving the air around to meet the temperature setting on the thermostat in your home. Some central heating systems produce their own heat. There are two primary options for central heating systems:
- Furnace Central Heating: The most traditional form which uses a natural fuel source and makes the heat from scratch. Air from that heat is then distributed through air ducts.
- Heat pumps: A common type of central heating that works year round, switching from cool to heat based on the temperature.
Is central heating gas or electric?
It can be either, actually. Gas central heating uses either natural gas or propane gas to make heat. However, a central heating system can also be powered by electricity. Both are common in this part of the country, with gas-powered options said to provide a hotter heat.
When it comes to central heating, electrically powered central heating is easier and less expensive. Electric central heating repairs are also easier because there are only electrical components involved. With a gas central heating repair, it could be the gas supply or the electrical component like the blower motor that needs to be taken care of.
How much does it cost to install a central heating system?
The cost can vary based on the size of the house, the size of the system, and the work needed to install the system. A gas-powered central heating system for a house that has never had central installed before will require air ducts to be installed as well as the central heating system.
That means some renovation to the home in the attic, ceilings, crawl space, and the walls of the home. The cost can start around $10,000 and go upward of $15,000 or more. It will take one full day minimum for installation in a single-floor home. A multi-floor home can take up to two days.
If there is pre-existing ductwork in good condition, the cost is considerably less, being between $6,000 and $8,000 to $10,000 for gas-powered central heating system installation. However, if the ductwork needs extending, repairing, or replacing, this can add another $1,000 to $2,000 and can take longer to complete the job.
Is central heating expensive to operate and maintain?
Finding the perfect balance for heating your home at an economical cost is a hurdle all homeowners face. What type of heating system is best for being the most comfortable and what type of heating is cheaper to install, operate and maintain – oh the confusion! So, let’s look that the pros and cons for both electric and gas; you can make your decision from that:
The most common source for a heating system in this country. The thermostat controls when the gas furnace ignites to heat the exchanger for the blower motor to move the air through the house.
- The newer the gas furnace, the more efficient, resulting in less environmental impact.
- Operating a gas furnace is less expensive than an electric furnace.
- More expensive to purchase, install, and gas central heating repairs are typically more expensive.
- Gas furnaces must be consistently maintained to keep from deteriorating, which will cause it to use more gas. They typically need inspecting more frequently, they are noisy and if there are any malfunctions with the heat exchanger like cracking, gas central heating becomes dangerous with carbon monoxide leakage.
For multi-unit structures like apartments, electric heating is used more commonly. Newer home developments are often all-electric because gas isn’t available in the area. An electric furnace heats the air as it passes over the coils and then a blower motor distributes the heat through the duct system.
- Electric furnaces are cheaper to purchase and install.
- Electric furnaces have a longer lifespan because there isn’t any combustible air involved in the operation.
- Electric central heating repairs are less expensive because there are fewer moving parts.
- Electrical power can be more expensive in some areas, making operating an electric furnace cost more in monthly utility bills.
- Electric powered heating systems seem to be more eco-friendly until you do an in-depth search of how the power is generated. Some electric power plants are powered by coal, which minimizes the eco-friendly factor of electric powered furnaces.
What is the difference between central heating and forced air?
With a central heating system, there is a central location where the heat is produced and then it is distributed throughout the home. A forced-air system, typically referred to as an HVAC system, utilizes air ducts and vents to send the heated air, or cooled air, through the home using air ducts.
Will central heating work without a thermostat?
No, a thermostat is what tells the heater to engage so the blower motor can blow the warmed air throughout the home. When the thermostat goes out, usually between eight and 10 years, you can replace it yourself or call for a central heating repair service to change the thermostat out for you. Changing over to a programmable unit will cost more upfront but will save you money over time.
What does it mean when central heating smells like burning?
If you notice a burning smell when you first turn on your central heating system, it is most likely the dust that has accumulated over the spring and summer. Dust collects on a furnace during those months it isn’t in use, so the first time it is operating for the winter, that dust will burn off, causing a burning smell.
You could also have a burning odor from things being dropped into the floor vents over the summer. Another common issue found by central heating repair service technicians is a dirty air filter. The filter should be changed or cleaned every 30 days so the system is working more efficiently and healthier.
Sometimes, a burning smell with a central heating unit is an issue with the electrical wiring. This will need a professional central heating repair technician to evaluate, inspect, and repair accordingly.
What does it mean when central heating is blowing cold air?
There can be several reasons why central heating is not working. The first thing you should check is the thermostat setting. Make sure it is set to “heat” and in the “auto” position. Check the thermostat setting is at a level that will engage the heat to turn on.
Another thing to check before calling for a professional central heating repair service is the air filter. If the filter is clogged and dirty, the heating system will shut down for safety because the air isn’t circulating properly.
If you have a gas-powered central heat system, check that the pilot is on. Older systems do not have the enclosed system that newer systems do today and the pilot light often will blow out. Relight if needed and if there is still cool air blowing, call your professional central heating repair technician.
No matter what type of power or type of heating your home has, maintenance is key to it working correctly. Follow through with your monthly maintenance and schedule the professional central heating repair and inspections as recommended by the manufacturer, your home should be toasty warm through the rest of the winter and for the winter to come.