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With winter already in full-force, your home heating system is probably working overtime.

Home Heating Systems: How They Work

Many homeowners have no idea how their home heating system works, trusting its maintenance and repair to paid professionals instead of doing it themselves.

Learning about the basics of your furnace or boiler system can save you money on routine maintenance and minor repairs for years to come.

How home heating systems work: Basics

Every home heating system is made up of a heat producer, heat exchanger, heat distributor, and a temperature regulator. The heat producers is the core of the entire home heating system.

In most homes, the heat producer is an electric, gas, or oil burner. The heat exchanger can either be a furnace that heats the air or a boiler that heats water.

Boilers are more common in areas where the winters are extremely cold. Furnace-based home heating systems are more suitable for warmer climates.

The heat distribution method depends on the type of home heating system. Furnace-based heaters use ducts and vents to send the heated air all over the house.

Boiler-based home heating systems have pipes to pump heated water throughout the house, with radiators that are responsible for distributing the actual heat.

A thermostat or humidistat is used to regulate the home’s climate and turn the heating system on or off.

How home heating systems work: Furnaces

A furnace-based home heating system works by heating air and blowing the heated air throughout the home via a duct system.

The heat producer and exchanger turn on when the thermostat signals that the temperature is too low. The blower then moves the hot air into the main branch of the ductwork.

Smaller branches split off to take heated air to each room of the home. The amount of air each room receives can be controlled by adjusting the home heating system’s registers.

The air returns to the heat producer via a separate set of ductwork and vents. Once the desired temperature is reached, the thermostat turns off the home heating system.

How home heating systems work: Boilers

Boiler-based home heating systems are quite similar to furnace-based systems, but use water as the heating medium instead of air.

The boiler heats up the water, then pumps it throughout the home via pipes into each room. The individual rooms must have a radiator in order to disperse the heat.

Like the air home heating units, there is also a return system to take the water back into the boiler to be heated and redistributed again.