Forced-air

A Forced-air or Warm air heating system is one which uses air as its heat transfer medium. These systems use ductwork and vents as a means of air distribution. The return plenum carries the air from several large return grills (vents) to a central air handler for re-heating. The supply plenum directs heated air from the central unit to the rooms which the system is designed to heat. Regardless of type, all air handlers consist of an air filter, blower, heat exchanger/element/coil, and various controls. Like any other kind of central heating system, thermostats are used to control forced air heating systems.

Forced air heating is probably the type most commonly installed in North America. It is less common in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom (where it is typically referred to as "warm air" heating).

Types

Natural gas/propane/oil

*Heat is produced via combustion of fuel
*A heat exchanger keeps the combustion byproducts from entering the air stream
*A ribbon style (long with holes), inshot (torch-like), or oil type burner is located in the heat exchanger
*Ignition is provided by an electric spark, standing pilot, or hot surface igniter
*Safety devices ensure that combustion gases and/or unburned fuel do not accumulate in the event of an ignition failure or venting problem

Electric

*A simple electric heating element warms the air
*When the thermostat call for heat, blower and element come on at the same time
*When thermostat is "satisfied", blower and element shut off
*Requires very little maintenance
*Extremely expensive to operate

Heat Pump

*Extracts heat from outdoor air via the refrigeration cycle
*More efficient than fossil fuel fired furnaces (gas/oil) and electric resistance heating
*Not suitable for cold climates unless used with backup (secondary) source of heat. Newer air/air heatpumps can provide heat well below 0 degrees Celsius (32 °F).
*A refrigerant coil is located in the air handler instead of a heat exchanger or element. System can also be used in cooling, just as any central air-conditioning system. *See Heat pumps

Hydronic coil

*Combines hydronic (hot water) heating with a forced air delivery
*Heat is produced via combustion of fuel (gas/propane/oil) in a boiler
*A heat exchanger (hydronic coil) is placed in the air handler similar to the refrigerant coil in a Heat Pump system or a Central AC
*Heated water is pumped through the heat exchanger then back to the boiler to be reheated

equence of operation:

# Thermostat calls for heat
# Source of ignition is provided at the boiler
# Circulator initiates water flow to the hydronic coil (heat exchanger)
# Once the heat exchanger warms up, the main blower is activated
# When call for heat ceases, the boiler and circulator turn off
# Blower shuts off after period of time (depending on the particular equipment involved this may be a fixed or programmable amount of time)

Advantages and disadvantages of forced air systems

Disadvantages

* When improperly installed, they are prone to leaky ducts and other problems which lead to air infiltration. Air infiltration typically lowers humidity in the heated space as well as requiring extra heating energy.
* More noisy than hydronic systems
* Can distribute allergens and cooking odors throughout heated space
* Requires a filter, which must be replaced periodically
* Can be difficult to retro-fit a property with the required ducting.

Advantages

* Can accommodate central air conditioning, humidifiers, HRVs, and whole-house air cleaners
* Excellent for setback thermostats - takes a short time to recover
* Less expensive than hydronic systemsFact|date=January 2008
* No risk of structural damage due to water leaks
* Heatpumps and 90%+ AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) systems are energy efficient
* High efficiency furnaces are more readily available than high efficiency boilers
* Two stage and modulating forced air systems can match the comfort of hydronic systems with none of the disadavantages (Water leaks, can't accommodate a/c, not suitable for use with programmable thermostats, expensive to install)


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