Your guide to radiant, heat pumps & space heaters

July 27, 2015

With so many ways to heat our homes, sometimes knowing which is best can be difficult. Here, we'll walk you through radiant, heat pumps and space heaters so you can pick what's best for you.

Your guide to radiant, heat pumps & space heaters

Radiant Heat:

The idea behind radiant heat is very simple: Hot water pipes, electric cables or sheets of electric film are embedded in the floors, walls or ceilings of a house and radiate heat to people and colder objects.

  • Advantages: Radiant heat is quiet and evenly distributed, but it's difficult to repair because access is difficult.
  • Basic care: In a hot-water system, flush the pipes and replace the antifreeze. There is little to do for an electric system.
  • Improvements: Replace older electric units and copper pipes with surface-mounted radiant heating panels, metal foil and plastic piping.

Heat pump

The heat pump system is basically a central air conditioner that also heats. The outdoor coil absorbs heat, and a refrigerant carries it to an indoor coil. A blower picks up the warmth and sends it throughout the house through ducts, like those in a forced-air system.

  • Advantages: The system saves money and space because it performs both heating and cooling duties.
  • Basic care: Vacuum the indoor coil, change the blower filter, and wash the outdoor coil with a hose. Have it checked annually.
  • Improvements: If a pump doesn't adequately heat during cold spells, install supplementary heat sources, like space heaters.

Space heaters

If you live in an area where you need heat for only a month or two of the year, you may have separate space heaters for each room. There are many types available, from portable electric units to wall-mounted and inexpensive gas units.

  • Each type of unit has their own advantages: Electric are portable and kerosene and gas are inexpensive to run. All of them give you greater control over your heating.
  • Basic care: For gas units, clean and check connections yearly. Electric heaters also require regular cleaning and safety checks.
  • Improvements: Research energy costs and choose the type that is most efficient. A gas heater vented through the wall is often the most efficient.

Choosing the right heater depends on your climate and home. Depending on your needs and budget, any of these heating systems could keep you toasty warm without breaking the bank.

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