Talk to a home heating repair and installation service near you. Better Homes & Gardens Local Services connects you to companies that specialize in repairing heating systems. Get started on your project today with a free estimate!
When considering home heating options, it's helpful to understand the difference between how heat is generated, and how it is distributed.
Home heat is generated in one of these primary ways: Heat pump – often combined with cooling into a unified central air system; most often found in milder climates, Furnace – powered by electricity, gas or fuel oil; common throughout the U.S., especially in colder climates, Boiler – powered by natural gas or heating oil, Electric heating, Solar heating.
The main kinds of heat distribution systems are: Forced air – air is heated by a furnace or heat pump, and distributed through the home via air ducts and vents (as in a central air system), Steam radiant – powered by a boiler, this system uses radiators to distribute the heat; Radiant heat – powered by hot water, and heated by a boiler or electricity, radiant heat is most commonly found in radiant floor systems, Baseboard heaters – which can be electric, or hydronic (heated with water), Ductless mini-split systems – powered by heat pumps, these systems are deployed on a room-by-room basis with no limit on the number of rooms covered, Space heaters – rarely the primary way of heating an entire home; examples include fireplaces, wood burning stoves and stand-alone electric space heaters.
"What are the most common heating system problems? "
Each type of heating systems comes with its own set of potential problems: Heat source issues – which commonly include faulty controls or sensors, electricity shut-off, and failed or failing components (e.g. motors, belts, refrigerant, ignition controls, pilot light issues). Heat system and distribution issues – which commonly include dirty or clogged filters, leaky ducts, thermostat problems, and air duct problems.
If you suspect an issue with your heating equipment and cannot easily solve it yourself, contact a professional. Most home heating system issues are not urgent, but better to be safe than sorry!
Regular maintenance will help reduce the likelihood of experiencing common problems.
"What are common warning signs of heating system problems?"
The clearest sign of a problem is when the system starts blowing air that's cooler than normal. Other common warning signs include strange sounds or smells, thermostat warning indicators, and increased heating bills. If your system has a pilot light that isn't blue, that's another sign of an upcoming problem.
These signs indicate the need for maintenance or repairs by an HVAC specialist, who can investigate the issue and take appropriate action.
"How long do home heating systems last?"
Heating system lifespan often depends on the type and age of the system, your location, and how often it is used and maintained.
While each homeowner’s experience is different, the average lifespan for common heating equipment can be broken down as: Furnace: 10-15 years Boiler: 10-30 year Heat pump: 10-20 years.
Scheduling regular maintenance will help extend the life span of your heating system.
"Should I repair or replace my home heating system?"
First, make sure you check any warranty related to your home heating system. If the system is no longer under warranty, the decision to repair versus replace usually comes down to the cost of repair versus the cost to replace, and age of the system. Systems older than 10-15 years may not be worth repairing unless the cost of the repair is modest, and your HVAC professional believes that the system still has at least a few good years left in it.
EnergyStar.gov provides a great list of signs that it may be time to replace your system: Age: your heat pump is over ten years old; your furnace or boiler is over 15 years old, Noise: your heating system is overly noisy, Temperature: your rooms are either too hot or too cold, Humidity: the air in your home is too dry or too humid, Dust: your home has excessive amounts of dust, Repairs: you are repairing the system frequently, Bills: your energy bills are continuing to increase.
Also, look into what features a new heater might provide, that you currently do not benefit from. If, for example, you do not have a programmable or "smart" thermostat, a new system with a thermostat would cut energy use and reduce costs.
If you need to repair your system, the safest way is to find an HVAC pro in your area.