How Your Heating System Works - Part 10

It’s the middle of summer, the sun is hot, you’re enjoying the cool air from your home’s central AC, so let’s talk about your… Heater! WHAT?? Why are we talking about your home’s heating system now? There’s never a bad time to understand your home’s major appliances better. Have you already read the previous lessons of our “Home Heating 101” series? In our last post Part 9 we finished explaining how heat pump systems work and how that knowledge helps you. Now we’re moving on to an entirely different type of heating system: forced air furnaces.

The way a forced air furnace works is fairly straightforward: it uses a fuel such as gas, propane, oil, or electricity to heat air that is circulated through the furnace and into your home. Let’s break it down starting with an electric furnace, which is the simplest design and can be used to understand the basic components of a forced air furnace.

An electric furnace generates heat using electric heating elements. Do you remember when we were talking about heat pumps in Part 7 of the series? There we explained that the indoor unit has something like what is used in a hair dryer but much larger. Well, that exact same setup is used in an electric forced air furnace. The only difference is that the electric heating elements, or “heat kits” or “heater kits” as we sometimes call them in the HVAC industry, are not the back-up source of heat, but instead they are the primary heat source for your home. But can a “hair dryer” heat your home?

Of course, that was only a comparison to help you understand what exactly is going on inside the indoor unit of your central heating system. The most powerful hair dryer you can get will probably max out around 2,000 watts, but the heating elements in the indoor unit of an electric furnace will start at a minimum of 3,000 watts for tiny systems, and can get up to 25,000 watts of electricity for systems in large homes. So those heating elements to heat the air which the circulating fan is blowing over them. This heated air is then blown into your home. And just like any other type of heating system, it is the thermostat that we talked about in Part 2 tells the electric furnace when to turn on and off to keep your home comfortable.

So now you understand the concept, right? A fuel source heats the air inside the furnace, and a fan blows that hot air into your home. But like we said, the electric furnace is the simplest design because the circulating fan is blowing air directly past those heating elements. That is a direct transfer of heat into your home. However, the other fuel sources we mentioned, like gas, propane, and oil, are significantly different because those are all fuels that need to burn to create heat. How can you blow air over a burning fire to move the heat into your home without also blowing the smoke and fumes into your home?

We’ll dig into that in an upcoming blog post as we continue this series of “Home Heating 101”. Come back for more helpful tips and tricks!

Do you have a need for immediate help with your home’s central heating and air system? The skilled and helpful technicians here at GAMA Air will be happy to help. Call us at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a visit at a time convenient to you for a service call. We 100% guarantee your happiness with our work.

Or maybe you just want a quick answer to a question you have? If so, then visit our Ask an Expert page, fill out the form and get a quick answer from our resident expert.

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