Your heater consumes more energy than any other appliance in the home. Heating costs take up about 29% of your utility bill, which is enough reason to want the best heating system for your space.
Here are the best heating systems for US apartments:
- Active and passive solar heating.
- Furnaces and boilers.
- Radiant heating systems.
- Electric resistance heating.
- Wood and pellet heating.
- Small space heaters.
- Perimeter heating systems.
Keep reading to learn more. This article will explain how each of these heating systems operates and highlight the benefits of using them in your apartment.
1. Active Solar Heating
Active solar heating is the most sustainable way to heat your apartment, as it reduces overreliance on fossil fuels and, thereby, greenhouse emissions.
This type of system comes with four main components:
- The collection mechanism
- Collection controls
- Heat storage components
- A distribution system
Solar energy is captured, stored, and used for either water or space heating in active solar heating. This technique is called active because appliances like fans and pumps transfer the collected solar energy to somewhere it can be stored or used.
On the other hand, passive solar heating involves designing buildings that take advantage of natural light and heat from the sun. Mechanical devices like heat pumps and fans aren’t used in passive solar heating. Instead, designers rely on natural convection and conduction to capture, store and distribute heat throughout an apartment.
Good examples of passive solar heating involve:
- Using stone floors and brick walls
- Overhanging roofs
- Constructing houses in the north with south-facing windows
South-facing windows in the north let the low-angle winter sunlight enter the house, while overhanging roofs help block high-angle sunlight during summer. Stones and bricks have a high thermal mass to hold large amounts of heat.
Types of Active Solar Heating Systems
Active solar heating is divided into three categories depending on the application:
- Active Solar Space Heating: An active solar space heating system uses appliances like blowers and fans to collect, distribute and store heat throughout a room or space.
- Active Solar Water Heating: You use this system to heat water at home, either directly or indirectly. Direct water heating uses the solar collector to heat and then pump the water into a storage tank connected to your plumbing system. In an indirect solar water heating system, a fluid mixed with antifreeze is heated and passed through a storage tank with heat exchange. It then transfers the heat energy to your household water.
- Active Solar Pool Heating: An active solar pool heating system heats water in your pool. Water from the pool is piped to the solar collectors, heated, then directed back to the pool. There are no storage tanks in this system.
2. Furnaces and Boilers
Furnaces heat air and distribute it throughout the house using ducts. In comparison, boilers heat water to result in hot water or steam. Steam is distributed within the home using steam radiators, while hot water is circulated through radiant floor heating systems or used to heat air through a coil. Steam boilers operate at higher temperatures than hot water boilers.
Furnaces don’t use water in the heating process, so there are far fewer chances of freezing during winter. Radiant heat from boiler steam is comfortable, and you can use the heated water for other applications like laundry. This makes boilers and furnaces suitable for apartments in the US and other places experiencing winters.
Boilers and furnaces have pros and cons, with some concerns pointing out gas and oil-fired furnaces as heavy carbon emitters. NPR estimates that heating an average American home with a natural gas-fired furnace produces about 6,400 pounds (2900 kg) of CO2, worrying environmental experts.
3. Radiant Heating Systems
A radiant heating system produces heat through heat radiation. The system heats the floor instead of the air in a room. This way, it provides an indirect heat that radiates from the floor, heating objects and the room occupants even when the temperature around the room is low.
Radiant heating systems come in two styles:
- Electric Underfloor Heating: A thin heating wire under the floor heats the floor in electric underfloor heating, providing radiant heat.
- Hot Water Underfloor Heating: Hot water flows in pipes, heating the floor to provide radiant heat. This system is suitable for new and large apartments where floor levels can accommodate the pipework. With a radiant heating system, you begin to feel comfortable faster at a lower temperature. Also, the system doesn’t cause significant airflow, so the room temperature is comfortable and even.
4. Electric Resistance Heating
Electric space heaters are plug-in devices that are cheap to buy but costly to use. They convert electric energy to heat using heating elements like toasters or iron boxes. This heating technique is also called electric resistance heating.
Electric space heaters are 100% efficient since they convert all the incoming electric energy to heat. However, there’s a twist. A huge chunk of electricity comes from gas, coal, or oil generators that convert merely 30% of their fuel energy into electricity.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Electricity generation and transmission are riddled with more losses, making electric heaters more expensive than combustion appliances. Smarthome.org says it takes more electricity to generate an equal amount of heat as an oil or gas generator would produce on site.
On the one hand, electric space heaters seem expensive to use. Yet would you compare that with the cost of remodeling your house or improving your ductwork for other heating alternatives?
Electric resistance heat may come from forced-air electric furnaces or electric heaters installed in each room. Electric heaters for each room can consist of an electric wall heater, radiant heat electric heaters, and electric baseboard heaters.
5. Wood and Pellet Heating
Wood heating makes sense for rural apartments where you can stock up wood piles for your stove or furnace. Wood is generally cheaper than oil and gas, so you’re likely to make some savings.
Pollution from wood burning became a concern in some parts of the US until the Environmental Protection Agency intervened. So, new wood-burning stoves are now clean-burning, and their emissions have significantly reduced.
Wood pellets are compressed and made from leftover waste from sawmilling activities. Natural wood lignin binds together the sawdust particles, so you don’t need a binder glue to make wood pellets. They have a low moisture content of 3.5-5.5%, which is suitable for heating because less energy is used to evaporate moisture.
Overall, pellet burning stoves pollute less than wood stoves. They offer good indoor air quality and are convenient for temperature control.
If you’re in the market for this type of stove, consider this US Stove 5040 Pellet Stove I found on Amazon.com. It comes with a digital control board with four heat settings and can burn up to 40 hours!
6. Small Space Heaters
You can use a small space heater when your primary heating system is down or faulty or if you can’t afford to install a central heating system. It’s an affordable option for when you want to supplement heat from your main heaters or boost the heat in a specific room instead of heating the whole house.
They can either be convection heating or radiant heating. Radiant heaters heat objects and people directly, while convection heating transmits infrared radiation through air circulation in a room.
Small space heaters can run on propane, gas, or electricity, with their heating capacities ranging between 10,000 Btu and 40,000 Btu (2.93 kW and 11.72 kW) per hour.
7. Perimeter Heating Systems
Perimeter heating systems work the same as radiant floor heating systems. However, instead of an underfloor heat distribution system, they use ductwork installed on outer areas like walls. A perimeter eating system comprises two heating mechanisms:
- Pedestal Heating: You mount a pedestal heater on the floor. It’s slightly taller than conventional heaters to heat air uniformly from top to bottom. Traditional tower heaters stand less than 24 inches (60 cm) above the floor, while pedestal heaters can reach 30 inches (75 cm) or more. This extra height means they can heat your rooms more uniformly and give more warmth.
- Trench Heating Mechanism: A trench heater uses natural convection to warm air and deliver it to various rooms in your apartment. It draws air through the grille, heats it, and gives it back to the rooms.