What Are the Pros and Cons of Forced-Air Heating?
Forced air remains one of the most popular methods for heating a building, even though recent advances have provided many alternatives. Chances are, you’re reading this in a building that has a forced-air heating setup: a furnace of some type, whether electric, natural gas, or propane, and a large fan that pushes the heated air through a system of ducts. This method of heating has been in use for decades, and it remains a remarkably effective one. But is it the best method available?
Below, we’ll break down the pros and cons of forced-air heating, helping you to decide if this method is the best one for your home or commercial building to utilize.
Pro: Forced Air Works Quickly
When you’re cold, you’re cold, and you don’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for the building you are in to warm up. Some heating methods are simply faster than others, and a forced-air heating system is one of the fastest. This is because it makes use of fuel sources that burn extremely hot. This means they can achieve a comfortable temperature quickly and then make use of fans to distribute it without too much downtime.
Other methods of heating are more indirect. For example, they might heat a home by warming up water that is then distributed through pipes. This isn’t to say that other methods aren’t effective; they simply don’t act as fast to generate warmth.
Con: Heating May Not Be Consistent
Because a forced-air heating system works by way of a central unit and a system of ductwork, it sends the same amount of heated air into each room of the building. This can lead to inconsistencies in the heating of a building because there will also be other variables that affect the temperature of a given space (for example, a room that’s higher up will inevitably get hotter because warm air rises).
The design of the building itself also affects the consistency of heating and cooling. You may notice “cold spots” if your heating system isn’t quite up to the challenge of heating the entire home. There are several reasons why this may be the case. It’s possible your heating system isn’t the right size for your home, for example. If that’s the case, this is a problem your HVAC professional can help you address.
Pro: Inexpensive Installation
There are plenty of recent developments in heating and cooling, but precisely because they are newer, they are often difficult to install in older buildings. This is because older buildings are set up specifically for an older method of heating. And what is that older method? You guessed it: forced air. In most homes and commercial buildings, there is already a system of ducts set up, and when you opt to have a new forced-air heating system installed, your HVAC professional can simply take advantage of this already-existing system, helping you to avoid the cost of entirely redoing your home HVAC system.
Con: Potentially Unclean Air
While your heating system itself won’t render the air unclean—assuming, of course, it has adequate ventilation—the fact is that the air being blown throughout the home can carry dust, dirt, pet dander, and other pollutants with it. Your HVAC system addresses this issue by filtering the air. Over time, however, the filters will become dirty and clogged and therefore less effective. Of course, this has an easy fix: regular maintenance. With the help of an HVAC professional from Entek, you can ensure that the ducts and filters in your home don’t become clogged with dust and dirt.
Leaky ducts are another cause of potential irritants being introduced into the air. Once again, this is a problem that is unique to forced air systems, and one that can be corrected with the help of an HVAC contractor. Nevertheless, it’s a downside you won’t have to worry about if your home makes use of a heat pump or other ductless method of heating and cooling.
Pro: A Simple and Reliable System
Of course, any kind of heating and cooling system can break down, but some are more likely to break down than others. In general, the more complex the system, and the more moving parts it has, the more likely it is to require more costly maintenance. A forced-air system is actually quite simple: just a furnace to generate the heat, a fan to circulate it, and a thermostat to control the temperature setting.
While any of these elements is subject to malfunction, in general, you will find that they are easier fixes than more complicated systems such as heat pumps. A furnace that’s powered by natural gas or propane also won’t fail in the event the electricity goes out, which is critical during a snowstorm or other heavy weather event.
Con: The Temperature Is Controlled Centrally
Forced-air heating works by adjusting a thermostat to your preferred temperature. This thermostat then controls the furnace itself, switching it on when it’s necessary to generate heat and then switching it off again when the temperature gets warm enough. This thermostat is located in only one part of the home, which means that you’ll have to go there whenever you want to adjust the temperature. This can be inconvenient in the middle of the night when you just want your bedroom to be a few degrees warmer. It also means that, to heat up one room, you’ll have to heat up the whole house.
Heat pumps and other methods can heat one room at a time. This means that, if your bedroom is too cold at night, you can adjust the temperature of just the bedroom, saving yourself the costly energy of heating rooms that you won’t go into, not to mention saving yourself a trip into the freezing-cold hallway in the middle of the night.