Complete Guide to Long Island

Home Heating Systems Long Island NY

The cost of home heating continues to rise as we head into the fall 2007 and winter 2007 seasons. Our brief guide to home heating systems will help Long Island home owners to be consider what types of heating systems are best for their home. You may be considering replacing an oil burner because fuel oil is one of the most expensive types of heating options on Long Island. Or you may be interested in properly maintaining your furnace or adding a new zone heating system to a dormer or extension to your home. Whatever your need this essay serves a good introduction to home heating and useful links are provided local Long Island fuel oil and heating service companies.

Types of Home Heating Systems

As the temperature drops, people reach to turn up the thermostat. The thermostat is only a small part of a larger system often referred to as HVAC (heating, ventilating, air conditioning). There are a number of different types of home heating systems, including furnaces for forced hot air, hot water or steam, heat pumps and various types of radiant and space heaters. There is some overlap. For example, a hot water system may use a radiator to heat a room or it may use pipes in the floor, which is called radiant heat.

Using a Forced Hot Air System

Forced hot air heating systems use furnaces to circulate air though a ductwork system, pulling cooler air into a heat exchange then letting the heated air rise back to the living space. While all furnaces work on the same principle there are many different kinds of furnaces. There are oil furnaces (also called oil-fired furnaces), gas furnaces (also called gas fueled furnaces), electric furnaces and even coal burning or wood burning furnaces.

One advantage of this system is that the forced hot air heating ducts can be used for air conditioning. However, for optimal heating vents need to be at floor level but for optimal cooling the vents need to be at ceiling level. On Long Island with dramatic temperature differences between winter and summer, it may be worth having separate ductwork for the heating and cooling system.

Hot Water (Hydronic) Heating Systems

In a hot water or hydronic heating system, water is heated in a boiler to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water is then pumped throughout the house to warm up radiators placed in each room. These boilers can be oil-fired or gas-fired.

There are several advantages to hydronic heat systems. They are generally quiet. The radiators are small. The system can be divided into multiple zones, allowing more control over the temperature in different parts of the house.

Hot water is also used in radiant heating (or more accurately radiant floor heating or radiant ceiling heating). In these systems hot water is circulated through pipes that are buried in a concrete slab. The concrete acts as a thermal mass, absorbing the heat from the water and slowly radiating it out into a room. One advantage of this system is that it evenly distributes heat throughout a room and over a long period of time. Its main disadvantage is that it generally doesn't heat a room quickly.

Heating Your Home with Steam Heat

Many older houses on Long Island still have steam heat. In these heating systems water is heated in a boiler until it becomes steam. The steam, being a gas, rises through pipes into radiators which become hot, in turn heating the room.

Steam is generally not used in new home heating systems. It is noisy and not easily divided into zones. The radiators are also a burn risk.

How Heat Pumps Work

There are two primary types of electric heat pumps - outside air and underground water. Underground water systems are also referred to as geothermal heat exchange, ground source heat pump, ground water heat pump or ground loop heat pump systems. Heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling. During the summer a heat pump functions like a normal air conditioner. When heat is needed it is operated in a reverse mode, with the heat pump extracting the available heat energy from outside air or underground water.

On Long Island where temperatures regularly drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside air electric heat pumps by themselves may not provide enough heat. Some units include an internal electric heating coil, which is expensive to operate. There are also dual systems that type into a furnace to provide auxiliary heat when the heat pump is not up to the task. Underground water systems work better in these climates since the ground generally stays above freezing once you go down a foot or two.

Other Heating Systems

There are other heating systems that can be used either for whole house heating, supplemental heating or zone heating. These include electric radiant baseboard heating, wall furnaces, room heaters, space heaters and even wood stoves.

Maintaining your furnace or boiler

The United States Department of Energy's website has a great resource called
"A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy". The maintence checklist is summarized here. For all heating systems you should:

  • Check the condition of your vent connection pipe and chimney. Parts of the venting system may have deteriorated over time. Chimney problems can be expensive to repair, and may help justify installing new heating equipment that won't use the existing chimney.
  • Check the physical integrity of the heat exchanger. Leaky boiler heat exchangers leak water and are easy to spot. Furnace heat exchangers mix combustion gases with house air when they leak-an important safety reason to have them inspected.
  • Adjust the controls on the boiler or furnace to provide optimum water and air temperature settings for both efficiency and comfort.
  • If you're considering replacing or retrofitting your existing heating system, have the technician perform a combustion-efficiency test.

For forced air heating systems you should:
  • Check the combustion chamber for cracks.
  • Test for carbon monoxide (CO) and remedy if found.
  • Adjust blower control and supply-air temperature.
  • Clean and oil the blower
  • Remove dirt, soot, or corrosion from the furnace or boiler
  • Check fuel input and flame characteristics, and adjust if necessary
  • Seal connections between the furnace and main ducts.

For hot water heating systems you should:
  • Test pressure-relief valve
  • Test high-limit control.
  • Inspect pressure tank, which should be filled with air, to verify that it's not filled with water.
  • Clean the heat exchanger.

For steam heating systems you should:
  • Drain some water from the boiler to remove sediments. This improves the heat exchange efficiency.
  • Test low-water cutoff safety control and high-limit safety control.
  • Drain the float chamber to remove sediments. This prevents the low-water cutoff control from sediment clogs.
  • Analyze boiler water and add chemicals as needed to control deposits and corrosion.
  • Clean the heat exchanger.

Long Island Business Directory Listings for Home Heating Services

Long Island Home Heating Systems A general listing for Nassau County and Suffolk County businesses, covering all types of heating systems. The most common type is oil heating. Many of these heating oil companies provide delivery of fuel oil and maintenance of oil burners.

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