Here in America and in Europe, furnaces and boilers are the usual methods used to heat up a home or business. The American energy center considers them a part of the HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air cooling). Both are considered effective ways to effectively warm homes and businesses.

Side note: In South Korea, over 90% of the homes use a heating method referred to as ondol (hot stone in Korean). This is a floor heating system that commonly uses hot water to heat up an entire room. Ondol has been credited for the Korean tradition of dining, resting and sleeping on the floor. Floor heating systems have been traced back to 500 BC and were used by both the Greek and Roman empires.

Russia uses a government controlled system using a heating plant that provides underground heating in addition to government-owned radiators in homes and businesses. Apparently, despite the heating, it still remains a bit chilly indoors.

Let’s take a closer look at both, furnaces and boilers.

Your Furnace and You

If you’re like me and have a furnace in your home, you may…or may not know how it works. They are generally powered in one of three ways Natural gas, fuel oil or electricity and warm buildings by blowing heated air through the rooms via air registers and grills.

Registers and grills are both needed in order for furnaces to works effectively.

Registers regulate the flow of air from your heater and can flow in up to four separate ways. They can be located in either walls or ceilings and when blocked it can severely affect room temperatures. Meanwhile, grills are located in walls, floors or ceilings and take the air out of the room to send it back to the heating system.

For the most part, the entirety of a furnace can be summed up in four individual parts: the thermostat, burner, heat exchanger and blower.

The Thermostat

Modern thermostats are electronic and are basically your furnaces wall embedded remote control. They can be preprogrammed to turn on and off at specific times or when desired temperatures are reached. It can help you save money by controlling how much heat is being used at any one time and can usually be programmed for days, weeks or months at a time.

The Burner

JC Heating & Cooling, a La Grange HVAC service, tells us that the burner itself is comprised of various parts as well and can come with a wide array of options. For example, some burners come with an area referred to as a premixer which mixes the fuel source and air before it ever reaches the area that heats the fuel source and warms the air up.In addition, furnaces sometimes have multiple burners, are differentiated by being called either a single or dual burner.

The Heat Exchanger

This is an extremely important part of the furnace that is made up of coiled tubes that repeatedly redistributes the heat created from the burner in and out of the air that the grill brought back into the system.

This part can be dangerous to your entire household if cracked or damaged. It has the capability to leak different types of dangerous gases. For example, carbon monoxide, which when inhaled can cause carbon monoxide poisoning creating flu-like symptoms that when continuously breathed may even lead to death.

The Blower

This is the final stage in your furnace. The blower, also known as the blower fan, pushes the hot air into air ducts and then continuous on into the rest of your home.

Boilers and You

These function a lot like furnaces do; they can also be powered by different sources and controlled by a thermostat. However, instead of blowing warm air it heats water up to one hundred and ninety degrees and it heats both rooms and the water running through your facets.

Also, unlike furnaces, only boilers can be connected to radiators. They heat water by using an oil or gas  burner which in turn changes it to steam. The steam is then funneled through a series of pipes into a radiator and after cooling back down it waters condensation seeps right back into the boiler.

In lieu of using steam, hot water versions are also used. They are able to either heat the air with the assistance of coils or run hot water through baseboard radiators

Understanding the parts of your furnace or boiler and how they function is really helpful when it malfunctions and you need to figure out fast how to fix it. For example, if it is not blowing air, checking your thermostat settings may help. Is your furnace electric? Then maybe you just need to check the circuit breakers.

Knowing the basics of your heating unit may potentially save you a lot of money. Even if your unit only needs a minor, inexpensive fix, calling a professional in will cost you a lot more than just fixing it yourself.

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