The Heating System, Boiler, and Furnace
All houses and buildings in the greater New York area that are used year-round have a heating system. The heating system keeps the building comfortably warm during the cold winter months. The most common heating systems in this area are forced hot air heat, hot water (or hydronic) heat, steam heat, and heat pumps. Fireplaces, coal-burning stoves, and wood-burning stoves provide supplemental heat in some buildings. The source of fuel for the heating system can be oil, gas, or electricity. Click here for photographs of Heating Systems.
You need to know whether the heating system will adequately heat the home or building on cold days. The Licensed Professional Engineers (who are also Licensed Home Inspectors) at Heimer Engineering can assess the sufficiency of the heating system. Other things the Engineers assess include the age of the heating system, whether it will need replacement soon, whether there are hazardous conditions, if the system is outdated, etc. An expense analysis is provided in the engineering report to help you understand the cost of correcting any problems that are found.
The cost of heating a home or building has increased significantly over the years. An outdated heating system may be very costly to operate. Replacement of an old and inefficient heating system may be a considered as a means of reducing heating costs. Replacing old windows can also reduce the expense of heating a building. Of course, upgrading the insulation will reduce heating expenses. The Licensed Professional Engineers (who are also Licensed Home Inspectors) at Heimer Engineering will advise you of steps you can take to reduce heating expenses.
In a forced hot air heating system, the heat exchanger in a furnace is warmed by burning fuel. In some homes, a boiler heats water, which is circulated through a fan-coil unit to warm the heat exchanger. A fan circulates air from inside the building over the warm heat exchanger. This warmed air is then circulated throughout the building, heating the building.
In some homes and buildings, forced hot air heating ducts are also used for cooling. Since heating ducts are best placed at floor level, and cooling ducts are best placed at ceiling level, the situation is far from optimal.
Water is heated in boiler, usually to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Pumps circulate the hot water through pipes in the building. This heated water warms radiators placed in the rooms, which heats the room. In some homes, pipes are buried in the concrete slab or are located under tiles. This is called radiant heat.
Many people prefer (hydronic) hot water heat, because the radiators are small, the system typically quiet, and it can be easily divided into multiple zones. Hot water heat has made steam heat obsolete in homes and smaller buildings.
Steam heat is an older style heating system, typically installed in homes and buildings constructed before the 1950s. Water is heated in a boiler until it becomes steam. Steam, which is a gas, rises through the pipes into radiators. The steam causes these radiators to become hot, which warms the building.
Steam heat is often noisy, and buildings with steam heat often warm unevenly. The pipes used with steam heat have a long life expectancy. Steam systems are typically is not readily converted to hot water heating systems.
Although steam heat is rarely installed in new homes or small buildings, it may be the heating system of choice in a high-rise building. This is because of the difficulty in pumping hot water to the upper levels of a high-rise building.
Essentially, a heat pump is an air-conditioner working in reverse. In the summer, a heat pump functions like a normal air-conditioner. In the cooler months, the heat pump can be operated in a reverse mode. In this mode, the heat pump heats a building by extracting the available heat energy from outside air or underground water.
When the outside temperature falls below freezing, the heat pump can no longer effectively extract heat from the air. Below freezing, the heat pump relies on an internal electric heating coil, which is very expensive to operate.
In the greater New York area, the heating season usually runs from October through April, and the cost of electricity is relatively high. For these reasons, heat pumps may not be the most economical way to heat a building. However some homes have no oil or gas available, as is the case in some condominium unit developments.
Some homes have wood-burning stoves, coal-burning stoves, or fireplaces. While a stove or fireplace can warm a building, it cannot be counted on to provide continuous heat. All of these systems require that the fuel be replenished on an ongoing basis. While this may suit a quiet getaway weekend in the country, it is seldom a match with modern lifestyles. Depend upon a wood-burning stove, coal-burning stove, or fireplace only as a supplemental source of heat.
The design of some heating systems is so outdated that an upgrade should be considered. Examples include convection hot water and gravity hot air. Some old apartments depend on a kitchen stove for heat. Depend upon Heimer Engineering to advise you in this regard.
Regardless of the type of heating system, some form of energy is required. The most common energy sources in the greater New York area are oil, gas, and electricity. Wood and coal are sometimes used as a source of fuel, usually in a supplemental role. Solar heat is occasionally seen, although there is not enough solar energy collected during the cold winter months to heat a typical home. Click here for photographs of Heating Systems
The following table summarizes the types of energy sources, their advantages, and their disadvantages:
|Structural System||Foundation||Basement Water||Licensed Engineers|
Utilities and Appliances
|Electric System||Aluminum Wiring||Heating System||Hot Water System|
|Air Conditioning||Plumbing System||Appliances||Think Green|
Insect Damage and Rotted Wood
|Termites||"Free" Inspections||Carpenter Ants||Rotted Wood|
Building Codes and Construction
|Building Codes||New Construction||Construction Damage||Storm Damage|
Inside and Outside the House or Building
|Roof System||Leaders and Gutters||Siding||Trim|
|Environment||Windows and Doors||Inside the Building||Outside the Building|
|More…||Definition of Terms||Foreclosure Homes||Short Sale Inspections|
|Pre-Lease Inspections||Pre-Listing Inspections||Settlement Inspections||Quick Info|
|Sample Report||Inspection Reports||Expense Analysis||Why an Engineer?|
Heimer Engineering PC performs pre-purchase home, building, condominium, and co-op inspections, and provides other Engineering services. Heimer Engineering does not provide contracting, construction, building, or repair services. We are not associated with any contracting, construction, or repair company. This helps assure you of unbiased professional advice.