When I was a kid my parents’ house had hot water baseboard heat. This idea (popular in the late 60’s) was thought to be an upgradeover the traditional cast iron radiators. In fact, they still sell the units and can be fairly comfortable heating. This system was normally a copper pipe with aluminum fins that ran essentially around the exterior of the house. But… it was noisy. I remember every morning waking up to the cracking and popping noise of the units as they expanded from the hot water running through them. Also, one drawback was they provided no air conditioning.
Now for the past 50-years or so, the go-to system for mid-price has been a forced air system. These systems are typically fueled by gas, if available. If not, an electric heat pump is used. Many improvements have been made over the years on forced air systems.
With the improvement of building systems and insulation, it takes a lot less energy to heat or cool the homes we now build. This changes the types of heating systems needed, as well. It no longer takes a 120,000 BTU gas furnace to heat the Brady Bunch rancher style home.
Now, for the past several years we have been using more ductless systems which I believe is the way the industry is heading. Why is this? Simply due to their energy efficiency, size, ease of installation and the ability to control zones on the different areas of the home. Another reason is these systems have no leaking air from ducts which can account for 30% of energy consumption in space conditioning. Add to this the fact that ceilings do not need to be dropped with ugly soffits.
The systems are composed of two parts: the indoor air handler and the outdoor condenser unit. We like the Mitsubishi Hyper Heat units for our climate in Spokane.
The outdoor condenser units in the photo below are inverter driven variable refrigerant flow units. This means they can ramp up or down for just the right amount of heat or cooling needed for the current conditions.
This is a huge deal since the majority of heat pump units on ducted systems cannot do this. These units are so efficient that in our area, they can operate more cheaply than natural gas or electricity. And did I tell you that most of the time they are very, very quiet. This is because most days the fan turns very slowly because conditions are not too extreme.