When moving to a new home, one of the most important things to check is how the heat is delivered from the central unit to the rooms. There are two ways of transferring heat: by air and by water. Air is warmed up in central units called furnaces, and sent through ducts to room registers. Water is heated up in a boiler and distributed by pipelines to radiators which warm the room’s air.

Both systems require a device to get the hot air or water into motion, and that device is usually electric. Radiator systems use water pumps, while hot air duct networks use a blower to circulate the air.

heating-systemVery old homes have vertical radiators made of cast iron, just like the pipes. These are old-fashioned but effective, but not as effective as modern baseboard radiators. Baseboard radiators are not only more energy-efficient, they’re also more aesthetically acceptable. However, radiator systems suffer from a major disadvantage – the heat takes time to reach the rooms, and the more distant parts of the home from the boiler get the heat even later. Likewise, it also means that once you turn the boiler fire off, the heat will remain in the system for some time, especially if the water pump is still on. These systems use multiple heat exchange: the burner heats the combustion chamber pipes giving the heat to the water, water then delivers heat to radiators, and the warmth of radiators is passed to the room air. This makes these systems incapable of accurate control. Anyway, with radiator systems you will have a stable air temperature which won’t ever change quickly, this way or another, keeping your air relatively humid as there is no air friction to pick the humidity up.

Hot air or forced air systems use air which is directly heated and sent straight to the rooms. With such a system, you get quick warmth. On the other hand, the warmth perishes once you turn it off without delay. Hot air systems can be upgraded with an air conditioner, so these can chill your rooms during the summer. With radiator heating you need to solve summer heat problems with separate air conditioners. Hot air systems allow you to have a full control of your home air conditions and there is no need for the blower to run all the time. However, the humidity may go out quicker than with a radiator system, so you need to be careful with that. Another problem may be that when the hot air system is not running, the registers become drafts, and if your home is not properly air tight, they can actually chill your home in winter and the only way to avoid that is to let it run most or all the time. This system’s greatest disadvantage is dust that may collect inside the dusts and cause discomfort and a possible health concern.

Conclusion: Both radiator and forced hot air systems have their pros and cons, but there are slightly more advantages on the radiator’s side.