Everything you wanted to know about your Kelowna Home Heating Systems (part 1)

It may be a strange thing to think about with the summer season upon us and the temperature rising, but we all enjoy a comfortable temperature in our own space. Whether you have a large family dwelling or a single-story apartment, what are the key things that everyone should know about their home’s heating system?
For many of us, natural gas heating appliances, whether a furnace that heats the air or a boiler system that heats water, or a cozy fireplace have been the mainstay of heating our personal spaces for years. A central air heating appliance takes cool air from the living space and passes it over a heated “exchanger” that warms the air and redistributes it throughout. The cool and heated air is distributed via a large fan, or blower, through metal ducts that are typically hidden behind walls or in the ceiling. These types of systems are rated by their level of efficiency – that is the amount of energy used to produce a certain amount of heat. Most newer furnaces of this type are very efficient at 90% efficiency or higher. In the case of a boiler type system, water is circulated by a pump throughout the space via a closed system of pipes (again, usually hidden in the walls and ceiling) to a boiler that heats the water. To heat the space, the hot water is distributed to wall units or through a series of coils in the floor where the heat transfers from the water to the air. These types of systems are more efficient than forced air and can be more enjoyable as they do not use a fan to move the air around your space.
Electric heating is becoming more and more popular as governments at all levels search for the best options to meet “net zero” emissions targets. By choosing an electric type heating source, the electricity that is generated – be it wind, water or solar is considered “cleaner” than burning a fossil fuel source (i.e., natural gas or oil) at every individual property. In this case, heat pumps are considered the best option and come in two forms – central or distributed. In the case of a central heat pump, an outdoor unit extracts heat energy from and outside source such as the ground, air or water and moves it into the dwelling to be distributed by a central blower through a network of metal ducts (like the central gas furnace above). In the summer months, the process is reversed, and heat energy is moved outside the dwelling to be expelled. Heat pumps are considered 100% efficient, however, due to the cost of a single unit of electricity being higher than an equivalent unit of gas, they can be more costly to operate. Did you know that all new construction in the City of Vancouver is banned from installing any form of natural gas appliance? This includes the infrastructure to deliver natural gas to the property.
Some other considerations:

  • Oil tanks. Oil tanks were typically installed underground or at the side of a dwelling and contained the fuel oil that was burned to heat the home. Although examples of fuel oil heated properties can still be found, they are rare. The bigger concern is when a property previously used fuel oil as a heating fuel and the tank has been abandoned. In these circumstances (especially with underground oil tanks), there could be a costly environmental cleanup when the tank eventually (and inevitably) begins to leak. If the property you are viewing is more than 40 years old, it is worthwhile to make additional inquiries about past oil tanks. If you do find that a property you are purchasing has an underground oil tank, you should speak to your realtor and/or seek legal advice.
  • Hot water. Everyone loves a warm shower. Like space heating appliances, there are several options for heating water – electricity, natural gas, even solar! One popular (yet more costly) option is Hot Water on Demand. Sometimes referred to as a “tankless” hot water system, water is only heated when it is required. This can be a great option for a large family as it can provide almost limitless hot water. With a tank system, hot water is stored in a large tank and maintained at a certain temperature until it is needed. The limitation being that you only have a certain amount of hot water at any given moment and then you need to wait until the tank fills back up and re-heats the water!