Beginner’s Guide to Home Heating Systems
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Beginner’s Guide to Home Heating Systems

By: Galen Fishburn, Service Manager at Dead River Company

Friends who know I’m a Dead River Company Service Manager will often come to me with questions about their home heating system. I am happy to help people navigate what may be a foreign subject to them. If you’re looking for a “beginner’s guide” to home heating systems, you’ve come to the right place!

The two most common systems are either a boiler or a furnace. How can you tell which type of system a home has? Look down.

  • If you see baseboards in every room, or copper piping coming off the unit, that home has a boiler or “hydronic” system. Boilers provide heat through hot water circulating through the baseboards.
  • If you see grates or grills in the floor and sheet metal ductwork coming off the unit, that home has a furnace. A furnace provides heat by warming the air as a blower circulates it.

If you’re buying a new home, be sure to ask about the age and maintenance history of the heating system. Every heating system should have an annual tune up. If the system is approaching 18 years old, a replacement system will be needed soon and that’s a considerable expense—but one that will result in a far more efficient system.

If you’re building a new home and wondering, “Which is better, a furnace or a boiler? Oil or propane?” the answer will depend on which is better for you. To help you make that decision, call any of our expert service technicians at our Dead River Company locations throughout New England.

Many homes have some rooms or areas that could use a boost. That’s where a supplemental heat source can make all the difference in comfort. A propane space heater — which can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% — is an excellent source of supplemental heat.

Home heating season is upon us. If you have questions, Dead River Company has answers.