A forced air system circulates warmed or cooled air around the house through a network of ducts. It also provides a means of distributing ventilation air.
A hot water (hydronic) system distributes heat through hot water pipes and radiators.
Space heaters, though not technically a distribution system, provide direct heat to the room in which they are located.
It is important that a distribution system is properly designed, installed and operated to ensure maximum energy efficiency and comfort levels.
Try to avoid placing any part of your distribution system outside of your home's insulation. This is sometimes done as a simple remedy to a routing problem, but there is always some heat loss through the wall of any distribution system. It is better that any losses heat (or cool) you rather than your attic.
The majority of Ontario's new homes and most existing homes have forced air distribution. Registers in each room can be adjusted to control the air flow. Return registers draw air from the rooms through separate ducts back to the furnace to complete the cycle of air flow through the house.
Leaks in forced air distribution systems are often ignored because they normally do not cause any obvious damage, but it is important to avoid/eliminate such leaks. Leaks will affect a distribution system's ability to provide comfort in all areas of the house, and leaks in some parts of the system can result in significant energy loss and/or condensation related damage which may be hidden from sight.
A hot water heating system distributes hot water from a boiler to radiators, convectors or under-floor heating systems in each room. In older homes, large cast-iron radiators are common. Modern systems feature smaller boilers, narrow piping and compact radiators that can be regulated to provide temperature control in each room. Under-the-floor heating systems can be built into the floors of new and existing homes.
These have no central heating unit or distribution system. Instead, individual space heaters - such as a wood stove, electric baseboards, radiant heaters or heaters fueled with oil, natural gas or propane - supply heat directly to the room.
For safety, all space heaters except electric ones need to be vented to the outside. An appropriately-sized space heater can supply some heat to all parts of a home if the design of the home allows for natural distribution of heat from the heater location. In most cases, more than one unit would be required to comply with building code requirements; but multiple units allow you to vary the temperature around the house.
© 2005 Queen's Printer for Ontario
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