Forced Air Heating/Cooling Systems
Forced air residential heating/cooling systems are probably the most common in the U.S. The preference for forced air or hydronic systems tends to ebb and flow. Currently, hydronic systems are again surging in popularity.
Most basically they consist of a furnace, heat pump or electric heating element to warm the air, a blower to and return it to the furnace, and a thermostat to control the temperature.
Another common alternative is electric baseboard heat. In these systems, heating elements in each room warm the air, so there’s no need for a distribution system.
Forced Air Advantages/Disadvantages
Many homeowners favor forced air heating systems because they can easily accommodate central air conditioning through existing ductwork. Homeowners often don’t realize that hydronic heating system can also be used for efficient and comfortable home cooling.
Forced air systems also tend to cost less than hydronic systems and since there is no water involved, there’s no risk of damage due to leaks.
However, they have offsetting disadvantages, too. They are noisy compared to hydronic systems. They create drafts and can distribute dust, pollen, germs and other contaminants throughout the home. They’re difficult to retro-fit to an existing home and if not installed properly can be prone to leaky ducts. They also require filtration, and more regular maintenance than a water-based system. More subjectively, most people feel that hydronic systems produce more even, comfortable heat than forced air systems.