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Modern central heating systems:
Active indirect water heater:
Circulating hot water can be used for central heating. Sometimes these systems are called hydronic heating systems:
Common components of a central heating system using water-circulation include:
A supply of fuel, electric power, gas or oil
A Boiler which heats water in the system
Pump to circulate the water
Radiators which are wall-mounted panels through which the heated water passes in order to release heat into rooms or radiant floor tubing
The circulating water systems use a closed loop; the same water is heated and then reheated. A sealed system provides a form of central heating in which the water used for heating circulates independently of the building's normal water supply. An expansion tank contains compressed gas, separated from the sealed-system water by a diaphragm. This allows for normal variations of pressure in the system. A safety valve allows water to escape from the system when pressure becomes too high, and a valve that can open to replenish water from the normal water supply if the pressure drops too low.
Hydronic radiant floor heating systems use a boiler or district heating to heat water and a pump to circulate the hot water in plastic pipes installed in a concrete slab. The pipes, embedded in the floor, carry heated water that conducts warmth to the surface of the floor, where it broadcasts heat energy to the room above. Hydronic heating systems are also used with antifreeze solutions in ice and snow melt systems for walkways, parking lots and streets. They are more commonly used in commercial and whole house radiant floor heat projects, whereas electric radiant heat systems are more commonly used in smaller "spot warming" applications.
In mild climates an air source heat pump can be used to air condition the building during hot weather, and to warm the building using heat extracted from outdoor air in cold weather. Air-source heat pumps are generally uneconomic for outdoor temperatures much below freezing. In colder climates, geothermal heat pumps can be used to extract heat from the ground. For economy, these systems are designed for average low winter temperatures and use supplemental heating for extreme low temperature conditions. The advantage of the heat pump is that it reduces the purchased energy required for building heating; often geothermal source systems also supply domestic hot water. Even in places where fossil fuels provide most electricity, a geothermal system may offset greenhouse gas production since most of the heat is supplied from the surrounding environment, with only 15–30% as electrical consumption
Heating systems consist of appliances whose purpose is to generate warmth for your home or business space. This can be done several different ways. One popular way these days, is central heating. Such a system contains a boiler, furnace, or heat pump in a central location such as a furnace room in a home, or a mechanical room in a large building. The heat can be transferred by convection, conduction, or radiation.
In the case of heated water or steam, piping is used to transport the heat to the rooms. Most modern hot water boiler heating systems have a circulator, which is a pump, to move hot water through the distribution system (as opposed to older gravity-fed systems). The heat can be transferred to the surrounding air using radiators, hot water coils (hydro-air), or other heat exchangers. The radiators may be mounted on walls or installed within the floor to give the floor heat. The use of water as the heat transfer medium is known as hydronics. The heated water can also supply an auxiliary heat exchanger to supply hot water for bathing and washing.
The most common method of heat generation involves the combustion of fossil fuel in a furnace or boiler. Increasingly, buildings utilize solar-powered heat sources, in which case the distribution system normally uses water circulation. In much of the temperate climate zone, most new housing has come with central heating installed since the Second World War, at least. Such areas normally use gas heaters, district heating, or oil-fired system, often using forced-air systems. Steam-heating systems, fired by coal, oil or gas, are also used, primarily for larger buildings. Electrical heating systems occur less commonly and are practical only with low-cost electricity or when ground source heat pumps are used. Considering the combined system of central generating plant and electric resistance heating, the overall efficiency will be less than for direct use of fossil fuel for space heating.