Home Heating Systems in Seattle: What Home Buyers Need to Know

Brrrr!! It is a cold one out there. This morning I am thankful for an advanced heating system that keeps me toasty. Do you know about all the different types of heating systems we have in Seattle? As a home buyer, it is important to learn more about your system and have a good understanding of how it works, what maintenance is involved, and what to watch out for to keep your system in top shape. According to Seattle City Light, “space heating represents the single largest energy consumer in the typical Seattle home.” This can get expensive! Below is a summary of what we might see out on the market:

Furnaces – Furnaces with forced air are the most common type of heat system used in our area. These utilize natural gas or electricity (most commonly) but some systems still utilize oil.

Heat Pumps – Although heat pumps are run on electricity, according to Seattle City Light they can be 200% efficient because they draw heat from the air outside. Unless the temperature gets down very low (in the 30’s or below generally speaking), the heat pump can still draw heat out of the air and move it into the house.

Boilers – Boilers heat water and pump it through the house through pipes – some of which may be located underneath the floor while others have baseboard pipe systems (which look like baseboard heaters, but actually are radiators). Boilers can utilize natural gas, oil, and electricity.

The above systems are usually designed to heat entire homes. There are also systems that heat room by room such as:

  • Electric baseboard heaters: These produce a good amount of heat, but distributing it through the room can be tough. Furniture placement can also be a challenge.
  • Electric recessed wall heaters: These, like baseboard heating, can produce a good amount of heat with distribution challenges. However, some contain a blower which helps.
  • Electric radiant heat: There are whole-home systems and systems that can be installed in individual rooms such as under tile (where heat is then stored).
  • Fireplaces (gas, electric, or even wood-burning): These not only provide nice ambiance, but they are a great option to heat individual rooms. Unfortunately, they are not a very efficient option due to the heat loss up the chimney.
  • Pellet or wood burning stoves:  Pellet stoves work similarly to fireplaces in that they primarily heat the room they are in. However, blowers can help distribute the heat into different rooms in the house.
  • Ductless heat pumps: These are beginning to climb in popularity because they are even more efficient than a ducted heat pump (as there is heat loss within the duct system) and they only heat the room you need to have heated (or have different rooms heated to different temperatures). Furthermore, in the summer, they can cool!

When buying a home, I recommend having the heating system inspected and learning what you need to do in terms of maintenance. This might include duct cleaning, filter replacement, or an annual tune up including topping off fluids. Some older systems may be so inefficient that replacement actually makes better financial and environmental sense. In some cases, rebates from the Department of Energy, Cascade Natural Gas, Puget Sound Energy, or Seattle City Light (or another local gas or electricity provider) may be available. And a new system will improve your home value!

Don’t be left in the cold this winter. I can put you in touch with someone who can help you determine how to keep your system in tip-top shape and add dollars to your bottom line. Give me a call at (206) 226-5300 or send an email to sold@windermere.com.