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Heating Systems Differences

There are many ways to heat your home. Let us help you find out what kind of heating system your home or building uses.


Furnaces and Heaters

Furnaces/Heaters operate by forcing air across the heating source. They may be installed in a closet, crawl space, attic or basement. Furnaces can be divided into several categories, depending on the type of heat source used.

  • Gas furnaces - These furnaces have one of the lowest costs of operation and generally produce heating temperatures higher than a heat pump. They include a chimney or exhaust pipe that runs outdoors.
  • Electric furnaces - Typically more costly to operate than other types of systems, electric furnaces can be used where no gas lines are available. Look for a large electric coil, similar to the one inside a toaster.
  • Oil furnaces - This type of furnace can be used in the absence of natural gas lines. Typically the oil is stored in an above-ground or below-ground tank, or sometimes even a tank located in a basement or cellar.


Heat Pumps

Heat pumps move warm air from the heat source to the desired location, called the heat sink. They operate just like air conditioners, but in reverse. Most heat pumps require a secondary power source, typically an electric one.

  • Heat pumps - Heat pumps look just like the outside units of air conditioners, so check your thermostat. If it has a “back-up” or “secondary” heat switch, you most likely have a heat pump.
  • Geothermal heat pumps - Some of the most expensive units to install, but some of the most efficient units to operate. They do not have outdoor units.



Boilers heat water or steam in a closed vessel and then release it into the home. They are known for their quietness and comfort, though installing a boiler may be expensive depending on the layout of the house.

These systems also allow for individually controlled rooms. Check for a unit with no ductwork, usually located in a basement or closet. It will have water pipes feeding into it, and is most often rectangular.

  • Electric boilers - Electric boilers will not have a chimney (flue) pipe. They will have a large electric circuit feeding it, and probably a large electric bill to go with it.
  • Gas boilers and oil boilers - Both gas boilers and oil boilers have chimney pipes. To determine which type of boiler you have, look to see whether you are paying for fuel oil on your bills.

Aire Serv of Hillsboro

Phone 503.645.5900

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Serving all of Washington County and the surrounding communities including Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton, Forest Grove, Sherwood, Tigard, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Wilsonville, & Portland.


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