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Furnaces & Gas Heaters 101: How Do They Work?

Furnaces & Gas Heaters 101: How Do They Work?
Last Updated: 05 September 2019

Eons ago, people would have given their arm and leg to have central heating in their homes. Imagine an inconvenience of lighting wood or coal in every room to keep them warm. The idea behind central heating is simple.

You have a boiler, which is your furnace that is fueled by gas. That furnace can be located in your kitchen or bathroom. It uses water and powered by an electric pump that carries that hotness to a radiator and in turn, to all these other rooms. It makes winter bearable and even enjoyable.

To clear things up, there are different types of heating systems. It can be a boiler, a hotness pump, and even active solar heating. If that heating system uses water and with radiators, that is a boiler. A heat pump is like your reverse air conditioner. Instead of cold air, it blows warm air.

Many modern homes have a combination of a heat pump during mild weather and a powerful heating capacity of a boiler at the height of winter. Another misnomer is that not all furnaces use natural gasohol, some of them run on heating oil, electricity or propane.


The majority of households in North Temperate Zone depend on a central firebox for their heating systems. That most common type of furnace is powered by natural gas, where the heat in one area is distributed throughout a home using vents and ducts. Others call this system as ducted warm-air or forced warm-air.

The main components of a firebox are control system (composed of a thermostat and these electrical controls), gasohol valve, and combustion gases that are vented out through that flue pipe.

How does a Gas Furnace Work?

gas furnance scheme

A firebox functions by blowing warm air through these ducts. That heated air is delivered to each of these rooms in your house through these grills or air registers. Inside that gas furnace burners, this fuel creates combustion by combining with air. These flames then heat up exchanger and here that heat converts into thin air. That air handlers push this air in this furnace fan, which in turn, pushes it into these ducts by downstream in this heat exchange.

These by-products of this combustion leave that firebox through your flue pipe. In older models of furnaces, this combustion is directly piped out into that atmosphere. Because you need to maintain this temperature of that exhaust to push this exhaust across your chimney, it wastes approximately 30% of fuel.

In parts of a gas furnace diagram, furnaces are now more energy-efficient and reduce waste significantly by introducing this inducer fan. That heat exchanger and that draft in your chimney help pull these waste gases.

The condensing furnaces are more efficient because they are designed to reclaim that leaking heat by lowering that temperature of these exhaust gases. At 140 F degrees, these gases condense into water. You can see this in a furnace diagram with a vent in your sidewall.

As you can see in how a furnace work diagram, that heating system regulators are responsible for controlling it by turning that heating system on and off. For this user, that thermostat is that essential component because it signals the system to turn off and on until a comfortable temperature is achieved.

Gas Heaters

The history of gasohol heaters goes back to 1856 when a British company named Pettit and Smith create the first model based on the concept of a Bunsen burner. That design is simple. When that flame heats the air around that burner, convection helps spread that air and thereby providing the heat into the room.

Coal was the preferred method through these 1900s until its efficiency was improved when the heat exchanger was introduced. Nowadays, many of gasohol heaters use electricity to ignite the flame. Thus, it will not work without them.

How Do a Gas Heater Work?

gas heater scheme

For anyone who lives with four seasons, heaters can make life more comfortable. There is a wide variety of available heaters on the market today, and while the same basic principles apply to most heaters, each model has slight variations. An electric ignition controls many of gasohol heaters while older ones are controlled by pilot light.

In pilot light-controlled, how does a gas heater work is when the heater is switched on, the valve released the gasohol to the burner. This pilot light ignites that burner, and heat is created. Here this electricity is used as a trigger to that pilot light and not as that primary source of energy. This electricity is created by the thermocouple, which in turn gets it from the heat.

One of the joints of the thermocouple is stretched out directly on the flame of the pilot light. This creates the electricity that powered electromagnetic valve, which maintains the gasohol to stream to the flame. In case pilot light goes off the thermocouple will cool down, electricity will stop, a valve will shut down, and gasohol is cut off for safety. And that is how gas heaters work.

In gasohol heaters controlled by electronic-ignition, there is no need for continuous flame within the heater is eliminated. Instead, an electronic ignition uses highly charged electrical spark a kindle, the gasohol streaming from the pipe. This is more cost-effective because it reduces waste energy when the pilot light always burns gas.

Modern central heating systems with fitted ducts also use electricity to monitor the heater and regulate the fan, along with the flame sensor, plus all other safety functions. It allows the homeowner to control the distribution of heat in each zone, which can save energy if the rooms are not used. In short, these modern gasohol heating systems have combined the efficiency of gasohol and the cost benefits of using electronic controls.

Final Thoughts

Both gas firebox and gasohol heaters work well in keeping your house warm during the winter. By knowing how the components of these two works to keep you comfortable, it will be easier for you to decide on which of these features are essential in selecting a heating system.

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