Forced Air Heating System Guide

If you’re considering purchasing a forced air system, or you’re just curious why forced air systems are the most popular in North America, here are the three most important things about forced air systems that you need to know.

How forced air systems work

First, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how forced air systems work. What is forced air and how do forced air systems work? Forced air systems use a furnace or heat pump to heat the air and then disperse it through the house via ductwork and in-room vents.


Once the temperature is set at the thermostat, cold air from the home is pulled into the system where it passes through the air filter, removing allergens like pollen and dust. It then blows the air through the air handler where it is warmed via the furnace’s heat source and spread to the home through the ducts via the blower motor. If a heat pump is your primary source for heat, it will immediately begin pulling heat out of the air at the outdoor unit, pass it through the refrigerant lines going into your home, and then through the air handler and into your ducts.


These heating processes repeat themselves until the temperature of the home matches the temperature set at the thermostat.

Pros of forced air systems

There are a variety of benefits provided by a forced air system. Many of these can improve the air quality and energy efficiency of your home. We have highlighted a few of the most important benefits of forced air systems below. 

  • Air quality and comfort – With regular furnace filter maintenance, a forced air system can improve the air quality in your home. Furnace filters in forced air systems trap allergens and airborne particles that can make breathing difficult or get your family sick. Additionally, dehumidifier or humidifier units can be added to forced air systems to keep the air in your home at a comfortable humidity level without adding excess energy usage.
  • Energy efficiency – The government now requires new forced air systems to operate at higher efficiency levels than ever before. These efficiency ratings ensure that your fixed air system will heat your home efficiently, without wasting precious heat and hurting your bottom line.
  • Combined heating and cooling – Forced air systems are the only HVAC systems that can combine heating and cooling. The ductwork used for the heating aspect of your forced air system can also distribute central air conditioning throughout your home.

Cons of forced air systems

It’s important to know all you can about a product before purchasing, especially one with such a significant impact on your home and finances. While forced air systems have many advantages, no system is perfect. They do have a handful of their own disadvantages, a few of which are highlighted below.

  • Uneven air distribution can occur – Forced air systems rely on ducts and vents to distribute air into the rooms of your home. If these vents are blocked — for example, by furniture, interior design elements, or poor vent placement obstructing the airflow — rooms may heat unevenly.
  • Can create an unhealthy environment – Without regular furnace filter maintenance, your system could actually spread the kind of airborne particles it is meant to filter out. Forced air systems require simple, regular maintenance that not all homeowners want to provide.
  • Can be noisy – One of the biggest cons for forced air systems is the level of noise they produce. Each time the system cycles on, homeowners will hear its fans turning and air being pushed through the vents.

Forced air system FAQs

What is the difference between forced air and central air?

The main difference between central and forced air is that forced air is any heating or cooling system using ducts and vents to bring temperature-controlled air into a building. Central air applies only to cooling systems and actually uses forced air systems to transport air through ducts and vents. Sometimes people use the terms forced-air and central air interchangeably.

How does forced air heating work?

Forced air systems are the most common home heating option, and often runs off natural gas, propane or oil. The system takes cold air in through a return vent to the furnace where the air is heated by burning fuel. The air is then sent back through additional ducts using a blower and dispersed throughout a building.

Why are forced air heating systems popular?

Forced air systems are popular because of their many positive attributes. The filters used in forced air systems trap allergens and other dangerous air particles, creating better air quality in the home. Additionally, forced air systems are required to run at very high efficiency levels, which means you spend less on your energy bill. The convenience of a 2-in-1 heating and cooling system is also a big draw for many consumers. Finally, forced air systems effectively maintain comfortable levels of humidity in the home.