Types of Home Heating

A man works on a furnace.

The heating and cooling systems in your home eat up the lion’s share of any electrical budget, so it’s no small feat to make the right choice that will meet all of your comfort and financial needs. When deciding what system is the right balance of value to performance, there are many factors to consider. Here are some pros and cons of several different heating systems to help you out.


Central air via a furnace is the most common heating system in American houses today. It uses ductwork to carry heat throughout the home. It can be run on gas or electricity.

Pros: It is inexpensive to install compared to other products and a fairly efficient way to heat the home. Furnaces can be cost-effective when using natural gas or propane. Ducts can be multi purposed to provide air conditioning.

Cons: Furnaces require ductwork installation and can be costly when ran excessively. You can’t adjust the temperature for individual spaces which creates waste when heat is fed to unused rooms. It is also inconsistent due to air feeling cool while blowing. Ducts can also leak, causing air loss and higher costs. Ductwork can circulate smells, dust, and a lot of noise.

Heat Pump

The heat pump is similar to a furnace with the added benefit of maintaining both your heating and cooling needs in one unit.

Pros: Heat pumps are good for homes in moderate climates. They are significantly more efficient than a gas furnace are have less expensive installation and operating costs.

Cons: Heat pumps have a shorter lifespan than a furnace. They also require more maintenance and are less dependable.


A boiler connected to pipes.

Boilers work by boiling water and using the steam to heat the home through tubing. They are not as common as they used to be, but are still on the market and can also be found in existing structures. Newer versions are about 80 percent efficient.

Pros: Newer models can be very efficient. The same device can be used as an indirect hot water source as well as a heater. High-efficiency models use little energy and provide even heating. They are quiet and produce good indoor air quality.

Cons: Older boilers are highly inefficient, have no cooling ability, and have a high cost to install.

Wood Stove

Wood stoves burn wood. As the wood burns, it generates heat.

Pros: Wood stoves are less expensive than gas, electricity, or oil. They make a nice supplemental heat source and are useful if the power goes out and other systems don’t work.

Cons: Wood stoves can lead to poor air quality inside and outside the home. To fuel a wood stove, you need to purchase or cut wood, meaning you must physically cut, stack, store, and haul wood in addition to maintaining the fire.


A fireplace.

Fireplaces can be open air or enclosed with a glass door. Most modern houses do not employ fireplaces, but existing homes may still have one.

Pros: Fireplaces provide a nice ambiance and give off some heat. Enclosed models are more efficient.

Cons: Extreme heat loss makes fireplaces inefficient and costly to operate.

Pellet Stove

The pellet stove is similar to a wood stove, but is generally considered a cleaner system.

Pros: Pellet stoves heat effectively and provide cleaner air than wood-burning stoves

Cons: You must order bags of pellets, which create waste. You need to consistently refill the stove.

Gas Stove

Gas stoves look like a wood stove or glass fireplace but are fed by gas lines.

Pros: Gas stoves are an efficient heat source and are less expensive than electric power.

Cons: Gas stoves only heat the surrounding area and are expensive to install.

Space Heaters

Space heaters push air over a heated surface. Warm air is then pushed to the rest of the room.

Pros: Space heaters are good for heating a small space. They do not require any ductwork.

Cons: Space heaters are more expensive per unit than gas or oil systems. They are inefficient for larger spaces.

Baseboard Heaters

These are basically the same as space heaters, except that they are hardwired into the wall.

Pros: Individual thermostats allow temperature control in each room. They are inexpensive to install.

Cons: They are expensive compared to other heating options and can be a fire hazard if they come into contact with furniture.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant flooring being installed.

For radiant flooring, heated water runs through tubes beneath the floor, which creates a warm floor and a pleasant living experience in the home.

Pros: It’s nice to have a warm floor. It is also a cost-effective option. The temperature is easy to control.

Cons: Radiant heating is expensive to install and limits the types of flooring you can install. it also requires specialized installation.

Ductless Systems

Outside of the U.S., ductless systems are very common. They basically use refrigerant lines to transfer heat instead of air or water.

Pros: These systems are efficient and do not require the installation of ductwork.

Cons: Ductless systems are not common in the U.S. so it is difficult to find experienced installers, making it expensive to install.

When considering the right heating system for your home, cost and comfort are both major factors. Although there isn’t a perfect one-system-fits-all answer, with an understanding of the pros and cons of each system you can be cozy in your home without having heart palpitations every time you open the power bill.