12 Types of Heating Systems and Which Is Best for You
Most people are familiar with at least one type of heater, but did you know there are many types with different ways of heating your home?
You’ve likely seen heaters mounted to walls, but there are plenty of other unique options out there. Some heating systems are regional and aren’t seen much outside of their respective service areas.
We’ve spent over six decades collecting knowledge in the field, and now we’re passing it on to you so you can make a more informed decision the next time you need to upgrade your heating system!
Today, we’ll learn about:
- The different types of heating systems
- What energy each heating system relies on to get the job done
Let’s jump in with one of the most common heating methods found in many HVAC systems so that you can determine which one best suits your needs when shopping around.
12 types of heating systems
- In-floor radiant
- Heat pump
- Electric space heater
- Active solar heating
- Hybrid heating
- Baseboard heat
- Gravity furnace
- Ductless mini-split
- Wood-burning stove
A furnace takes in air and heats it to the thermostat’s specification using electricity, natural gas, oil, or propane.
Once the furnace heats, that heat travels through a heat exchanger while air passes over to create hot air. From there, the heated air blows through the ventilation in the home with the help of the fan motor.
If you'd like to know more about HVAC, feel free to explore what HVAC is and what components make up an HVAC system.
While boilers date back to the 1600s, they have newer iterations and are present in many homes across the United States. Boilers use natural gas, oil, biodiesel, electricity, or propane to produce heat.
These systems work by generating heat that passes through a heat exchanger before circulating the heated water or steam throughout the home. The water or steam then travels to various radiators throughout. This makes boilers hydronic.
3. In-floor radiant
In-floor radiant heat takes a different approach to heat, with tubes carrying heat located underneath the floor. In this case, electricity or hydronic energy produces heat.
The heat produced by the electricity or hot water circulates throughout the pipes beneath the floor to create radiant heat stemming from the floor, which creates an even distribution of heat throughout the home.
4. Heat pump
Heat pumps are unique in that they can produce both cold and hot air. These systems produce heat by taking from the home and circulating it through the indoor fan coil in the air handler and the compressor unit outside to achieve heat transfer.
Another way heat pumps perform the same process is by using the geothermal method to transfer air between the air in your home and the ground outside. This is a pricier method to install but can have a lower cost to operate, thanks to the ground’s more consistent temperature.
An added benefit of a heat pump is its flexibility, allowing it to be a part of other types of heating systems, like hybrid heating.
5. Electric space heater
While this is one of the simplest heating systems on the list, it’s also one of the most common. Electric space heaters are a cost-effective way to heat smaller rooms or specific areas within the home in warmer regions.
These heating systems work by changing electricity into heat. The process for infrared heaters is like how a toaster works, with electric heating coils, transforming energy into infrared radiation. Infrared heaters aren’t recommended for larger rooms since they direct heat toward people and objects in their immediate vicinity.
On the other hand, convection heaters take in air from the room and pull it over an electrically heated surface before circulating it back into the room.
6. Active solar heating
One of the more complicated heating systems, active solar heating banks on the help of other heating systems to be efficient.
Active solar heating uses solar panels to capture energy from the sun and store it to use at a later time. These systems achieve their purpose with solar energy heating liquid or air, which is then pumped or pushed into the home.
7. Hybrid heating
Hybrid heating systems are ideal for regions with intense weather since they’re comprised of a heat pump to handle daily duties and a furnace to ramp up in the winter months, ensuring adequate heating year-round. These systems typically use natural gas or electricity to heat.
A benefit of hybrid heating is that both components get a rest now and then, reducing wear and tear and promoting a longer life cycle.
8. Baseboard heater
Baseboard heaters are often a part of the discussion around in-floor heating due to their location. These systems stick out from baseboards on walls and use convection to heat the home with the help of a heating coil flanked by fans, which provides the same rising hot air functionality of in-floor heating.
Unfortunately, one of the issues with baseboard heaters is that, while they’re 100% efficient in turning electricity into heat, they cost more to heat a room than other alternatives like HVAC and in-floor heating.
9. Gravity furnace
Often located in the lowest point of the home, gravity furnaces rely heavily on heat rising to perform their function. They do not have many moving parts and simply take in air from a duct before passing it through a heat exchanger and letting gravity lift the heated air throughout the ducts.
Gravity furnaces can use propane, oil, natural gas, or electricity to produce heat.
While gravity furnaces became popular in the 1800s before fizzling out halfway through the twentieth century, they are still found in homes. It’s recommended to swap these units out in favor of something more efficient and modern.
10. Ductless mini-splits
In contrast to traditional furnace-based forced air heating, ductless mini-splits do not require any ducting. Instead, each individually placed air handler in the house connects to an outdoor compressor.
Ductless mini-splits work similarly to HVAC systems in that they take in air and circulate it throughout the home. These systems are also unique in that they cool and heat. While ductless mini-splits and HVAC systems share some things in common, they do not match the cooling and heating potential of a traditional HVAC.
Another simple option on the list, fireplaces are a great source of heat in communal areas. Some homes may have two fireplaces, with one on each floor for more heating.
Fireplaces can be gas-powered, electric, or wood-burning. Each option has its merits, but going with gas or electric will involve more work in terms of installation.
Another downside with fireplaces is their limited heating ability. Unless you’re right in front of a fireplace, you likely won’t be warming up quickly.
12. Wood-burning stove
Like a fireplace, wood-burning stoves have similar functionality and limitations. Wood-burning stoves often appear as large metal stoves with a glass door on the front where wood is placed and a chimney for exhaust.
While their appearance is desirable to people, wood-burning stoves don’t provide whole-house heating like other options.
Choosing the right heating system for you
Ok, we’ve looked at plenty of heating systems, with some being technical and others being as simple as adding a log to a flame. Determining which heating system is best for you can be tricky, but this breakdown has given you an idea of the various options available so you can make an informed purchase when the time comes.
While some options are seemingly outdated or are more common in certain regions than others, they still pop up from time to time as novelties or stylistic choices for homeowners.
Now you’ve learned a bit more about the different types of heating systems, and we want you to choose the right option for you. Regardless of whether you decide to use our services, it’s important to do further research, consult with a technician, and ultimately, choose the right provider for you!
To check out what types of heating systems Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating, and Air offers, feel free to visit our HVAC services page. If you’re curious about other ways to keep your home warm, there are plenty of other ways to heat a room.