An Overview of Current Heating System Options

Thanks to technological advancements, homeowners are enjoying never-before-experienced convenience and comfort. The wide selection of home heating systems is expanding each year as new energy solutions and construction methods spur innovation.

Current heating solutions include furnaces and boilers, wood and pellet fuel heating, electric resistance heating, active solar heating, radiant heating and small space heaters.

  • Furnaces and boilers are by far the most common heating application currently used. Furnaces work by heating air and distributing it through the home’s ductwork. Boilers on the other hand work by heating water and distributing the resulting hot water or steam throughout the house using the steam radiators. Boiler hot water can also be distributed using baseboard radiators, radiant floor systems and/or strategically placed heating coils.
  • Wood and pellet fuel heating systems are a clean burning, efficient alternate that can be used to heat any average size home. They operate by burning wood or wood pellets made from compacted sawdust, bark, wood chips, waste paper and other organic materials. While 90% of Americans heated their homes using wood prior to 1900 (according to EnergySavers.gov), the practice fell off for the better part of the 20th century as homeowners switched to fossil fuels. Over the last few decades however, new improvements in efficiency have helped these heating options come back into vogue.
  • Resistance heating systems use electricity to heat air that is then distributed through forced-air ductwork or individual room units such as baseboard heaters or wall heaters. Although electric resistance heating systems waste very little energy, they are actually among the more expensive heating options available today.
  • Solar heating systems are the most cost-effective in climates where sun is plentiful and they are used for most of the year. They operate by absorbing energy from the sun and, transferring that solar heat using either liquid or air for distribution through the home. Solar heating systems often come with an auxiliary system to provide additional heat and backup the solar system when it cannot adequately produce.
  • Radiant heating systems supply heat directly to floor, wall or ceiling panels that then radiate that heat outward, warming the room. This type of system has several advantages for homeowners, including its increased efficiency (no energy is lost through ducts), its lower allergenic properties (no moving air), and its lower energy costs (specifically, liquid-based radiant heating systems use very little electricity).
  • Small space heaters use electricity, propane, natural gas or kerosene to heat a room using convection (the circulation of air in the room). These are only meant to heat a single room or supplement inadequate heating in a single room. While they are useful for boosting the temperature of a single room without affecting the entire home, small space heaters have been known to have safety issues. According, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires are caused by small space heaters.

As this brief overview indicates, it’s a good time to be a homeowner searching for a new heating system. The technological advances have married together with the evolving comfort needs of different structures and construction methods to provide a wealth of custom-fit options that are sure to make your house feel like home.