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Home Heating Systems

You may own one or more kinds of heating systems. They vary and will likely involve one that blows hot air through ductwork, to piping your floor with hot water.

Whatever kind of home heating system you may have, it will surely have its pros and cons. So, take a quick look at the most popular kinds of home heating systems, how they operate, and their advantages and disadvantages.

• Forced Air
• Radiant Heat
• Hydronic (Hot Water Baseboard)
• Steam Radiant
• Geothermal

1) Gas Furnace Forced Air System

The most common home heating and cooling system.


Air heats up in a furnace.

Air is being distributed to the rooms through a ductwork, or by the use of registers.

Fuel Sources

Air is being heated by the use of propane, natural gas, electricity or oil.


• The cooling system’s only distribution method.
• Air is being filtered.
• Air is being dehumidified.
• It is cheap.
• A furnace can gain its highest AFUE.


• Ductworks are necessary and take up space on the walls.
• You can often hear the furnace fan.
• Allergens are being distributed by the moving air.
• Filtration and regular maintenance are necessary.

2) Radiant Heating System

Among the various types of heating systems, this is known to produce the most natural and comfortable heat inside a home. It comes in various forms, like a pot belly stove to an in-floor hot water tubing. It works by radiation or direct heat transfer from a hot surface to a cold one.


Usually distributed through a hot water tubing embedded in the floor or below the surface.
It can also be used in ceilings or through heating stoves.

Fuel Sources

• Hot water that was previously heated by a boiler.
• Propane, natural gas, electricity or oil.
• Wood or coal for the heating stoves.


• Comfortable.
• Energy efficient boilers.


• Surrounding materials are warm, so there’s a slow heating up cycle.
• Expensive installation.
• In case of maintenance works, it is difficult to access because of the hidden piping.
• Needs a separate distribution ductwork and cooling system for air conditioning.

3) Hydronic (Hot Water Baseboard)

This system is like radiant heat in a way, but rather utilizes hot water that was previously heated by a boiler. It heats up a specific place through the process of convection and radiation.


A boiler heats hot water that is being piped to a “fin-tube” baseboard attached on the wall. The fins enable it to become more efficient to widen the area where heat is being dissipated.

Through the process of convection, air rises and is further heated up by the baseboard unit.

Fuel Sources

Propane, natural gas, electricity or oil


• Energy efficient
• Quiet
• Close temperature control


• Convection units/ baseboard radiation must stay exposed and may limit furniture placement.
• Temperature takes the time to increase.
• The air conditioning necessitates a different ductwork and cooling system.

4) Steam Radiant Heating System

They are quite obsolete and no longer used that much today. They are made up of cast iron upright radiators that radiate heat through the steam.

They come in two types, the one-pipe and two-pipe systems. Water and steam travel in the same pipe but in opposing directions with the one-pipe system. Whereas the steam flows in one pipe while the water condensate comes back in the other pipe in a two-pipe system.


Steam piping and radiator units.

Fuel Sources

Propane, natural gas, electricity or oil for a steam boiler.


• Efficient and quickly warms up.
• Comfortable.
• Smaller convection units or vertical wall panel radiators can now take the place of old hot water system radiators.


• It is not pleasant to look at.
• The location of the radiator may limit the placement of furniture and coverings of windows.
• A separate ductwork distribution and cooling system are being required for air conditioning.

5) Boilers

In the past, this is the heating system used to produce hot water or steam for hydronic baseboards, radiant heat or the steam radiator heating systems. It can use several fuel sources like propane, natural gas, electricity or oil.

Nowadays, steam boilers evolved to become more complex machines compared to hot water boilers, and they require special gauge glasses, pressure gauges, blow off valves and automatic feeds.

These hot water boilers are tiny, firm, and efficient with energy and not high maintenance.

6) Geothermal Heating Systems

The latest home heating and cooling system technology is the Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP). It works like a refrigerator and can even run in reverse. Heat is derived from one source and taken to another location. Heat is taken from or deposited back into the earth with the use of a ground loop pipe through ground loop geothermal systems.

Geothermal heating systems save as much as 30 to 70 percent on home heating, and 20 to 50 percent on the costs of home cooling over traditional systems.