What Are the Different Types of Heating Systems?

Propane heaters come in a variety of sizes.
A radiator.
A propane tank can hold fuel to heat a structure.
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  • Written By: Lucinda Watrous
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  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2014
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When building a new home, there are many different types of heating systems to consider. Some types of heating systems are forced air, radiant heat, hydronic, steam radiant, and geothermal. Each type of heat should be considered for its effectiveness in meeting the budget and heating and cooling needs for the home.

The forced air heating system is most commonly seen in residential structures. It works by heating air in a furnace and then forcing the air out into various areas of the home through installed ductwork and vents. It is also commonly known as a central heating system because it comes from a central point in the home, where it can be filtered, humidified, or dehumidified. The air can be heated with various methods, including electricity, natural gas, propane, or oil. Since this system can be used to address both heating and cooling, the system is convenient for many people.

The ductwork required to use this system takes space in walls, so it may be difficult to install this system in an older home, and can require extra planning with new construction. The furnace system used may be noisy and heard throughout the home. This system can also move allergens throughout the house as the air circulates. The air filtration systems will require regular maintenance to retain optimal function. This system can expensive due to maintenance costs.


The radiant heat heating system is often praised for its ability to produce natural and comfortable heat in a home. In this system, heat is commonly delivered through a system of hot water tubes underneath the floor, although these tubes can also be installed in ceiling panels. The hot water is heated using a boiler which is usually powered by oil, natural gas, propane, or electricity. A heating stove may also be used to heat the water, powered by coal or wood.

Radiant heat is often slow to heat a room because the water must first be heated and circulated through the pipes. It can be expensive to install and maintain because of the difficulty involved in getting to the tubing systems if a problem occurs with the system. Air conditioning is not available with this method, as it requires a completely separate system of ductwork.

Hydronic heat is also known as a hot water baseboard system. Much like radiant heat systems, a boiler heats hot water, which then is circulated through tubes; for hydronic heat, these tubes are located in baseboard heating units attached to the walls in each room of the home. These systems are usually quiet, energy efficient, and may be fueled by electricity, oil, or natural gas. Temperature can usually be controlled separately in each room. Baseboard units should not be blocked by curtains or furniture, making them inconvenient for some users, and as with radiant heat, hydronic systems can be slow to warm a room and require a separate cooling system.

Steam radiant heating systems heat a room through upright units referred to as "radiators." These systems use either one or two pipes, and heat water through a variety of methods such as electricity, oil, or natural gas. While these units may be energy efficient and warm a room quickly, they can be inconvenient for furniture placement, as the walls and surrounding area must be clear to avoid fire hazards. Many people do not like the way radiators look in a room, and therefore choose another heating system. A separate system is also required for cooling.

Geothermal heating systems are a more recent option for heating and cooling a home. These systems can be expensive to install; however, because of their ability to use the heat from the Earth to regulate temperature, they are said to greatly reduce the costs associated with heating and cooling a home. This system works for both heating and cooling because it uses the relatively constant temperature of the ground.

When a homeowner is choosing a heating system for his home, he should consider how the system will be powered in addition to how much it will cost. Considering that many of these options require separate cooling systems, it may be best to use a central heating system to combine heating with cooling in those regions where both are required. Focusing on specific needs will assist homeowners with making a decision about which system to use.


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Post 2

i want to heat my cafe which will be 50 percent ventilated due to restriction laws on shisha cafes. i was thinking of having tables which emit heat but not from the top like people use at bbqs but around the sides of the tables to keep peoples legs and feet warm. any ideas how i could do this? please help. thank you

Post 1

I would like to enclose our existing electric hot water tank in a closet. Just want to make

a more organized looking laundry room area. Are

there CSA safety standards for doing a project like this. Is it a safe thing to do.

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