There are a lot of things that drive up the cost of owning a home. A heating system is one of those costly expenses, representing a huge chunk of your budget.
More than just a one-time expense, the heating system is also a long-term investment. The Department of Energy says that space heating is the largest utility expense of homeowners in the US. Since it will be used for years to come, you need to make sure that your choice of heating can adequately warm up the whole house, while being energy- and cost-efficient, reliable, and uniquely suited for your home’s layout and climate region.
Below is a list of things you need to consider to help you find the best way to heat a house. In this article, we’ll be exploring whole home heating options, and not single room options.
The Best Way to Heat a House: 6 Things to Consider
If you’re replacing a heating system in your home, or never had one to begin with, here are a few key things you’ll want to consider.
1. BTU needed
Knowing which BTU you’ll need for your home will allow you to be sure that you are purchasing a unit that will supply enough heat. A unit that is too big can cycle on and off too frequently, which means less efficiency and more wear and tear on the unit.
On the other hand, a unit too small will cause it to work continuously, which will also lead to it breaking down and may mean your space isn’t being heated properly. You’ll find unwanted costs with this too.
2. Fuel source
Most whole house heating systems use either gas (natural gas or propane) or oil. As the costs of heating fuel rises, it may be worthwhile to consider the prices in your area. Based on utility estimates from the Energy Information Administration, natural gas heating for the average US home will rise by roughly $200 this year, propane will rise by $80, and heating oil will soar by $1,200. You can refer to this table to see the forecast for your region.
If you live in a rural area, however, a wood-burning appliance may make more sense and provide an economical alternative to oil and gas. This is especially true if you chop your own firewood.
3. Where the heating system will go
Is there room for the heating system inside, outside, on the roof? You’ll want the unit to be out of the way but easily accessible in case of repairs. The unit also needs to remain unblocked, free of anything that might restrict any fans or heating elements it has.
4. Your local climate
Climate will greatly affect your home heating needs and costs.
Constant weather changes, which happen in a good portion of the country (particularly the north), can put strain on your heating unit. You’ll need a system that can handle these fluctuations. If you’re in an area that experiences extreme cold temperatures, you’ll need to keep that in mind as well. If you live in the northern parts of the country with colder weather or longer snowfall, you’ll want a heating system designed for colder climates.
Altitude is another factor. Higher altitudes have less air density and oxygen than sea level, so more airflow is needed to heat a home at higher elevations. This is why some heating systems are specifically labeled for use in high altitudes.
5. Basement or attic
If you have an attic or basement space, you’ll want to know right away if you’re planning to fully heat these spaces. If you plan to heat your attic, you’ll want to ensure that the attic is insulated properly, but also has adequate ventilation. You’ll also want to inspect the roof of your home to make sure that it’s in good shape and sealed. If you have a basement, keep in mind that air from below will rise so heating this space could be a good option.
6. Energy efficiency
Energy efficiency is an important factor to most who are in the process of buying a heating system. Finding a system that will run in your home with high efficiency will help decrease costs in the long run.
There are three main factors to look for when it comes to energy efficiency:
- EnergyStar certification
- The EER and SEER rating (for electric heating such as mini splits and heat pumps)
- The AFUE rating (for gas heating furnaces and boilers)
The EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measure the energy efficiency ratio of electric heating like mini splits and heat pumps over a season. On the other hand, the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) indicates how efficient a gas heating appliance such as a furnace or boiler is over time. For both types, the higher the number, the more efficient the appliance is.
Remember that choosing the right unit for the size and relative factors of your home will greatly affect the efficiency of any unit, whether it’s an “energy efficient” heating system or not.
The Different Options to Heat a House
When it comes to heating your home, there are a lot of options. Each is suited to a particular type of space.
Gas furnaces- standard forced air
A gas furnace is a great option for heating an entire home- also known as central heating. This system will pull cold air from the home, passes it through an air filter, and blows the air into a handler to be warmed. Once the furnace’s heat warms the air, it passes it through the air ducts throughout your home.
This process provides the most even distribution, with the largest square footage coverage area. This means it is good for both small and large homes. This is a great option for a home that already has ductwork installed. The heat for the whole home can be easily controlled from a central location with a thermostat.
✓ Suitable for larger homes
✓ Even heat distribution throughout the house
❌ Requires ductwork
Mini split with heat
A mini split with a heat pump is a ductless heating option that is great for heating a home, room, or office. The system includes an indoor and outdoor unit with compressor and condenser.
Because these units are small and ductless, they are easily installed and provide a flexibility and efficiency that other units cannot provide. Their ductless nature also makes them more efficient than ducted furnaces, since ductwork accounts for 30% of heat loss in residential heating.
If you purchase a multi zone system, you can heat your entire home by positioning wall units strategically. This is a great option when it comes to heating basement and attic spaces, too. Overall, ductless mini split systems are a top recommendation for many homes.
✓ Provides both heating and cooling
✓ No need for ductwork
✓ More flexible installation
❌ One multi zone outdoor unit is limited to 5 rooms
Recommended mini split with heat pump:
The FPHMR42A3A gives you the option of adding zone comfort control to your home or office in three, four or five separate spaces. This 42,000 BTU unit has a connected capacity of up to 54,000 BTUs. Heatwise, the heat pump is capable of 36,000 BTUs at 17 amps. It will operate in the Cooling Mode when outdoor temperatures are as low as 14°F up to 115°F, while the heat range is equally wide from -13°F up to 75°F!
It features Friedrich’s Precision Inverter Technology, offering a variable speed compressor to keep up with your comfort control needs while still being energy efficient. A standard air conditioner turn off when the set temperature is achieved. An inverter system uses variable capacity to reach and maintain the set comfort level in your space. The outdoor unit features Low Ambient Operation making it a great year round option for heating and cooling for most of the US.
Base Price shown is for outdoor unit only. You can choose from 3, 4 or 5 indoor units below with a total connected capacity of 54,000 BTUs. If you are cho...
Base Price shown is for outdoor unit only. You can choose from 3, 4 or 5 indoor units below with a total connected capacity of 54,000 BTUs. If you are cho...View Product
Vented gas heaters
Vented gas heaters come in varieties, including space heaters, wall mounted furnace, top vent wall furnace, to name a few.
Direct vent heaters are installed on an outside wall and draw air from the outside, and in turn, vent to the outside after distributing warm air to your home.
Some of these furnaces have a large coverage area, especially if the home has a lot of open space. You can also install as many as you need throughout the house. The coverage space of the more powerful vented gas heaters makes this type an option to consider.
✓ More flexible than central heating
✓ Diverse model lineup to suit different installation locations
❌ Requires a vent
❌ More expensive to install
Recommended vented gas heater
This direct-vent wall furnace is 38,400 BTUs and can be installed almost anywhere along an outside wall. The EX38DT offers several venting installation options. A built-in, programmable thermostat is located on top of the unit of the EX38DT. It has 2 timer settings and can be connected to a WiFi enabled thermostat. And, don’t worry if there is a power failure while your system is on, the appliance will shut off the gas and once power is restored, this unit will restart automatically.
It features modulating technology to optimize the efficiency of the unit. This provides just the right amount of heat by constantly monitoring the room temperature and detecting temperature fluctuations. Room temperature is monitored 2″ from the floor and detects temperature changes of less then 1°F. If a door opens and a sudden gush of cold air rushes into the room, the furnace automatically adjusts the fan speed and BTUs to restore the room back to its set temperature quickly.
The EX38DT is available in both Natural Gas and Liquid Propane as well as in beige or white. It is also certified for installation in manufactured (mobile) homes.
There is Limited Availability of EX38DTN and EX38DTP (Beige) and EX38DTWP (White).
This direct-vent wall furnace is 38,400 BTUs and is a great source of h...
There is Limited Availability of EX38DTN and EX38DTP (Beige) and EX38DTWP (White). This direct-vent wall furnace is 38,400 BTUs and is a great source of h...View Product
Wood-Burning and Pellet Stoves
If you live in a rural area, wood-fired heating can be more practical, since the cost of firewood is generally lower compared to gas or oil. Wood is also a renewable resource, making it more eco-friendly than fossil fuels. The Environmental Protection Agency also requires new wood-burning stoves to have lower pollution emissions, making them cleaner burning than older models.
Pellet stoves have several advantages over wood-fired stoves. They emit less smoke byproducts, while offering better temperature control, improved indoor air quality, and convenience.
✓ Less expensive than oil and gas fuel
✓ Sustainable resource
❌ Mostly limited to rural settings
Radiant floor heat
This system uses warm water circulated in tubes under the floor. It is an unobtrusive way of providing heat, but comes at a steep price tag in terms of unit cost and installation. It is also limited to certain floor finishes and carpets. It’s also not practical for many rooms in the house.
✓ Discreet heating
❌ Major installation needed
❌ Very limiting in terms of flooring and carpeting
❌ Limited to a few rooms
Radiant floor mats
An alternative option for radiant floor heating is to use electric radiant floor mats. These come at a much friendlier price point, and rely on electrical heat instead of water circulation. However they cannot be cut to fit the exact floor layout.
We carry radiant floor heating mats in a variety of sizes and volts to meet your unique needs. If you can’t find the right size for your home, our staff can also work with you on custom sizing to get you the right product for your your needs.
✓ Relatively inexpensive
✓ Easier to install than a water-based radiant floor heating system
❌ Requires a dedicated line
❌ Cannot be cut
Other ways to warm up
- Baseboard heating is most common in older homes, and known for less efficiency- though they can be great if you’re only heating a small space or don’t want to heat all of the rooms of your home. This type of heating can also be installed simply to provide an extra bit of warmth throughout the home.
- Heat/cool AC units are typically window units. They are not the most efficient option especially if not installed correctly, but for a smaller home they can work. The major benefit is they provide both heating and cooling options.
How to Choose the Best Way to Heat your Home
The best heating options for your home can be found by doing the proper research and figuring out what would work best for your specific situation.
Ask yourself these questions before making the final decision:
- Is my home new or old?
- Do I have the right ductwork in place?
- Do we already have a central heating system in place? Does it work for us?
- Does my current heating source need to be replaced entirely or is it having problems working correctly?
- Do we want to heat the whole house at once, or are we leaving the basement or attic out?
- How big is our space?
- What BTU is needed?
There may not be a best way to heat a home, but asking the right questions will save you energy and hassle, and protect you from unwanted costs. It’s up to you, as a homeowner, to choose which heating source best fits your home and your needs.
Check out all of our heating options here at Total Home Supply.