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Understanding Different Heater Types: Which One Is Right for You?

When the weather begins to cool and winter is on the way, it’s time to consider whether you need a furnace replacement for the heating season. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a cold home in the dead of winter.

Choosing a new heater isn’t a quick decision, however. There are plenty of different types of heaters to choose from, so the experts at Proskill put together this guide to heaters to help you make an informed decision.

Types of Heaters

Not sure what type of heater works best for your home? Here’s everything you need to know about the types of heaters, how they work, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Central Furnace Heating Systems

Furnaces are the most common type of home heating system – for good reason. These systems rely on forced air to heat your home from a central unit, so they’re ideal for whole home heating. They distribute heated air using ducts that travel from the unit to living areas, then cold air is returned to the central unit using return ducts.

The fuel source is combusted to generate heat in a metal heat exchange, such as gas or oil. With a sealed combustion model, fresh air is pulled in, making them a safer and more efficient option than heaters that pull in your home’s air for combustion.

Central Furnace Heating Systems

Most gas furnaces burn natural gas as a fuel source. In addition to a gas furnace, you can get one that uses liquid propane – fuel oil – or electricity. The efficiency of a furnace is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), and gas furnaces can be up to 98% energy efficient.

That said, furnaces are often more expensive to purchase and install upfront, but you can save money with energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. The installation can be complex as well. If you need different ductwork or extra components, it can add to the cost and installation time.



● Energy efficiency

● Whole home heating

● Cost effective

● Safe

● High upfront costs

● May need extra ductwork or components



Heat Pump Systems

Home heating systems that rely on a heat pump transfer heat instead of creating it. This is a good choice for home heating and air conditioning, since the same system can alternate between the two processes.

Heat pumps are electric heaters and transfer heat from different sources, depending on the type of heat pump used. The most common systems are air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps, or geothermal heat pumps. Operating as a heater, heat pumps are more efficient than heaters that rely on fuel sources. As an air conditioner, the efficiency is roughly equivalent to a conventional air conditioner.

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are commonly used in homes because of their affordability. Thermal energy is transferred from one air source to another. The heat pump is outside and connects to the indoor air handler to exchange heat and distribute heating and cooling through the ducts.

Ductless Heat Pumps

Ductless heat pumps – or mini splits – are a slight variation on the air source heat pump. These systems can function as both a heating and cooling system, but they rely on one outdoor compressor unit that’s paired with multiple air handlers in your home. This gives you zoned heating that can be controlled separately via the air handlers.

If you have a home without ducts or new additions that don’t connect to the ductwork in the rest of your home, ductless heat pumps are a great choice. These heating systems can be configured with one or multiple indoor air handlers as a whole home heating option, but you can also supplement ductless heating with space heaters or other supplemental heat.

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Also known as geothermal heating and cooling systems, ground source heat pumps transfer heat energy between your home’s indoor air and the ground. It absorbs heat through the ground loop component and carries it to the geothermal heat pump installed inside your home. They can be configured as forced air or paired with air handlers as needed.

Geothermal heating is energy efficient and can double as a hot water system for a home. You can also configure them for solar heating. Keep in mind that geothermal heating can be expensive to install.



● Energy efficient

● Versatile

● Cost effective

● Multiple heating configurations

● High upfront costs

● Complex planning and installation


Boilers are types of home heating systems that are used in older homes, but it’s possible to use a boiler in a new home as well. They’re often hydronic systems instead of forced air, so they create heat by burning fuel for a heat exchanger to produce steam or hot water.

Boilers Home Heating Systems

The heat is circulated through the home through radiators or baseboard heaters for radiant heaters. This is different than other systems in that it heats the living things in the home, not the air itself, leading to better indoor air quality than furnaces or heat pumps.

Boilers run on natural gas, fuel oil, or liquid propane in modern systems. They’re energy efficient with an AFUE of 90% or higher. These systems can be very expensive, however, as you need to install radiators and piping if you don’t already have it.



● Hydronic instead of forced air

● Highly energy efficient

● Multiple fuel options

● Better indoor air quality

● Heats the living things n the home, rather than the air itself

● Expensive

● May need piping and radiator installation

● Usually found in certain regions


Radiant Heating

Aside from boilers, radiant floor heating systems are a common option for heating. They’re installed below a home’s flooring – usually in new homes – but they can be installed in existing homes. They rely on hydronic heating systems and a boiler or water heater warms the water before circulating it into pipes under the floor.

Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Having warm floors offers additional comfort and luxury with your home heating system. In-floor radiant heating is often used for whole home heating, whereas electric heaters may be used for smaller space heating needs.



● Warms the floor for comfort

● Ideal for new homes

● Hydronic heating

● Suitable for whole home heating

● Expensive to install

● Limited to large open spaces

● May struggle to warm your home


Convection Heating

Convection heaters are electric-powered heaters that draw cold air into the heating element before passing it back into the room. These heaters can effectively heat an entire space and are ideal for sharing living spaces. They’re also quiet and take up little space for small homes.

You can find convection heaters in a range of sizes, styles, and price points, with some priced at $500 or more. These heaters are not energy efficient, however, and present safety risks with overheating. They’re not ideal for heating an entire home, either.



● Electric powered

● Good for whole spaces

● Quiet and space saving

● Can be inexpensive

● Not energy efficient

● Safety risks; may overheat

● Not ideal for whole home heating


Fan Heaters

Fan heaters work by fanning air that’s circulated over a heating element into a room. They are small, portable, and well-suited to small spaces. While you can’t heat your entire home with them, these heaters can be a good choice if you’re on a budget and you need to warm up a small space.

You can get a fan heater on the cheap, but the more expensive models can cost upwards of $250. If you have a larger room, it may be worth getting a more powerful model.



● Heats quickly

● Energy efficient

● Oscillating heat

● Cool housing

● Minimal radiant heat when not running

● Unsuitable for large spaces

● Requires good insulation in the room

● Exposed elements can be a risk to children and pets


What to Consider When Buying a Heater

Before you spring for a new heater for your home, it’s important to consider all your options to determine what works best for you.

Which Type of Heater Do I Need?

You have an idea of what heaters are available and what to consider, but there are still a range of options with different benefits and price points. If you need help, contact the experts at Proskill for guidance in choosing a heater that’s appropriate for your home and budget.Find the Right Heating for Your Home

Heating Systems

Your furnace replacement can be a big investment, so it’s important to choose the right option. Fortunately, Proskill is here to help you evaluate your living space, answer questions, and find the right heating system for your home and budget. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.


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