Types of Heating Systems – Which is Best?

In order to stay warm during cold winter nights, your heating system has to run practically non-stop. Some heating systems will run harder than others merely to keep up with the temperature changes while others take much less energy to operate. Depending on your heating system you may find a significant change in price, energy efficiency, and comfort levels in your home. A heating system may also have a significant impact on the environment. A good portion of our customers who are looking to install or replace their current heating system want to know what the best type of heating system is. The answer is entirely up to you because it depends on your preference, but let us help you choose one. Before that we have to learn about the various types of heating systems.

Types of Heating Systems

There are 4 types of heating systems we commonly install:

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Geothermal

These heating systems all have their own positives and negatives. Some of them will stand out to you and make you more attracted to one over the other. This is where you’ll make your decision.

1. Electric – First up is electric heating systems. An electric heating system is manually adjusted to heat 1 or more rooms. They are commonly found in the workplace because of the easy adjustability for each individual room or floor. Electric heating systems do not use duct work or anything in the walls/ceiling, except the electric wiring systems. One downside is that, if not monitored properly, they can spike your energy bill significantly. Most often they don’t turn off on their own, and they are not energy efficient in terms of the planet’s natural resources. Electric heating systems run off of electricity, which may have used natural gas to be produced. You use natural gas to produce electricity, followed by electricity to heat your home when you could have just used natural gas from the start. Lastly, the average life expectancy of an electric heating system is about 15-20 years.
Summary: Electric heating systems are more effective for heating individual rooms and smaller homes, but are oftentimes more expensive to run and have a slightly larger impact on the environment. Their life expectancy is about 15-20 years, a pretty long life for an HVAC system.

2. Natural Gas – Next we have gas heating systems. To start, 50% of Americans use natural gas to heat their homes. The majority of this is due to the price, which is slightly more expensive to install than oil and electric, but is significantly less expensive to run than an oil or electric heating system. Your home has always had and always will (as long as you pay the bill…) have natural gas flowing into your home, ready to be used at the flip of a switch. For this reason, it’s more reliable than oil, but just as reliable as electricity. The problem with natural gas is that the price will spike up significantly at some point in the next few years. One other negative to natural gas systems is that they don’t last as long as other heating systems; their life expectancy is about 10-15 years.
Summary: Gas heating systems are very reliable and can last up to 15 years (averaging around 11-13). More importantly to some, they are also much cheaper than all other heating systems; however, the price may go up significantly in the future.

oil heating prices3. Oil – Oil heating systems are only used by around 5% of US homes. The majority of the time, these homes have had oil since they were built and the homeowners have merely not changed it out because there was no reason to. Oil heating systems have a pretty hefty life expectancy, longer than electric and natural gas at around 20-30 years. Cost-wise it’s the same to run and is more energy efficient than any other system; however, it is not less damaging to the environment. Lastly, oil has to be physically stored and managed by you, not the company. This oil is most often delivered to your home via truck. You store it in your basement until the time comes to refill the tank. If you have a smaller home, have a small basement, or don’t have a basement period, then this is not the option for you. The cost per barrel varies, but is generally quite expensive. The price of oil varies just as the price of gasoline varies, so you can never predict exactly how much it will cost.
Summary: Oil heating systems are more cost-efficient to install, but not environmentally friendly. You are reliant on your own management skills and storage space of your basement to store the oil and use it accordingly. The reliability of oil systems is pretty low.

geothermal heating system

4. Geothermal – Geothermal heating systems are the newest of the bunch and are highly recommended by Comfort Pro. There is no doubt that geothermal heating systems have the lowest cost to run of all the systems; however, the cost to install the system is higher than other systems. Geothermal systems generally can heat your home about 80% of the winter season for Reading, PA residents. The other 20% has to come from another heating source (more than likely electric). Overall costs to run a geothermal heating system beat the rest of the systems by a long shot. Although the initial cost to install along with the 2nd system installation costs are fairly high, the cost to heat your home and what comes up on your energy bill is much lower. The costs will be paid in full in the first 1-2 years in most cases. Because they rely on the Earth’s temperature to heat your home, it’s very reliable at the beginning of the winter season, but as the time goes on the Earth will cool. Finally, as you may have guessed, geothermal heating systems are environmentally neutral, which means they have no impact on the environment whatsoever.
Summary: Geothermal heating systems are overall cheaper than the rest, but are less reliable as the season goes on. Leaving the backup system off is ideal until needed. Their life expectancy is the longest of all systems: 50+ years. They have no impact on the environment at all.

Making the Choice

Now that you understand the differences between the 4 types of heating systems, it’s time to choose which one you are interested in for your home. Some of the factors you should take into consideration are:

  • Cost to install
  • Cost to run
  • Life expectancy
  • Environmental Impact
  • Reliability

As to the question of “What type of heating system is the best?” we find that the geothermal system is the most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly; however, not the most reliable. The most reliable are electric and natural gas.

If you need help deciding on which type of heating system you should install, contact us and we’ll be more than happy to help.

If you have already decided on a system and are ready to install/replace your heating system, then please request a free quote from us and we’ll get back to you soon! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us as well.

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