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5 Heating System Options

Heating, during the middle of winter, will cost you a big sum of money. Make a thorough research and find out the advantages and disadvantages of various furnaces prior to investing in any heating system for your home.

Around 80% of your homes energy consumption goes to heating your water and space. It is a sensible and practical approach to find out your heating alternatives and their advantages and disadvantages. By figuring out the best alternative, you can achieve a comfortable home at a reasonable price.

The usual system comes with a heating equipment (like a boiler or a furnace), a system to distribute heat (like registers, ductwork, pipes), and a thermostat to regulate the indoor temperature. Sometimes, a space heater like an electric baseboard heater does not require a central heater or a pricey duct system.

Everybody knows that an energy saving heating system requires less energy and is more environment-friendly. What you may not know is the type of energy you use directly affects how much itll cost you to have a warm home.


You must hire a knowledgeable HVAC contractor to determine the right size of A/C and heating system you need in your home. Figuring out the right furnace size is not an easy feat. Taking into account that modern heating systems are much more energy efficient and homes are better insulated, you cannot use the same size of your old furnace. To determine the optimum size, a HVAC contractor must conduct heat/ loss tests inside your home.

The following are some alternatives for a heating unit:


It is the most famous heating system. Around 90% of households utilize a central forced-air system to generate and distribute warm air. Its major components are:

A furnace that has a fan to produce heat and circulate the warm air;

Supply ductwork to deliver the warm air in every room;

A return duct to pull cool air in the direction of the furnace;

A central thermostat to regulate the furnaces operation.

The pros of a forced-air heating system are its cost-effectiveness and its quick heating capacity during winter, and cooling capacity during summer while utilizing the same ductwork. Also, air conditioning is possible with a forced-air system through its same duct system. It is also easier to filter and dehumidify the circulating indoor air.

Meanwhile, the cons are its requirement for a large space needed for its duct system. It might also feel drafty at times since the air blows out of its vents. Aside from that, allergens can also circulate in the air. Furthermore, the loud sound coming from the furnaces fan is bothersome.

If the furnace in your home is 10 to 15 years old, you can assume that its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is around 60%. An AFUE rating of 60% translates to a loss of 40 cents on every dollar you spend on fuel. Despite the fact that your current furnace is still working just fine, you might think about an upgrade to a more energy-efficient heating system.

Once you decide to change your furnace, consider buying a high-efficiency or a condensing furnace that boasts of an AFUE rating of 90% up to 98%. By the conversion of fuel into heat (the combustion process), a condensing furnace can generate a lot of heat that your hands will burn once you touch the flue or the vents.

Back on December 31, 1999, the Canadian federal government implemented a standard for minimum energy performance on most gas furnaces. As of that date, all furnaces produced must belong to the category of high-efficiency models. This particular standard has no bearings on the furnace found inside your home.


It is the second most famous alternative among Canadian residents. However, only a handful of residents make use of it since it incurs higher energy costs in comparison to natural gas.

An electric baseboard relies heavily on the warm airs movement (convection process) to deliver heat while some heating units rely on heat waves (radiation). And because electric heating fully removes the inefficiencies of combustion along with chimney losses in the equation, you can consider it to be 100% efficient.

For most residents, the disadvantage to this kind of heating is the low cost to set up the system, which makes it a favorable alternative heating system. However, they consume a lot of energy and can start a fire when not used the right way.


A hydronic heating system heats up liquid (water combined with glycol) inside a boiler through the use of natural gas, electricity, oil, propane, or some solid form of fuel. Once it heats up, the liquid goes through plastic piping loops underneath the floor, all over baseboard heaters, or over radiators, to make your home feel comfortable.

A famous hydronic heating system is the in-floor radiant heating where it radiates heat from the floor to provide consistent and uniform heating throughout all the rooms in your home. Despite the shutting off of the system, it goes on in radiating heat. (Note: a popular example of radiant heat is the warmth provided by the sun.)

Another advantage of a radiant heater is that it requires a smaller space in contrast to a forced-air system. A forced-air system makes use of ductworks that are way bigger than pipes necessary to distribute liquid. Also, a hydronic heating system is useful in heating water when you cook, wash and take a bath.

Aside from warm floors, a hydronic heating system is much quieter than a forced air system because of the absence of fan that constantly blows air. Youd also have a better indoor air quality because it does not circulate allergens and dust throughout your home. Not changing your air filters on a regular basis is truly unhealthy for your home and your loved ones.

The most significant advantage of a radiant heater is that it is not a full HVAC system. If you need ventilation or an A/C, you must also consider the installation of other equipment, which makes it more expensive.

Residential gas boiler sold throughout Canada nowadays needs to secure an AFUE score at a minimum of 80%. Meanwhile, a boiler needs to have an AFUE rating of around 85% or more to become an ENERGY STAR label. A condensing boiler that has a secondary heat exchanger needs to secure an AFUE score of 95%.


Ground source heat pumps are electrical devices that distribute refrigerants through an underground piping (around 200 feet underground) to get heat from the soil and distribute it to your home. This cycle goes the alternate way during the summer.

A GSHP system is electrically powered and works well with a hydronic or a forced-air heating system.

The significant advantage of GSHP systems is its efficiency. The heat taken underground is much greater than the electric energy utilized in operating the pump.

A GSHP system gradually heats up your home and resembles a hydronic heating system. The heat level is way more stable in contrast to a forced-air heating system that blows heat inside your home in a snap but shuts off right away. Moreover, you dont have to deal with emissions or toxic exhausts.

The cons are it is pricey and needs long underground piping, which is difficult to pull off in a small space. And because it utilizes electricity, its potential in reducing greenhouse emissions is limited.

To read more about a ground source heat pump, visit the website of Natural Resources Canada.


A woodstove, with an airtight door, is a feasible and efficient space heater if you live in a small and well-insulated home. Or perhaps in a bigger open area that has a good air circulation. A modern woodstove can reach a high-efficiency rating at around 70%.

A wood stove is a great alternative for your main heating source. First, it is more cost-effective in contrast to the majority of heating fuels. After all, electricity never ceases to be a pricey way to have a warm home. And if youre lucky to stumble upon some wood logs within your homes perimeter, you can save a great deal of cash too. Second, we all know that wood is a 100% renewable source. Third, its an excellent alternative heat source when all else fails.

As with the rest of heating systems, you must purchase the right size of the equipment. A very big stove generates a lot of heat that results in the formation of thick and black deposits in your flue and stovepipe. Meanwhile, a very small unit is a fire risk as it tries to heat up your home.

Ensure that your wood stove meets the criteria set by the Canadian Standards (CSA). It must be a high-efficiency equipment with very minimal pollutants (EPA-certified), and its installation satisfies all the local building codes along with other relevant fire safety guidelines.


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