9 Major Types of Heaters (Heating Systems) for Homes

A good heater can make a drastic difference in the comfort and temperature of your home. A heater is an appliance that produces heat, including space heaters, fireplace inserts, furnaces, and boilers.

There are many different types of heating systems for homes to choose from; some provide both heat and hot water while others only produce warmth.

Some types work better in certain climates than others so it’s important to do research before buying one. Here are different types of heaters and heating systems.

Heater types for homes
Fireplace Heater

Heat Distribution Systems

Forced Air Heating System

Forced air heating systems work by blowing heated air through a network of ducts.

A forced-air heating system is a central cooling system that blows heated air into the rooms of your house by using a fan or an electric blower to blow air through a series of ducts and vents.

A fan circulates cooled room-temperature air up around ceiling vents located close to fixtures, such as light fixtures.

How does it heat your home? After these ducts are hooked into an HVAC unit that’s located in the basement, they are distributed throughout the house by way of metal pipes known as trunk lines that are encased in insulation and water-resistant material to make them last longer.

In homes with more than one story, these trunk lines radiate out from floors where there are registers installed near rooms where families spend their time.

With this, compared to typical baseboard radiator systems, energy-efficient forced-air heating systems can use as little as one-third of the fuel.

Radiant Heating Systems

Radiant heating is the most efficient form of space heating because it is targeted solely at people, not at inanimate objects around them.

This means that you can get more heat from the same amount of electricity and therefore save money on your electric bills.

Radiant heating systems are ideal for large spaces such as commercial warehouses because they can be installed anywhere in a warehouse where workers are known to congregate.

This can then be heated up quickly without any need to wire the entire warehouse with electricity to have a central distribution point near an HVAC pulley or furnace – saving time and money during installation.

There are two forms of radiant heating for homes and they include the Steam radiant heating system and the direct radiant heating system.

In the steam radiant heat distribution system, the steam is passed through radiators that then release the heat to the surrounding environment hence warming up the room.

Direct radiant Heating on the other hand involves using electricity to heat the air around the heater which then moves throughout the room hence making it warmer. Space heaters fall under this type of heat distribution system.

Hydronic (Hot Water) Heating System

This heat distribution system is similar to the radiant heating system only that in this case hot water, and not steam, is used to heat the room using baseboard heaters mounted on walls.

The heaters, therefore, combine both radiation and convection heat transfers.

Electric Convection Heating

This is achieved using electric baseboards. In this type of heat distribution, the electric baseboard heaters release heated air at the top while pulling in cooler air at the bottom.

Types of Heaters for Homes

The common types of heaters used in homes are:

1. Radiant Heaters

Radiant heaters produce infrared light in the form of waves and have been a long-time human preference for heating space.

The reason is that this radiant heat works like sunlight or an electric light bulb on people rather than heating the air in a room.

Radiant heat specifically warms bodies directly as if they were sitting under a heater while reading and offers more safety with pets, small children, or elderly relatives as it cannot smother someone by trapping them between furnishing or other objects.

Radiant heat systems come in two forms: convective and radiant.

Convective heating generates warmth through heated air circulated throughout a room which then heats surfaces using contact alone – as a standard home central heating system does.

2. Furnaces

In The US, the majority of residential dwellings in which warm air is circulated through a network of ducts have these furnaces.

The furnace utilizes warm air from a furnace and distributes it to the different rooms through ducting. This heating and conditioning system distributes warm, conditioned air throughout the home.

Not only does it filter and humidify the air, but it also humidifies and dehumidifies it.

This method is quite affordable and practical – it’s typically installed in closets, basements, or attics where there isn’t any other concealed area.

Furnaces are heaters that burn oil, natural gas, propane, or use electricity to heat up a residence. Gas, oil, and electric furnaces are all three major types of furnaces also known as forced-air circulation heaters.

While natural gas furnaces may be quite effective, they’re particularly beneficial during the summer months as the forced air distribution system (made of a network of ducts) may be utilized by your air conditioner.

With repairs that are likely to be inexpensive, furnace heating is highly dependable. The only problem is that it helps pollute the air surrounding the house by moving allergens around fast.

3. Boilers

The boiler heats the fluid (usually water) that passes through its coils and turns it into steam.

Boilers are responsible for distributing heat from the building’s central furnace to the hot water tanks, radiators in other rooms, or instantaneous water heaters.

The simplest boiler heater installation consists of a sealed immersion heater contained within a metal tank. Heat is transferred across a layer of demineralized coolant (water).

When the thermostat calls for heating, it activates the electrical contacts which bring power to coils wrapped around metal fins submerged in this fluid medium.

As they increase temperature, they release moisture into the air inside the tank creating steam as well as releasing latent heat – thus increasing temperature on both fronts simultaneously.

4. Active Solar Heaters

Active solar heaters are often used for heating water and homes. There are 2 different types of active solar heating systems to consider:

a). Thermal Storage or “Trombe” Systems

These rely on the sun’s radiant energy to heat fluids like antifreeze in tubes or water in tanks.

Effects include higher efficiencies during periods of peak sunlight hours, increased nighttime performance by storing up yesterday’s solar charge, reduced residential electrical demand, and improved long-term stability because of one less variable in the design equation.

b). Direct Gain Systems

This type features insulated panels that capture direct sunlight on their outer surfaces. The sun warms a reflective surface (usually evacuated glass), which then heats the air inside the space directly.

Active solar heating systems are less expensive and more durable than passive ones.

This is because, unlike passive solar or geothermal heaters, active ones don’t have elements that can break down due to long-term exposure to salt, dust, or other pollutants in the outside air.

They are also more expensive upfront than passive models.

5. Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a mechanical device with the ability to transfer heat energy from one location, the “source,” on its refrigerant cycle to another point in the economy, the “sink.”

Heating with air-source heat pumps vs. natural gas or oil furnaces is more efficient and environmentally friendly because it uses less energy and does not release carbon gases into the atmosphere like traditional heating methods.

Not only that but because they can also cool using their reversed mode of operation, air-source heat pumps are becoming more popular for use in cooling spaces in extreme weather conditions like summer or winter when there’s a low demand for either heating or cooling.

The effectiveness of a heat pump can be quite deceiving: it may not appear to work at all if you use it in extremely hot or cold weather. Instead, only 50% (or even less) of the amount of energy input is reflected as useful output.

The opposite, however, is untrue: an ice-cold room blowing warm air from the vent or just coming out from under the door will stay that way without any additional heating needed.

In other words, cold air cannot heat up by itself and move faster than warm air will; it needs help, which is why central heating systems need a furnace or boiler-burning fuel to do their job properly.

Generally, the biggest concern with a heat pump in an area already prone to cold weather is overheating your home.

You will likely need to modify your new heat pump unit by turning down its “set point” (its default setting) so that it doesn’t send out more heat than necessary.

6. Ductless Mini-Splits

Ductless mini-splits are a type of heater that is not typically installed in a home like the other heating systems, but rather part of an air conditioning system where ducts would otherwise be needed.

This can be preferable to those with basements or crawl spaces that feel uncomfortable during warmer months as the worse it gets outside, the better it feels inside.

The good news is that Ductless Mini-Splits are not commonly found in many homes. That is because they are often used for supplemental cooling and to take up otherwise wasted floor room in basements and attics for heaters!

7. Baseboard Heaters

A baseboard heater is a form of electric heating system used in residences.

The system consists of an electrically powered element mounted on the baseboard, often with a fan to distribute heat more evenly across the area being heated.

Newer versions have remotes, timers, and sometimes thermostats built-in to control them from a distance.

Baseboard heaters offer precise temperature control and are easier to heighten or reduce than centralized systems because they don’t need ducts or vents to disperse the warmth into other rooms as required by other types of heathers like radiant paneled ceiling heaters.

They are typically energy efficient in comparison with large radiators and enjoy long life spans for those who like highly durable appliances.

8. Fireplaces

Fireplaces are a type of heater for your home, typically one that is designed to only heat the space in which it’s located.

Home fireplaces can be made from different materials based on their design and the amount of heating power they require.

Standard fireplaces have special ventilation systems that clear smoke away from the room they’re in.

This system may include metal pipes, a channel with an open top that runs up and out through the roof, or a chimney component including insulated panels, fiberglass insulation boards, and clay tiles installed in bricks (faux brick).

Overall energy efficiency depends on factors such as airtightness and comfort since there may not be any ways to adjust airflow patterns or controls for humidity levels inside the heated space.

9. Geothermal Heaters

A geothermal heat pump system is a typical ground-source heating and air conditioning system that works by transferring heat to or from the ground.

This transfer happens through a loop of plastic pipe that is buried underground, but also in some instances is attached to an existing building such as a parking garage.

Typically, groundwater temperatures range between 55º and 65º Fahrenheit so geothermal systems work well in colder climates with low fuel costs for heating homes for instance, or in warm climates where it seems wasteful to be using your home’s conditioned air as solar thermal radiation heats the Earth.

Geothermal radiant floor heating systems provide both heating and cooling for homes. They work great under concrete slabs such as those found in new construction.

If you have a basement you might want to install this system there as most of the installation involves opening up cement slab floors which can take quite some time if they are not reinforced with steel brackets at every joint.


There are many types of heaters for homes, and each type has its pros and cons. Each type of heater offers different benefits – some offer a quick heating solution while others provide more consistent warmth throughout the home.

The best option is based on your needs as well as your budget.

Related Post: Best space heaters for drafty rooms.

About Eng. Nelson K.

Nelson is a Chemical and Process Engineer with vast theoretical and practical knowledge of Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, and Mass Transfer.