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Upgrade Your Home Heating System with Heat Pumps: Benefits, Costs, and Installation

Waiting until your heating system breaks before replacing it will result in higher installation costs and limit your options to what is available in emergency situations.


What are the options for my heating system?

So you have already decided it’s time to replace your heating system. Let’s take a look at different heating systems and their comparisons.


(Keep in mind that regardless of which heating system you choose, having proper sealing and insulation in your house will make it work better and more efficiently. This makes a significant difference.)


Below, you will learn about the advantages, disadvantages, and costs of these popular heating alternatives:

  • Portable heaters (space heaters)
  • Resistance heating
  • Hydronic or radiant floor heating
  • Furnaces (electric, natural gas, propane, or oil)
  • Boilers (electric, natural gas, propane, or oil)
  • Heat pumps (also known as ductless mini-split or ductless heating)

Getting the most efficient home heating system without the upfront costs.


Portable heaters (space heaters)

Let’s start with the smallest option. Portable heaters, also known as space heaters, are a simple choice for controlling heat between rooms.


They are standalone electric devices that have low requirements. You simply plug them into existing outlets and monitor their usage. (Do not let them operate in empty rooms for safety reasons.)


Advantages and disadvantages of portable heaters (space heaters)

Portable heaters are affordable and require no installation.


According to Energy.gov, electric space heaters are the only unvented heaters that can be safely used inside a building, making them a decent temporary solution for cold spots in your home.


However, space heaters are not highly efficient, and they can also be a safety and fire hazard, especially in households with children or pets. They are definitely not a permanent solution for larger heating issues.

Air source heat pump installation

Costs of portable heaters (space heaters)

The purchase cost of a portable electric heater is low, and they require no installation, which is their biggest advantage. Prices range from $15 to $1000, depending on size, model, brand, and quality.


However, they may not be a “cheap solution.” Running a space heater for only 8 hours a day can increase your monthly electricity bill by up to $42.30 (1).


Resistance heating (wall heaters and baseboard heaters)

Electric wall heaters or baseboard heaters, also known as resistance heating, are individual heating devices that you can install in rooms that need additional heating support.


Baseboard heaters are relatively affordable and allow you to control the heat between rooms.


Advantages and disadvantages of wall heaters and baseboard heaters

Baseboard heaters are relatively affordable and allow you to control the heat between rooms.


However, these devices are not energy-efficient, so the electricity bill to keep your entire home warm can be quite high. (If you’re looking for a more efficient electric heating system, a heat pump might be your best option). Read “Electric Heat vs. Heat Pumps” to understand why.


Costs of electric resistance heating

The price of an installable electric wall heater ranges from $80 for a basic in-wall model to $1000 for an electric wall fireplace.


For electric baseboard heating, each unit can cost between $40 to $400, depending on the rating. Keep in mind that you usually need multiple units per room, and professional installation costs should be considered.


If you’re looking for a ductless way to effectively heat a home (and it’s really comfortable), consider looking into ductless mini-split heat pumps.


Hydronic or radiant floor heating

Radiant floor heating systems emit heat through thin films or mats under the floor (or through a hydronic system, which delivers heated water through pipes under the floor). The system radiates heat by heating your floor and furniture, creating radiant heat in your home.


Advantages and disadvantages of hydronic or radiant floor heating

Radiant floor heating is ductless and doesn’t require air transmission throughout the entire home and outdoors (which can reduce allergens and dust circulation). It also provides comfortable and even heat throughout the living space.


However, both hydronic and electric radiant floor systems are expensive to install and invasive, as they can limit your flooring options. (They may not be as effective if you don’t have suitable subflooring.)


Costs of installing radiant floor heating

For hydronic floor heating (professional installation), the cost ranges from $6 to $16 per square foot, depending on the size of your house, requirements, and installation needs. The installation cost for electric radiant floor heating is lower, at $8 to $12 per square foot, but its operational costs can be higher during colder months compared to hydronic floor heating.


Most homes built after 1990 use gas-forced air furnaces for heating.


Furnaces are the most common home heating choice in the United States and can be operated with electricity, natural gas, propane, or heating oil.


They work by using their power source to ignite burners inside the furnace cabinet. Once the burners are ignited, they heat a component called a heat exchanger, which then heats the air and distributes it throughout your home via ductwork. Furnaces are a forced-air system for home heating.


Understanding the lifespan of a furnace and when to repair or replace it.

Air source heat pump installation

Advantages and disadvantages of furnaces

The biggest advantage of furnaces is how quickly they distribute air: When a furnace is operating optimally, your home’s temperature increases almost immediately after the furnace turns on.


However, furnaces require ductwork, which can cause energy loss through leaks and insufficient insulation. Regular maintenance and filter replacements are necessary to ensure their efficiency. Additionally, the initial installation cost can be high, depending on the type of furnace and fuel source.


Costs of furnaces

The cost of a furnace depends on various factors such as fuel type, efficiency rating, and size. On average, a new furnace installation can cost between $2,500 and $7,500, including labor and materials. It’s essential to consult with a professional to determine the best furnace option for your specific needs and budget.


These are some of the heating system options to consider when replacing your current system. Each option has its advantages, disadvantages, and cost considerations. It’s recommended to assess your specific requirements, consult with professionals, and evaluate the long-term efficiency and cost-effectiveness before making a decision.


Boilers (electric, natural gas, or oil).

Boilers are another common heating system in the United States. They work by heating water (using electricity, natural gas, propane, or oil) until it becomes steam. The steam produced by the hot water is then released into the air and pumped into the home through convection devices or radiators to heat the space.


If you want to be environmentally friendly, it is possible to find boilers that burn cleaner fuels such as natural gas and biodiesel.


Advantages and disadvantages of traditional boilers

Boiler systems rely on a network of pipes and vents (known as radiators) to distribute heated air, so you don’t have to worry about bulky wall units in your home. Additionally, like floor heating systems, they provide dust-free heating throughout the entire home.


However, there are some drawbacks. The efficiency of most boiler options on the market is noticeably lower compared to newer, smarter technologies. Additionally, some boilers are pressurized vessels and use fossil fuels, which present significant safety concerns. Furthermore, their heat distribution may be somewhat uneven.


Check out the comparison between air source heat pumps and boilers for a deeper understanding. Or if you have a radiator not working (or several), read our troubleshooting guide.


Costs of installing central heating boilers
The cost of installing or replacing a boiler depends on factors such as the operating fuel, brand and model, and the region you live in. Their maintenance costs are also higher. Depending on the options you choose, you may expect to pay $2,000 to $20,000 for installing a new boiler. (This doesn’t even account for the regular detailed maintenance required to keep the boiler running safely.)


Heat pumps (also known as ductless mini-split or ductless heating)

Heat pumps are the smartest and most efficient home heating choice today. They work by extracting heat from the outdoor air and transferring it into your home. (Yes, even in the coldest days, there is heat energy in the air.)

Another win: They also provide whole-home cooling by reversing the process and removing heat from the indoor environment to cool your home.


Advantages and disadvantages of heat pumps
Heat pumps offer beautiful, even, and non-stuffy heating for the entire home, and if you choose a ductless mini-split version, you’ll be able to control the temperature separately in different zones.


Heat pumps are also fully electric and energy-efficient, making them the cleanest and greenest option available. Furthermore, you can replace your entire HVAC system with a heat pump (and be happier and more comfortable) as it can provide both heating and cooling for your home.


The main initial hurdle in installing a heat pump is often the upfront installation cost, but you may not need to pay for that. Additionally, if you opt for a ductless mini-split system, you’ll need to get used to the appearance of wall-mounted units.


Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of installing heat pumps.

81% of people reported improved home comfort after replacing their fossil fuel heaters with heat pumps.


Heat Pumps vs. Furnaces

Heat pumps are more energy-efficient, safer (no risk of gas leaks or carbon monoxide), and can heat your space more evenly compared to furnaces. Also, don’t forget that heat pumps are also air conditioners—there isn’t any furnace on the market that can do that!

Compared to boilers, heat pumps have lower maintenance costs, provide better and more consistent heat, are more efficient, and eliminate the risk of explosions. Additionally, you can install a heat pump even if you don’t have a ductwork system. Plus, it can keep your home cool in the summer!


Costs of installing a heat pump system

The cost of installing a heat pump system can be a significant obstacle for many homeowners.


The cost of installing a heat pump system can vary depending on several factors, including the size of your home, the type of heat pump (air-source or ground-source), and the level of energy efficiency desired. On average, the installation cost of a heat pump system can range from $5,000 to $15,000 or more, including labor and materials. It’s important to consult with professionals to get accurate cost estimates based on your specific requirements.


However, it’s worth noting that while the initial installation cost of a heat pump may be higher than some other heating options, heat pumps offer long-term energy savings and lower operating costs, which can help offset the initial investment.


Heat pumps are considered a smart and efficient heating solution, particularly for regions with moderate climates. They provide both heating and cooling capabilities, making them a versatile choice for year-round comfort. Additionally, they are environmentally friendly, as they utilize renewable energy from the air or ground.


When choosing a heating system, it’s essential to consider factors such as energy efficiency, installation costs, maintenance requirements, and long-term savings. Consulting with HVAC professionals can provide valuable insights and help you determine the most suitable heating system for your home.

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