Types of Home Heating Systems


The winter this year has been a chilly one. Whether you’re in Vancouver, Maple Ridge or the Tricities, the low temperatures have meant that more and more people are relying on their homes’ heating systems.

No matter what, it’s good to know what goes on behind the vents. That is, it’s best to be informed about what kind of heating system is in your home. Therefore, we thought we’d come up with an explainer about the different kinds of home heating systems.

In most cases, home heating systems fall into one of two categories: Central Heat and Direct Heat.

Let’s start with Central Heat. This type of home heating system means that there is a centralized source that creates the heat. The heat is then distributed throughout the home through a network of ducts and vents.

Different Types of Heating Systems


Furnaces are the most common kind of heating system that you will find in places like Vancouver or Maple Ridge. Furnaces are powered by electricity, natural gas, or fuel oil.

Inside a gas- or oil-fired furnace, the fuel is burned to heat a metal heat exchanger. This creates hot air that a fan then forces through the maze of ducts downstream of the heat exchanger. Furnaces are affordable and are becoming more efficient year upon year.


Instead of heating air, boilers heat water. The hot water distributes heat throughout the home via radiators. The water then returns to the water boiler to get warmed up again. Home boiler heating systems generally use natural gas or heating oil for fuel.

Boilers use a pump instead of the fan system used in furnaces. One advantage of boilers is that you can often install “zone” thermostats to be able to control smaller spaces or rooms.

Heat Pumps

These are two-way air conditioners so that they cool the air in the summer and warm the air in the winter. Almost all heat pumps use forced warm-air delivery systems to distribute the warmed air throughout the house.

Heat pumps either get the heat from the air or from inside the ground, depending on the type. Heat pumps run off of electricity or geothermal energy if there is access to it.

Types of Direct Heating Systems

Gas-Fired Space Heaters

This kind of unit is good for small spaces and they often work along with a larger central heating system. For small rooms in the basement, for example, or a small space like a trailer, wall-mounted, free-standing or floor furnaces are good options. They have a relatively small output and are not connected to any kind of duct system. The most popular ones use natural gas or propane.

Electric Space Heaters

Similar to gas-fired space heaters, electric space heaters are small units that are best for heating up small spaces. While electric space heaters are inexpensive to buy, they require a lot of electricity to run. They are portable so can be moved from room to room but again, they are best used for small heating jobs since they are inefficient for large heating jobs.

Wood burning stoves and fireplaces

Wood burning stoves are great options for rural homes that have access to firewood and new models are quite clean-burning. Wood can be an inexpensive fuel source, especially if you can chop your own.

Fireplaces are more often a decorative part of homes and are not exactly used for heating, even though they can add some heat to the room they are in. These days, they are usually gas burning, although some older homes have wood burning fireplaces. Again, they are usually more about ambiance than heating homes. And remember, if you would like a fireplace without the hassle of one, there is always the fireplace channel on TV (although it won’t do much at all to heat your home).

Radiant Floor Heating

Those are the most common kinds of heating systems you will find in homes across the Vancouver Lower Mainland, although there are new types of systems coming online. For example, radiant floor heating circulates warm air through tubes beneath the floor, warming the space from the ground up. Other fuel sources that are gaining in popularity include things like solar energy to power a home heating system.

Each home is unique and has different heating needs. Whether you are building, buying or just looking for more information, it’s a good idea to know what home heating system a house has.

If you have any questions about home heating systems, contact us at High Demand Heating.