- Geothermal is the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly gas alternative, but it is also, by far, the most expensive to install.
- Air Source Heat Pumps are a good, cheaper alternative to geothermal heating and still highly efficient.
- Electric radiant heating (underfloor, wall, and ceiling panels) is extremely efficient, is much easier to install and maintain, and provides the most comfortable heat - they are also less intrusive/invasive making them superior in terms of design and aesthetics.
1. Electric Radiant Floor Heating
Electric radiant floor heating systems employ electric coils or mats installed under the floor surface. This system is ideal for homeowners seeking a consistent and comfortable heat source that doesn't circulate dust or allergens.
Pros & Cons
- Even heat distribution across the floor.
- Invisible once installed, preserving room aesthetics.
- Minimizes circulating dust and allergens.
- Suitable for a variety of floor types.
- Enhances energy efficiency in well-insulated homes.
- Individual room temperature control for personalized comfort.
- High initial installation cost.
- Difficult and costly to repair if issues arise.
- Inefficient in poorly insulated homes.
- Not typically suitable as a sole heating source in colder climates.
- Requires careful furniture placement to avoid blocking heat.
$25-$48 per square foot.
- Floor Preparation
- Insulation Layer Installation
- Laying Heating Elements
- Electrical Connections
- Floor Covering Installation
- Testing and Calibration
2-5 days per room (approx)
Electric Underfloor Heating is 100% energy efficient.
Radiant heating systems are highly energy-efficient, operating at lower temperatures with uniform heat distribution, significantly reducing energy usage.
Their integration with solar energy enhances their eco-friendliness, supporting the shift towards net-zero energy properties and aligning with modern environmental goals.
This combination offers both environmental benefits and long-term cost savings in home heating making them a great alternative to gas heating.
2. Electric Radiant Heating Panels
These panels, typically mounted on walls or ceilings, emit infrared heat directly into the room, offering a space-saving and aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional heating systems.
They are known for their quick heating capability, energy efficiency, and ease of installation, making them an ideal choice for targeted heating in specific areas of a home, such as bathrooms or kitchens.
Electric Radiant Panels are also appreciated for their low maintenance requirements and the ability to provide comfortable, consistent warmth without circulating dust or allergens.
Pros & Cons
- Saves space.
- Heats quickly.
- Low maintenance.
- Easy installation.
- Expensive operation.
- Not for full-home heating.
- Limited heating area.
- Hot surface risk.
- Noticeable installation.
- Electricity dependent.
Installation must be carried out by qualified electrical installers.
Radiant Heating Panels are 100% energy efficient.
Electric radiant heating panels, using similar technology to underfloor heating, offer comparable environmental benefits.
They typically consume less electricity, especially in smaller spaces, leading to reduced energy use and a smaller carbon footprint.
This efficiency makes them a suitable option for those seeking lower initial costs and environmental impact.
3. Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) function by drawing heat from the external air, a process that remains effective even in colder temperatures.
They operate through a refrigerant cycle, which captures external heat, amplifies it, and then transfers it indoors using either radiators or ventilation systems.
Renowned for their high energy efficiency, ASHPs can produce up to three times more heat than the electricity they consume.
Integrating these systems with renewable energy, such as solar power, further amplifies their environmental benefits.
Pros & Cons
- Remarkable energy efficiency of 300%.
- Reduced operational costs compared to traditional heating methods.
- Dual functionality for both heating and cooling.
- Environmentally beneficial, promoting reduced carbon emissions.
- Upfront installation costs can be substantial.
- Some systems may generate noticeable noise during operation.
- Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure efficiency and longevity.
Installation must be carried out by qualified heat pump installers.
Radiant Heating Panels are 300% energy efficient.
Air source heat pumps are celebrated for their eco-friendliness, marked by low carbon emissions and high efficiency.
They use much less electricity than traditional heaters, reducing environmental impact.
Their ability to integrate with renewable energy sources positions them as a leading sustainable heating option, ideal for those seeking green and efficient home heating solutions.
4. Ground Source Heat Pumps
Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) use underground pipes with water and antifreeze to extract ground heat, reaching up to 400% efficiency.
However, their high efficiency is offset by substantial purchase, installation costs, and the need for large land areas for the pipe network, often three times the size of the heated property.
This makes GSHPs less feasible for many homeowners compared to the more space-efficient and economical air source heat pumps (ASHPs).
Pros & Cons
- 400% energy efficiency
- Lower Running Costs
- Longer lifespan than traditional heating systems
- Very Environmentally Friendly
- Very High Initial Cost
- Extensive and long installation
- Requires a lot of space/land
- Not viable in some regions and climates
The installation of Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) involves extensive groundwork to lay a network of underground pipes, filled with a water and antifreeze mix, across a significant land area.
Ground source heat pumps are up to 400% energy efficient.
GSHPs are arguably the most environmentally friendly way to heat your home (and cool it).
They boast all the benefits of ASHPs including integration with renewable energy sources and they are even more efficient.
But you will have to pay a high price up front if you want to benefit from this particular heating technology.
What is the cheapest fuel to heat a house?
Natural gas is currently the cheapest fuel for heating homes. However, for households without access to natural gas, biomass boilers or air source heat pumps can be cost-effective alternatives.
What is the smartest way to heat your house?
The "smartest" way often depends on individual circumstances, but generally, energy-efficient systems like heat pumps (especially air source) or solar heating are considered smart choices due to their lower environmental impact and potential cost savings in the long run.
Which type of heating system is generally the most costly to install?
Geothermal heating systems are typically the most expensive to install due to the extensive underground work required. The cost can be offset over time by its high efficiency and low operational costs.
How does the cost of home heating oil compare to natural gas?
Comparing the cost of home heating oil versus natural gas, natural gas typically emerges as more cost-effective due to its lower unit price and higher efficiency.
However, this can vary by location and market changes.
Home heating oil's price is often more volatile, affected by global oil prices, and despite its higher BTU output, it's generally less efficient than natural gas systems.
When evaluating these heating sources, homeowners should consider both the cost and efficiency of their heating systems.
Breaking with Tradition
Each of the alternative heating systems we’ve reviewed offers unique benefits in terms of energy efficiency, environmental impact, and installation requirements.
Geothermal heating stands out for its high efficiency and eco-friendliness but comes with significant installation costs and land requirements.
Air source heat pumps present a more affordable yet efficient alternative, while electric radiant heating offers ease of installation, comfort, and aesthetic appeal.
These alternatives not only provide effective heating but also align with the growing need for sustainable and cost-effective home heating options, making them worth considering for modern homeowners looking to move away from traditional gas heating.