When choosing a heating source for your home, some of the things you should take into account is the availability and pricing of the fuel, the costs of installation, the costs of running, and the energy efficiency of the source. The most commonly used heating sources include:
• Furnaces: a staple of central heating systems, furnaces heat up air which is then blown out using a blower motor. They rely on combustible fuel such as propane, natural gas, and heating oil, but some also use electricity. They are never 100% efficient, and their efficiency drops rapidly with age. Still, they are among the less expensive options because of relatively low prices of fuel.
• Boilers: also used in central heating systems, boilers use fuel to heat up water which is sent then distributed either in its liquid form or as steam. Boilers use the same fuel types as furnaces — propane, natural gas, heating oil, and electricity. Boilers aren't as efficient as furnaces, and they also show a tendency to become less efficient with age. Still, they are much better than furnaces for zone heating.
• Heat pumps: Heat pumps use the temperature of the air or the ground to regulate the temperature in your home. Heating pumps can be very efficient, and they can have low running costs if you live in moderate climates as they can both heat and cool your home. They can be expensive to install, especially the geothermal ones, and in areas that have a wider temperature variance they need to be supplemented by some other heat sources.
• Solar heaters: solar heaters rely on the power of the sun to heat air or liquid, which is then either used for heating immediately or stored for future use. Because solar heaters don't require fuel in the same way boilers or furnaces do, they are less expensive to run. They also don't provide as much heat as boilers or furnaces, and will in some cases need to be supplemented.
• Electric Heating: with electric resistance heating, electricity is used provide heat for the heating element. It is a highly efficient source of heat, and it's relatively inexpensive to buy. The costs of running it, however, are usually significant, and it's much better used as a supplemental heat source than the main heat source.