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Heating Systems

Heating is the largest energy expense in the average home. Properly maintaining your heating system and choosing high-efficiency equipment can help you save energy and improve the comfort of your home.

Heating Options

There are three primary options for heating your home—heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers. If you are currently heating your home with a wood heating system, learn more about our Renewable Heat NY Program. When buying or replacing your heating system, look for ENERGY STAR® certified heating products, as they are more energy efficient than other models. In addition to looking for ENERGY STAR® certification, look for the below rating types to determine which option or model will be the most energy efficient. The higher the rating, the more efficient the system will be:

  • Heat Pumps: Coefficient of Performance (COP), Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)
  • Furnaces and Boilers: Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) Rating

See if your equipment meets ENERGY STAR rating standardsLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. To search for the most efficient equipment on the market, visit the CEE Directory of Efficient EquipmentLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

If purchasing a heat pump, you may be eligible to receive a tax credit and/or a financial incentive. Visit NYSERDA’s Air Source Heat Pump and Ground Source Heat Pump Program pages to learn more. Your utility may also offer additional incentives and reduced electric rates.

Performance and life expectancy of these heating systems are dependent upon installation, location, fuel, maintenance, and occupant behavior.

 

  Air Source Heat Pumps Ground Source Heat Pumps Furnaces Boilers
  Central Systems (Ducted) Ductless Mini-Split Systems      
Overview Central systems connect to a single indoor unit (often a furnace), pushing air through a series of ducts, which gets exhausted through vents throughout a home. Central systems rely on an outdoor compressor/ condenser. Ductless mini-split systems consist of an outdoor compressor or condenser unit that connects to an indoor unit to distribute heat or AC throughout a home. Ground source heat pumps, also referred to as geothermal heat pumps, extract heat from the ground during cold weather via an underground piping system, which is then distributed throughout your home. During warmer months, the process is reversed to provide cooling. Furnaces heat homes by using a blower motor and air ducts to distribute warm air throughout a house. Boilers heat homes by heating water or steam that circulates through radiators, baseboards, or radiant floor systems. Boilers do not use a duct system.
Life Expectancy ~ 15 years ~ 15 years ~ 25 years ~ 20–30 years ~ 15 years
Most Common Fuel Source Options
  • Electricity
  • Electricity
  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
  • Heating Oil
  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
  • Heating Oil
  • Biodeisel Blends
  • Electricity
  • Pellets
Benefits
  • Can have a lower price point than ductless mini-splits (excluding ductwork installation)
  • Heat a home two to four times as efficiently as conventional heating systems, reducing utility bills
  • Allow for control over an entire home’s temperature from a single thermostat
  • Require no combustion, which eliminates carbon monoxide, making them safer than conventional heating options
  • Can pair with solar PV and on-site storage options for electricity to reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy sources
  • Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment
  • Qualified models are optimized for New York weather conditions—look for a cold-climate model
  • Heat a home two to four times as efficiently as conventional heating systems, reducing utility bills
  • Allow for customization and control of the temperature of each room in a home
  • Require no existing ductwork
  • Less invasive and expensive than installing ducting required for central systems
  • Qualified models are optimized for New York weather conditions—look for a cold-climate model
  • Small in size, providing design flexibility in home placement
  • Require no combustion, which eliminates carbon monoxide, making them safer than conventional heating options
  • Can pair with solar PV and on-site storage options for electricity to reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy sources
  • Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment
  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Act as one system to heat, cool, and supply hot water (if equipped with a desuperheater) for your home
  • Provide more consistent, steady output and performance than air source heat pumps
  • You can immediately save 30 to 60 percent on heating costs when switching from conventional heating systems other than natural gas (such as fuel oil, propane, and electric resistance systems)
  • Require no combustion, which eliminates carbon monoxide, making them safer than conventional heating options
  • Can pair with solar PV and on-site storage options for electricity to reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy sources
  • No on-site carbon emissions
  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Can have a lower price point than other heating systems
  • Integrate well with central air conditioning
  • Allow for zoned heating (heating only the rooms you use in your home)
  • Provide more consistent heat than a furnace
  • Integrate well with a water heater
  • Allow for zoned heating (heating only the rooms you use in your home)
  • Require less self-maintenance than furnaces, without filters to clean
Considerations
  • If ductwork in a home is not present, ductwork would need to be installed
  • Can have a higher price point than central heat pumps and conventional heating systems
  • Can have higher installation costs than central heat pumps and conventional heating systems
  • Depending on the location and model, fans and compressors in the heat pump may be noisy
  • Can have a high price point relative to other heating and cooling systems
  • Homeowner must have sufficient space on property for installation
  • Do not integrate with water heaters
  • Moving air can make occupants feel cooler than the actual temperature
  • Less energy efficient than new, alternative heating options, such as heat pumps
  • Fossil fuel based, which can cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than alternative heating options, such as heat pumps
  • Require regular maintenance (cleaning and replacing air filters)
  • Do not integrate with central air conditioning
  • Take longer to adjust to thermostat changes, lengthening the time it takes to feel a temperature change after turning the heat up or down
  • Have potential for freezing pipes if uninsulated and in very cold climates
  • May require a water softener to prevent scaling and damage to the boiler
  • Less energy efficient than new, alternative heating options, such as heat pumps
  • Fossil fuel based, which can cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than alternative heating options, such as heat pumps
  • Can have higher installation costs than furnaces
Operations and Maintenance
  • Routinely replace or clean your air filters to lower your central heat pump’s energy consumption
  • Check your heat pump’s evaporator coil every year and clean it as necessary
  • Have a qualified contractor service the central heat pump once a year
  • Clean or change filters once a month during peak usage times
  • Have a qualified contractor service the heat pump at least once a year
  • Clean or change filters once a month during peak usage times
  • Have a qualified contractor service the heat pump at least once a year
  • Clean air filters monthly and replace them regularly with properly sized filters
  • Keep air vents unobstructed
  • Seal and insulate your furnace ducts to improve the efficiency of the system
  • Have your furnace serviced yearly by a qualified contractor
  • When having your furnace serviced, ask your contractor to check for and remove dirt, soot, or corrosion from the furnace and to clean the heat exchanger to maintain heating levels
  • Have your boiler serviced and cleaned yearly by a qualified contractor
  • When having your boiler serviced, request a combustion analysis, which shows the boiler’s operational efficiency
  • Make sure baseboard heaters and radiators are free from obstructions
  • Check hot water lines to make sure they are properly sealed

 

For more information and guidance on what options are best for your home, view the Department of Energy Home Heating InfographicLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page.. To learn more about properly maintaining your equipment and/or determine whether it’s time to replace your furnace or boiler, visit the ENERGY STAR Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and CoolingLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page..

Explore NYSERDA’s list of qualified heating and cooling contractors to service your existing equipment or to install an efficient heat pump, furnace, or boiler for your home or property.