What is the Best Heating System for an Old House?

Having proper heating to warm up your home is essential. This is especially true if you live in a climate where it’s cold during the day and the night. After all, you want to be cozy, not cold! As modern living has evolved over the years and the technology we’ve put in our homes has also evolved, there’s basically been no limit to how homes are heated. But what if you have an older home? It’s essential that you have the right type of heating system warming your home. If you don’t, then there could be an inherent fire hazard or other safety risks. Older homes can’t just have any heating system- they have to have systems that reflect their own infrastructure. Deciding which type of heating system to put in your old home can be a difficult task, which is what we’re here to help with. Today, we’ll start by discussing what is all involved in heating homes. We’ll also talk about the different types of heating systems there are. Finally, we’ll give you our top recommendations for heating systems that can heat your old home. 

How Your Home Is Heated

Understanding how your home is heated is really beneficial when you go to select a type of heating system to heat your house. Before we talk about the main types of heating systems, we’ll help you to understand how your home is heated. There are three main parts to a heating system: a heat source, a heat distribution system, and a control system. 

As you may have guessed, the heat source itself is the component that supplies the air to the heat distribution system. One example of a heat source is a furnace. A furnace contains the air that’s heated and then passed on through the heat distribution system. The heat source portion of a heating system requires the most floor space inside your home, which is why it’s most often placed inside the basement or its own little closet tucked away from everything else. 

The heat distribution system is the part of the overall heat system that takes the hot air and distributes it evenly throughout your house. There are a few different parts within the heat distribution system itself, including air ducts, fans, and vents or registers. The fans do the actual blowing of the air into the ducts. The ducts are arranged in places all over the house strategically so that the entire house can be heated. The vents or registers are where the heat comes out once it’s reached that point in the air duct tract. 

The last part of your home’s heating system is the control system. The control system usually functions as a thermostat or other place of central control. Here, you can select how warm you want your hot air to be. Some thermostats may even allow you to place a timer on how often you want the heat to be distributed through your house, and others do so automatically once the rooms reach a certain temperature. 

Main Types of Heating Systems

Now that you’ve got a better idea of how your home is heated, let’s take a look at the main types of heating systems that exist. First, we’ll talk about the different types of fuel that can be used to heat your home. Then, we’ll briefly cover the different types of systems that produce heat from a fuel source. Finally, we’ll mention the different ways that heat is distributed throughout your home. 

Different Fuel Sources

There are many different types of fuel sources that can be used to heat your home. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones:

  1. Natural Gas: Methane gas is stored in tanks or a gas main and used as a source of fuel.
  2. Liquid Petroleum Gas: Liquid Petroleum Gas usually comes in either propane or butane, and can be obtained either via tanks or other gas mains. 
  3. Solid Mineral Fuel: Solid Mineral Fuel is a fancy way of saying coal. With these types of heating systems, chunks or deposits of coal are used to heat a home.
  4. Biomass: Biomass refers to any biological item used to heat a home. Usually, this is in the form of wood logs, chippings, or pellets. 
  5. Oil Type C2: Oil Type C2 is just another way of saying Kerosene. With these types of heating systems, homes will have a kerosene tank that is likely placed outside in their backyards or against the housing somewhere. 
  6. Oil Type D: Oil Type D is referred to as ‘gas oil’, which is really only used on commercial premises or other larger buildings. 
  7. Electricity: Lastly, electricity can be used as a heat source too. Instead of using gas burners to burn the gas, there are electric heating elements in its place. 

Different Types of Heating Systems

Just like there are different types of fuel, there are different ways to heat that fuel. Let’s take a look at some of those now.

  1. Boilers: One of the most common ways to heat your fuel, boilers function by heating the oil, gas, or electricity that heats your home. It then passes this heated fuel through your heat distribution system so your home can be properly heated up.
  2. Electric Heating: Here, electricity is used as a heat source where it is converted into heat via electric resistance heating.
  3. Furnaces: Furnaces are another common way to heat fuel. Here, air is heated up and dispelled through your heat distribution system. 
  4. Heat Pumps: As the name may suggest, heat pumps function by pulling in heat from the surrounding air and pushing it towards the direction it needs to go in. 
  5. Solar Heating: A little different than the rest of the other options here, solar heating functions by using the sun in order to heat up liquid or air. You also have a few choices with solar heaters- you can store the heat to be used later or use it up right away.
  6. Portable Heaters: Portable heaters are heaters that are usually used in place of a normal heating system. They either function with convection or radiant heating, and can usually only heat up one room at a time. 
  7. Fireplaces: Fireplaces are commonly used in homes that are older or that don’t have a need for a large and expansive heating system. Wood is used as the only heat source with a fireplace. 

Different Ways How Heat Is Distributed Throughout Your Home

Now that you know about the different types of heating systems, we’ll talk about the different methods used to distribute the heat throughout your home. 

  1. Steam Radiant System: A steam radiant system uses a radiator to heat up steam and distribute that steam throughout a room. External fins on the radiator heat up over time, which in turn heats up the air around the fins. Radiators are one of the oldest ways to heat up a home, and they’re even still used today. 
  2. Forced Air System: Forced air systems are some of the easiest heat distribution systems to understand. In essence, forced air systems work by forcing hot air produced by a heat source through air ducts and out of vents into the rooms of a house. A forced air distribution system is usually used to heat an entire home, as opposed to a radiator which may only heat up a room or two at once.
  3. Electric Baseboards: Electric baseboard heaters function by pulling in cool air through the bottom, warming it up with coils, and pushing the air through the top. Usually, electric baseboards are used to head a single room, if you’re using this type of heat distributer, you’ll want to install one in each room that you want heated. 
  4. Hot Water Baseboards: Hot Water baseboard heaters function nearly the same way as electric baseboards, except they’re mounted to a wall and use hot water in order to heat up a room. 
  5. Radiant Heating: Radiant heating is a relatively new innovation with heat distribution. First, coils are installed beneath a floor, behind a wall, or above a ceiling. These coils are heated up, and by doing so, they heat up the surfaces they’re behind. Heat is then transferred over to whichever surfaces come into contact with the flooring, walls, or ceiling. Most commonly, this type of heating distribution is used with floors. 
  6. Fireplaces: Fireplaces are an open-source heat distributer. Wherever the wood burns, heat is openly dispelled throughout the surrounding area. Usually, soot and other debris is sucked up through a chimney and smoke is expelled through the top into the open air. 

The Best Types of Heating Systems to Heat Your Older House With

Now that you know about the heating process and all the different types of systems that can heat homes, we’ll take a look at the best heating systems to heat your older house with. 

Radiators (Hot Water and Steam)

One of the best types of heaters you can use to heat your old home with is a radiator. It doesn’t even matter which type you purchase- you can have hot water, steam, or a combination of both if that’s what you prefer. Radiators work efficiently for heating old homes because they don’t take up a lot of space and don’t require you to install anything in the foundation of your home (which could prove to be a fire hazard with many older homes). Because radiators mainly heat one room or two at most, you can even choose which portions of your old home you heat up- which can be much better safety wise. The last thing you want to have happen is for you to heat your entire home and an accident in the heating causes a fire or other injury. 


Fireplaces are some of the oldest types of heating systems used to heat homes and are even still used today in modern homes. They’re highly effective for a couple of reasons. One reason is because many older homes are smaller, so they heat up the entire home faster. If you have an older home that has a lot of space in it, you could easily have more than one fireplace installed to heat multiple rooms up at once if you so desire. Another reason why they’re so effective (especially for older homes) is because they’re relatively non-invasive. They don’t require a lot of duct work to be installed as with a forced air system, and they don’t require coils to be installed behind walls, ceilings, or floors. Another reason why we recommend fireplaces for heating an old home is because they cost less to maintain than modern heating systems do. Only routine cleaning and purchasing wood for fuel are expenses involved with a fireplace. 

Boiler Systems

This may seem counterintuitive, because many boiler systems are meant to burn fuel to heat up entire homes, but you can use a specific type of boiler to heat your old home with if you want. Modulating-condensing boilers are relatively new within the heating industry and they work to only heat up the amount of water needed to heat up the space inside your home. This can be compared to old boiler heaters, which often heat all the water at once. Modulating-condensing boilers are great options for those who want to cut their energy bills as well as save the water used to heat their homes. 



Heating your old home properly is one of the most important things you can do to maintain the health of your home. It’s also important because if you don’t select the right type of heating system, there could be a fire waiting to happen. However, this guide gives you the tools to not second guess yourself and your heating choices. Now, you’ll go into the heating market knowing how your old home is heated, all about the different types of heating systems, and the best types of heating systems you can use for your old home.

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