Deciding Between Different Types of Heating Systems | Thiele

How to Decide Between the Different Types of Heating Systems

How to Decide Between the Different Types of Heating Systems

Indianapolis households keep warm over the winter months using different types of home heating systems. Furnaces, heat pumps, boilers, geothermal systems, and other equipment are relied upon to keep indoor living areas at comfortable and safe temperatures when the air outside is chilly. While there are different equipment options available, not every type of heating system is appropriate for every home and household. Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning explains the qualities of the different types of home heating systems and advice that will help you decide which is best for your residence.

The Different Types of Home Heating Systems

While there are numerous different types of home heating systems and heating equipment, the most commonly used choices in homes throughout the Indianapolis area are furnaces, heat pumps, geothermal systems, and boilers. Each type of home heating system will provide heat for a house, but operates in unique ways.


Furnaces are a type of forced air central heating system. This means that a furnace distributes heated air throughout a home via ducts that carry it from the centrally located HVAC unit to the various living areas.

Furnace models can operate using various fuel sources, including natural gas, heating oil, liquid propane, or electricity. To generate heat, gas or oil furnaces combust fuel while electric furnaces use heating elements. The heat produced is picked up by air circulating through the furnace, raising the air temperature. Air flows through the furnace and into supply ducts, and the system’s blower pushes the warm air through the duct system and into your living areas.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is another kind of forced air central heating system. The difference between air source heat pumps and furnaces is that a furnace system has only one piece of equipment that is located inside the home, and a heat pump heating system is referred to as a split system. Heat pumps have an air handler located indoors and a heat pump unit installed outside the home.

Heat pump heating systems run using electricity. Instead of generating heat by burning fuel as other forced-air heating systems as furnaces do, heat pumps transfer heat from one area to another. The outdoor heat pump pulls heat energy from the outdoor air and the refrigerant transfers this energy to the indoor coil within the air handler. The indoor coil releases heat energy that transfers to air circulating through the system, increasing its temperature. Once the air is heated, the blower within the air handler pushes it through the ducts and into the home.

Geothermal Systems

Geothermal systems are a type of heat pump system that differs from an air source heat pumps by transferring heat energy between the earth and the air inside the home. Typically, they are configured as forced air central heating systems, but geothermal heating systems can also be configured as hydronic systems which heat water. The geothermal heat pump is usually installed inside the home and can be used with a separate air handling unit or the heat pump may contain its own air handler, depending on the model. The geothermal heat pump is linked to a ground loop, which is a network of fluid-filled piping that is buried below the ground on the property.

Fluid within the ground loop absorbs thermal energy either from the soil or a water source, depending on how the system is configured. The fluid cycles through the loopback up to the geothermal heat pump, which transfers the thermal energy to air circulating through the unit. Warm air is then blown into the living areas via the ducts and blower components.


Boilers are unique among the different types of home heating systems in that they do not heat the air – they heat water, making them hydronic heating systems. The boiler unit is located inside the home and connected to a piping system installed within the floor (radiant floor heating system) or pipes and radiators that run throughout the living areas. Boilers are powered by natural gas, heating oil, liquid propane, or electricity. Combination boilers, also called combi boilers, are one of the different types of home heating systems that provide radiant heat as well as hot water that can be used when you open a faucet.

Boilers combust natural gas or use electric heating elements (depending on the model) to generate heat. Water is heated within the boiler unit. The hot water or steam produced is circulated through the pipes and into radiators. The equipment radiates heat from the hot water or steam into the space to warm the air around the house. Boiler systems do not require ductwork, so they are very energy efficient and promote good indoor air quality since there is no dust hiding in the ductwork that recirculates in the air.

Choosing Between Different Home Heating Systems

Each of the different types of home heating systems offers unique advantages in the way that they heat a residence. Which type of heating unit is best for your home depends on several factors, such as:

  • Available fuel sources
  • Desired energy efficiency
  • Existing infrastructure

Heating Installation in the Indianapolis Area

With many different types of home heating systems available, how do you know which to choose for your Indianapolis home? Turn to the heating professionals of Thiele Heating & Air Conditioning for expert advice and guidance when it’s time to select a new heating system. We offer quality installation for furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and geothermal systems – contact us today to request an estimate.