The financial costs of a heating system consist of factors such as system installation, operating costs and maintenance. The most efficient heating system in terms of energy usage is solar heating. After installing a solar heating system, the costs of the system is very low, since the system uses energy collected from sunlight to heat the home. Natural gas heating systems are also efficient in terms of financial costs, as natural gas costs less than oil, wood and electricity. Geothermal and electric heating systems are financially inefficient systems. Installation costs for geothermal systems can run into the thousands of dollars, making them financially expensive. Electric heating systems use large amounts of electricity, which is more expensive than other heating sources.
Heating systems that are the most environmentally efficient use renewable sources of energy. Solar heating systems are the most environmentally friendly, since the energy is gathered directly from the sun. The system only uses other resources when the sun has not been out or conditions are very cold. Geothermal systems are also very environmentally since they utilize the heat stored in the earth to heat the home. Environmentally inefficient systems include oil and gas systems which burn fossil fuels and release emissions. Electricity is the least efficient, since large amounts of fuel must be burned and most of the energy stored in the fuel is lost as heat through the process of converting it to electricity.
Conversion efficiency relates to how well the heating system takes the energy provided and converts it to heat usable in the home. Again, solar and geothermal systems are the most efficient as they are using resources that are free or almost free.The heat collected is then transferred into the home. Other sources such as wood, oil, gas and electricity must convert the fuel into heat. In all other forms of heat systems, some heat will be lost in the system while converting the fuel to another form of energy.
Distribution System Efficiency
Selecting a type of heating system is only one aspect to heating a home. Selecting how the heat will be distributed through the home also plays into how efficiently the system works. Radiant floor heating is a very efficient heating distribution system because it can heat evenly, and the heat comes up through the floor instead of being forced down venting systems. Forced air systems are also good; while they do require the air to be pushed down, they warm quickly and can be used to maintain even temperatures with programmable thermostats. Radiators and natural airflow systems are the least efficient as they tend to be slow in heating and only heat areas in which the heater, such as the radiator or wood burning stove, is located.