Central Heating vs. Direct Heating: Pros and Cons

Your heating system is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your whole house. It provides you and your loved ones with warmth and ensures that you’ll be safe and comfortable when the weather turns cold. If you live in Santa Clarita or Pasadena and are thinking about installing a new heating system, there are a wide variety of home services and HVAC services available to help handle the installation. However, your first step is to figure out exactly which type of heating system is right for you. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options for home heating systems, and explore the pros and cons of each.

Central Heating Systems

Central heating is a form of heating in which all of the main equipment is centralized in a single location in your residence. The heat powered by this equipment is then dispersed from the main location to the other rooms in your house using ductwork or radiators. Although central heating systems are traditionally the most common mode of heating for houses and residential buildings, they do cost a substantial amount of money to install.

The four main types of central heating are gas furnaces, electric furnaces, boilers, and electric heat pumps. Let’s go over some important points about each.

Gas Furnaces

Gas furnaces burn natural gas or propane, which propels heated air through the building’s ductwork using a blower. Gas furnaces are the standard form of heating in most residential buildings and houses. The pros of gas furnaces are that they’re less expensive to operate than electric systems and are extremely efficient and environmentally-friendly. The main downside to installing a gas furnace is that it can be quite pricey upfront and will require routine inspection and maintenance to ensure safe operation.

Electric Furnaces

Electric furnaces operate similarly to gas furnaces, only instead of heating the air with gas, they use a series of electrically-heated coils. Electric furnaces are often found in residential buildings where gas is not available. The big advantages of getting an electric furnace are that they’re generally less expensive to purchase than their gas-powered counterparts and tend to require less maintenance. However, since electricity prices depend on a number of factors like your location and time of year, electric furnaces may cost you more on your monthly utility bill than some other central heating options.


Boiler systems heat your house by circulating hot water to wall-mounted or floor-mounted radiators through a series of pipes. The big advantage of boilers is that they’re very energy efficient compared to electric heating options. Unfortunately, if your house is not already equipped with radiators, a boiler heating system can be prohibitively expensive to install. Most boilers are powered by natural gas, and while it’s possible to get an electric boiler if your home does not have access to a gas line, a boiler system will likely be far more pricey than other central heating options.

Electric Heat Pumps

Unlike furnaces and boilers heat pumps do not generate heat, they just circulate it. Electric heat pumps are perhaps the most energy-efficient form of central heating and are also one of the cheapest to operate. They don’t require ductwork, so they can fit into virtually any sized-space. Unfortunately, heat pumps are not an ideal option for homeowners who live in northern parts of the country, as they can’t provide adequate heating in frigid winters without the help of a supplemental heating device.

Direct Heating Systems

In a direct heating system, sometimes called decentralized heating, the heating equipment is not confined to a single room in the house; it can be scattered throughout various rooms, or even located outside. Direct heating systems are usually cheaper and easier to install than central heating, take up less space in your house, and allow for customized heat settings in individual rooms. They do however tend to be more expensive to operate than central heating systems over time. The main types of direct heating systems are space heaters, wood stoves, and mini-splits.

Space Heaters

Space heaters use either gas or electricity to provide immediate direct heat in a specific room in your house. Gas space heaters tend to be more cost-efficient to run than electric space heaters, but they also need to be vented outside, which will add to the upfront installation costs. Electric space heaters are widely available at reasonable prices and can be installed in seconds. However, depending on how many electric space heaters you use, your utility bill may be a lot higher than using some other forms of direct heating. Both types of space heaters can be dangerous to children in pets, so their placement in the house will have to take that into account.

Wood Stoves

Modern wood stoves are extremely efficient and clean-burning, and their fuel is cheap and renewable. The main downside to a wood-burning stove is that it will require proper ventilation, which can be costly to install, and lots of property space to store your firewood. As such, a wood stove is not a practical option for certain residences.

Mini Splits

Mini-splits heat individual rooms using a heat pump system consisting of an outdoor condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. They are ideal for residential houses because they don’t require ductwork to be installed and offer more options in terms of where they are placed in a given room. The cons of mini-split systems are that they can be expensive to purchase and are often not very aesthetically pleasing.

There are pros and cons to every heating system, regardless of whether it’s central or direct. It’s important to do your research, learn the facts, and consult with a professional installation expert before deciding which option is right for you.