Don't Have The Ductwork For Central Heat? What Are Your Options?

Posted on: 21 July 2017

While many who live in newer homes may take their central heating and cooling systems for granted, those who live in older or recently renovated homes without interior ductwork may often find themselves wishing that heating and cooling their entire home could be as easy as flipping a switch or pushing a button.

Even if you've made your peace with the use of window or portable air conditioners in the summer, you may still be struggling with the decision of how best to heat your home. Using electric space heaters can drive your energy bills sky-high, while kerosene or propane heaters can carry the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you're not careful. What are the best ways to heat your home all winter when central air isn't an option? 

Electric Heat

If you live in a part of the country with average to high natural gas prices but ultra-low electricity prices, electric heat may be the way to go. Electric heat is generally convective in nature, using electrical current to heat a metal grid; hot air will then drift downward (for ceiling heat) or upward (for electric baseboard heat) to make the room warmer. 

Although there's no shortage of DIY instructions and demonstration videos online, installing electric heat will generally require the assistance of a trained electrician. The last thing you want is to discover a short or other electrical flaw after you've already drywalled over your handiwork; or worse, failing to discover any problem at all until it's sparked an electrical fire. 

If you decide you'd like to install electric heat at the ceiling level, you may also want to consider installing heated hard-surface floors to make it easier to maintain each room at a consistent temperature. 

Radiant (Water) Heat

Radiant furnaces are often associated with historic homes, but can be installed in just about any home. These furnaces rely on heated water pumped through pipes (often installed inside your home's baseboards or above the ceiling) to heat the air throughout each room. 

Although radiant heating may seem relatively inefficient when compared to ducts that forcefully blow hot air into a room, they're actually one of the most efficient (if not the most efficient) ways to heat a home, perfect for those who have an eye toward their energy budget or who just want to reduce their energy usage in general.

Ductless Mini-Split

Another energy-efficient way to heat your home that doesn't require the installation of central ductwork is a ductless mini-split system. This system operates much like a traditional central air conditioning system with a compressor unit; this unit extracts heat from the outside air and pumps it into your home via semi-portable ductless vents. 

The vents for your ductless mini split can be installed just about anywhere; you'll just need to run a relatively thin cord through the outer wall so that it can connect to the compressor unit. Large homes may require several compressor units to ensure that the vents can be spread evenly throughout the home rather than just concentrated in a couple of rooms. You'll also want to ensure that your vents aren't placed right next to a window or door, rendering them less efficient than if they were placed in a relatively draft-free corner or along a wall.  

As a bonus, this ductless mini-split system can be switched over to provide cool air in the summer, eliminating your need for window air conditioner units for good.

Regardless of whether you decide on electric baseboard or ceiling heat, radiant heat, or a ductless mini-split, you should be in good hands when it comes to keeping your home toasty and cozy all winter long.