5 Best Heating Options for Houses Without Ductwork

Heating systems are an essential part of many households, especially for those living in cold climates. Heating a modern home is usually easy as most homes come with ductwork for central heating and cooling systems already installed.

This said, there are a number of older historic houses that lack ductwork. Due to high installation costs and the hassle of renovations, owners of these homes often look for heating systems that don’t require ductwork. 

Are there any reliable heating options for a house without ductwork? Can you install central air without ducts? Absolutely!

Let’s explore the available options.

Top Ways to Heat a House Without Ductwork

Here are some solutions for heating properties without ductwork:

  1. Radiant or Hydronic heating

This type of heating system is installed in wall panels or beneath the floors. And, as the name suggests, warmth diffuses into a room through heating pipes or hydroponic tubes.

A hydronic system uses water warmed via a water heater unit. The heater system is fired by electric power, gas, solar, propane, or wood.

These systems are excellent options for houses without ductwork. For starters, they are known to hold heat for longer periods, unlike other heaters. This way, even after the boiler is turned off, the water in the pipes remains hot, which keeps your home warm without using extra energy.

With such capability, the heater can keep a house warm without using much power, which is good news for your monthly energy bills. Their only downside is that they can pose a problem when installing them in existing houses. For example, to install a radiant heating system, you might need to access the underside of your home’s flooring to install a radiant heating system, which can bring about a lot of extra work and costs. 

  1. Baseboards

Another great option here is baseboards. These heating systems use conventional heat to warm different parts of the house. And depending on the type of baseboard heater, you can choose to heat the entire house or just a section. 

There are two types of baseboard heaters: electric baseboards and hot water ones.

Electric baseboards use electric current to heat the air and then dispense it into the room using their fins. The best thing about these heaters is that they are positioned in different rooms, which allows them to vary the temperatures for each room. As such, you don’t add the cost of heating rooms not in use.

Hot water baseboards are similar to their electric counterparts; however, the source of heat is hot water instead of electric current. They are connected to a boiler, which enables them to heat the entire house through a network of pipes. 

  1. Radiators

Radiators will also work well if you are looking for some great heating options for a house without ductwork. A radiator draws heat from hot water or steam and uses it to heat the air in the room. This means that they don’t require electricity to heat your indoor space, nor do they require a ductwork system.

Usually, radiators are made of metal, which is a good conductor of heat. When hot water or steam moves from the boiler, it is directed towards the radiator through pipes, which heats the exterior fins of the unit. With time, the fins heat up and warm the surrounding air as well.

When the air surrounding the radiator heats up, it rises since hot air is lighter than cold air. The colder air then falls to the bottom and is again heated and dispensed in the room. Interestingly, this process does not even need a blower, as the natural circulation of warm and cooler air is enough.

Radiators are quite effective in heating your home if you don’t want to install costly ductwork. While many homeowners now have heating systems for central air without ducts, radiators are still widely used.

  1. Ductless Heat Pump

For homeowners searching for heating and cooling systems without ductwork, ductless heat pumps are an excellent option. Also known as a mini-split heat pump, the unit comes with condenser and compressor elements, usually stationed outside your home.

During the cold season, the heat pump draws heat from the warm air outside and pushes it inside the house, where temperatures are cooler. This means that the unit doesn’t have an electric heater or a boiler – it absorbs heat from the air outside.

The good thing about a ductless heat pump is that it can also act as an air conditioner. This might be your best option if you are also looking for air conditioning options for homes without ductwork.

During the hot season, this equipment draws hot air from the house and pushes it outside. This way, the indoor temperatures are lowered to a level that’s comfortable for you and your household.

A ductless heat pump is quite small and compatible with smaller spaces in your home. It is also suitable for zonal heating, which warms larger rooms.

One downside of this system, however, is that its air-handling element is large and lacks the appearance of a central air and heating system. Also, it is ineffective when the temperature falls below -10 degrees Celsius.

  1. Electric Space Heaters

The last item on our list of heating options for a house without ductwork is an electric space heater. This is an affordable option for homeowners who don’t reside in very cold conditions. Most electric space heaters are plug-in or portable, meaning you can carry or move them anywhere you want around the house. They are excellent temporary solutions that offer controlled and targeted heat within minutes after being plugged into an electrical socket.

Electric space heaters use electric current to heat a coil, which then heats the surrounding air. An inbuilt fan then blows this warm air into the room. As the warm air rises, the cold air drops to occupy the space left, and the cycle continues.

Fortunately, some space heaters even have cooling fans and can be a great option for homeowners looking for an air conditioner without ductwork. This way, they can be used on hot days to cool the room.

But, while they are effective heating options for houses without ductwork, they cannot be relied on completely to heat your entire house throughout winter. They can be used as a temporary fix or alternative for your main heating system. 


These are just a few options to help bring warmth to a house without ductwork. If you want more advice on the best HVAC system for your home, don’t hesitate to contact our professional HVAC experts

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