Insight on Upgrading Your Home’s Heating System from a Top Missoula Heating Contractor

Upgrading your home’s HVAC system can seem like a daunting task. However, by breaking it down into smaller, manageable steps, the process becomes much more approachable and achievable. It may take time, but tackling each part individually will make the overall project easier to handle. Garden City Heating and Plumbing is an experienced Missoula heating contractor, and is here to help you through the process. Let’s take a look at the 8 steps you will need to take on the way to upgrading your Montana home’s HVAC system. 

1. Determine the State of Your Current Heating System

While this may be obvious to some, it is not so obvious to others.  Determining the specifications and state of your current system will help you decide what to replace it with.

What is The Age of Your Heating System?

How old is your current heating unit?  How effectively does it heat your home? Did it effectively heat your home when it was new? How you answer these questions will help you determine if you want to use the same brand or if you want to use another brand, model, and size unit. Older units will generally have a higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) than newer units, which means it will cost more to maintain the same temperature with an older unit than with a newer, more advanced unit. Contact Missoula heating contractor Garden City Plumbing and Heating to see what options are available that will lower your monthly costs.

What is The Condition of Your Heating System?

How often does your current heating system need repairs?  Are these age-related or due to other damage, for example, from flooding?  How you answer these questions will help you decide how soon to have a Missoula heating contractor perform an upgrade on your home’s heating system.  

2. Have a Missoula Heating Contractor Calculate Heating Requirements

When determining the appropriate size HVAC system for your home, Garden City Plumbing and Heating will evaluate several key parameters to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. 

  • One primary factor is the square footage of the home, as larger spaces require more powerful systems to maintain consistent temperatures. 
  • Insulation quality is also assessed, since well-insulated homes retain heat better in the winter and stay cooler in the summer, potentially reducing the HVAC load. 
  • The number of windows and doors, along with their types and placements, impacts heat gain and loss; modern, double-pane windows are more efficient compared to older, single-pane ones.
  • Additionally, the local climate plays a critical role, as regions with extreme temperatures require systems that can handle significant heating or cooling demands. 
  • The layout and design of the home, including ceiling height and the number of stories, influence airflow and distribution needs.
  • Finally, the company will consider the occupants’ lifestyle and preferences, such as any specific zones within the home that require precise temperature control. 

By evaluating all these parameters, a professional HVAC company like Garden City Plumbing and Heating can recommend a system that is appropriately sized to provide comfort, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness for your specific living situation.

3. Explore System Options

While you will likely want to maintain the type of heating unit you currently have, it is still wise to consider any options that may increase your comfort and the value of your home.

Boiler Heating Systems

A boiler system heats water and then sends the hot water through pipes around your home.  This is called hydronic heating and is a type of radiant heat. It is often compatible with radiant in-floor heating and can be made to work together with a small amount of adaptation.  This can use hot water in liquid form or steam.  Modern boiler systems typically use baseboard radiators.  This is a slower type of heat but is one of the cleaner types of heat.

Furnace Heating Systems

A furnace system, also known as a forced air system, heats air and sends it into the house through a series of ducts. Furnace heating systems heat a space quickly and need a fresh air filter regularly.  

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps send hot air from one location to the other. In the winter, they pull heat from outside and send it inside. In the summer, they pull heat from the indoor air and send it outside. This is a forced air system that offers both heat and air conditioning for year-round comfort. Heat Pump systems can be air-sourced or ground-sourced and require yearly inspections by a Missoula heating contractor.

Radiant In-Floor Heating

Radiant in-floor heating is a type of radiant heat.  This is often hydronic heating but can also be done with electricity.  As a hydronic system, water is heated and sent through a series of pipes in the floor that radiate heat into a room.  An electrical in-floor radiant heating system works similarly, except that there is a type of mat on the floor that has wires throughout. The wires are heated electronically and radiate heat up through the floor into the room.

Ductless Mini-Splits

Ductless Mini-splits are a type of forced air heating that often also offers air conditioning. They can be installed relatively quickly and simply and are often used as an auxiliary heat source for isolated parts of a home, like a garage.   

4. Consider The Options to Power Your Heating System

Most of the heat systems listed above are available in oil, gas or electric options.  Missoula heating contractors can help you understand what is available so you can determine which would work better for your Missoula home heating upgrade.


Oil heat is a reliable heat that has been used for centuries.  Oil burns hotter than natural gas or electricity, meaning it can heat a home faster.  Newer oil heating systems are highly efficient, with ratings often exceeding 90%.  Oil must be delivered and stored on-site.  While this can seem worrisome because of the potential of running out, it alleviates the need for a hookup to a gas or electric line.  Because of the finite amount of oil on our planet, this method of heating is often less preferred than gas or electricity.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is often cheaper than electricity and oil, leading to lower heating bills. Natural gas prices tend to be more stable than oil’s. Modern gas furnaces have high-efficiency ratings, often above 90%, meaning they convert most of the fuel into usable heat. Unlike oil, which requires delivery, natural gas is delivered directly to your home through pipelines, ensuring a continuous supply. 

Natural gas can be expensive to install if you do not already have a gas hookup and, while uncommon, can be affected by supply chain issues. Gas heating systems generally require less maintenance compared to oil heating systems and burn cleaner than oil and coal, producing fewer pollutants and greenhouse gasses. Gas does carry a risk of fire or gas leak, especially if installation is not done properly.  Be sure to have a trusted Missoula heating contractor if you decide to go this route. 


Installation is generally straightforward, especially for baseboards or space heaters, and doesn’t require extensive infrastructure like gas lines.  Electric heaters are typically less expensive to purchase and install compared to gas or oil systems.  Electric heating systems usually require less maintenance compared to gas or oil systems and are nearly 100% efficient at the point of use, meaning almost all the electrical energy is converted into heat.

Electric heating allows for easy zone heating, meaning you can heat specific areas or rooms independently, potentially saving on energy costs. Electricity can be more expensive than gas or oil, leading to higher operating costs, especially in colder climates where heating demand is high.  Electricity is a slower type of heat with a lower output that can struggle in poorly insulated homes. 

A note on electric heat is that electricity is a bit of a “middleman” as a source of energy for this heat method.  Electricity is often produced via coal or other fossil fuels.  Electricity can come from solar or wind generation, but this is not the majority.  Currently, about 60% of electricity in the US is generated from fossil fuels, about 20% from nuclear power, and about 20% from renewable sources.  All of this is to say that electric heat has the potential to have a smaller carbon footprint, but this is not always the case. Check with your local power company for more information. 

Ground Sourced

This energy is renewable and sustainable, relying on the sun’s energy in the top layers of the ground. Ground-source heating systems are extremely efficient, often achieving efficiencies of 300-600% on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175-250% for air-source heat pumps.  Because they use relatively little electricity, ground systems can significantly reduce energy bills.  These systems produce minimal greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel-based heating systems.  The indoor components typically last around 25 years, while the ground loop system can last over 50 years.  The big drawback with ground source heat is the installation, in both cost and the piping that goes into the ground in your yard and the landscaping work afterward.

Geothermal Sourced

This energy is renewable and sustainable, relying on the Earth’s energy in deeper layers of the Earth’s crust.  Geothermal heat is obtained in a facility that is then pumped to homes.  This is an incredibly efficient and reliable type of heat. Geothermal systems provide consistent heating and cooling regardless of outside temperatures.  The main drawback with this type of heat is that you have to be within a certain proximity of a facility.  Check with a Missoula heating contractor to see if you have this option available to your property.

5. Determine Potential Costs and Variance


Installation costs will vary greatly depending on what type of heat your Missoula home currently uses. Changing the source of heat in your home will cost much more than simply switching out a unit. Think of it this way, if you have all the ductwork of a forced air system, and you want to switch to a hydronic system, you will need to install all of the piping along with the heating unit itself. If you have all of the ductwork and stick with a forced air type of heat, you will only have to install the new unit and make a few, small modifications. Consider the time required for the work along with the cost of installation. 


Operating costs can vary greatly depending on the type of heat you decide to go with.  If you stick with your current type of heat, you probably have a ballpark of what to expect.  Check with a Missoula heating contractor for more information.


Each type of heat has different maintenance requirements. Forced air requires a new filter each month, and most methods require a yearly inspection. Keep all of this in mind when deciding what you can afford and what you have time for.

Professional Consultation and Installation by a Top-Rated Missoula Heating Contractor

The best step when deciding on an upgrade to your home’s HVAC system is to call a knowledgeable, experienced, professional. Call the pros at Garden City Plumbing and Heating at (406)728-5550 or message us online for a consultation to evaluate your home’s needs and get you started!