I am remodeling an old two-story duplex, opening it up into single dwelling. The existing heating system is oil/forced air and also a coal furnace built into the same ductwork. Unfortunately the ductwork leads to one half of the house, and only to the first floor (the assumption being second floor gravity-fed, which doesn't happen well in reality). I'm going to install new siding and better insulation this Spring. Before taking out walls and opening it up, I want to have a new heating system in place. I need something that is basically self-sufficient (I'm a trucker and work very long hours), so coal isn't a good option. The house is located in western Pennsylvania, so it's a relativily cold climate. What type of system do you recommend?
I always had the impression that hot water baseboard heat was the best, or the modern equivalent, radiant floor is the best. Since it does not warm by moving air, it does not dry out the room as bad as forced air. Radiant won't mess with furniture arrangements, whereas base heat may keep some items off the wall. Electric base heat and forced air may yank furniture placement too. Unless you don't mind the inefficiency of the system it creates. If you block electric base heat with furniture, that is not only inefficient, but a fire hazard too.
Ok from my own personel perspective as both a home owner and HVAC professional installer/serviceman. I always stick with moving air to both heat, cool humidify and dehumidify, air filtration plus UV light, germ purification. All things that no form of radiant heat can give you. As well and if installed properly will never give you headaches except you have to still clean the filters.
My own system is high efficiency Propane combined with an air to air Heat Pump. As long as you can afford to stick with the highest efficiency units out there, you will get excellant performance plus reasonable bills as well and my Heat Pump supplies all needs to minus 14 C.
The only thing I feel better is water to air heat pumps but then you are looking for a large watersource or drilling wells. If you are lucky enough to have a good unobstructed southerly exposure, then solar hot water heating coil in the furnace attached to a half dozen hot water solar panels with a very large well insulated source of water storage tanks, in 100 to 200 gal tanks works great too for both domestic hot water plus heating as well but you definitely need around 800 to 1000 gallons of water storage plus a way to get rid of all that excess heat in the summer.
This is my thinking for myself up in central Ontario too, I'm looking into decent storage tanks now plus well priced high efficiency collector panels now in order to start working on it come spring.