I moved to the Central Hudson Valley of New York and purchased a 1680 sq. ft raised ranch last year. The entire house runs on electric and the heat source is radiant…but here’s a twist: it’s a ceiling radiant system (completely illogical to me, but apparently somewhat popular in the late 60s, early 70s). The radiant heat no longer works in the LR & DR and cannot be fixed. Thus, I’m looking to install a new heating system with the possibility of central air. I’ve met with 4 HVAC contractors and the options are varied. These are the options so far:

1. Mitsubishi mini splits – one large unit in the LR, a smaller unit in each of the 2 bedrooms; the contractor said that a heat pump would be a terrible option b/c of the cold weather.

2. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic (I think the electric strips for back up power when temp drops below efficiency of heat pump)

3. A/C 15 SEER Heil heatpump system installed in attic with 95% efficient LP furnace with variable speed and 2 stage blower and 16 SEER A/C only condensor

4. Carrier Infinity dual fuel (elec & propane) HP central heat & A/C

5. TempStar Heat pump – waiting for the entire quote

One contractor suggests installing the duct work under the floor (I have a drop ceiling, so it shouldn’t be too difficult) and placing the vents in the floor. Two of the other contractors suggest installing the ductwork in the attic; both would place the vents in the ceiling. However, one would place the return in the ceiling, the other would place 3 returns (LR, both bedrooms) closer to floor height (I understand that for A/C, high returns are best but for heat, lower returns are better).

Alternatively, electric baseboard is an option…it would be the cheapest to install, but the most expensive to operate. Another possibility is pellet fireplace insert, but I’m not sure if that’ll be sufficient as the sole heating source. So…based on my location (cold winters), the type of house and somewhat limited finances, what do you all recommend?