Solar heating is generally either based on liquid, in a so-called hydronic collector system, or based on air, in air-based collector systems. Both of these systems essentially collect and absorb solar radiation, which is then transferred to the interior space that is to be heated. However the hydronic collector has a clear advantage in how the water it heats up can be used as hot tap water if internal heating is not necessary. That said both types are highly cost-effective in cold environments with good solar resources; especially as an economic replacement for more expensive fuels such as electricity or oil. On top of reducing the fuel costs, they will also bring down the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by heating up of your home.
The local climate determines how powerful the solar heating ought to be for maximum effect, or for all that matters if a solar powered heating system would be effective at all. Most providers offer alternatives that cover 40 to 80 percent of the home's total heating needs. More is generally impractical as building regulations and mortgage lenders alike require the installation of a backup or supplementary heating system to cover the remaining percent. This requirement is very much a precaution against the potential intermittency of solar power, being that it is not an entirely reliable commodity even in the best of climates. The backup heating system does not need to be a major investment, but it needs to be able to carry the brunt of the heating in place of the solar heating system for brief periods of time. In all likelihood regulations dictate that it should be a conventional heating appliance, as to back up a potentially unreliable system with a different but equally experimental product would seem counterproductive at best.
The performance of the solar heating system depends on whether it is effectively situated, whether its design is appropriate to the local climate and the overall quality of the components installed. Ensuring that the model is relevant to your needs is therefore imperative. If you for instance are not opposed to a major investment, consider whether you would like to add the ability to cool the house down in the summer to the existing winter heating option. This option exists with some solar-powered heating systems and could be well worth the extra cost if you live in an area of hot summers. Next the solar collectors of the system need to be well situated and properly installed. While technically this could be done by anyone, it is recommendable to hire a professional for the job so as to make sure that it gets done right in the first place. As they install the heating system it would also be good to ask the installer for recommendable maintenance tasks to be done in regular intervals. Suffice it to say that a good solar power system needs to be subject to regular maintenance to avoid breakdowns and other detriments to its performance. Normally the provider will provide a list of what is to be done. Take this as an indication, but ask the installer for advice just the same. Do what they recommend and do not slack off in handling these tasks, as they will ensure efficiency and longevity of the solar power system and thereby make sure that it operates at optimal capacity at all times.
While it might seem like a lot of musts, keep in mind that a lot of the above points should be considered with conventional heating systems as well. Moreover these are more expensive in the long run, whereas a solar powered type promises to limit your future expenses if you handle it properly.