Heating your home doesn't have to break the budget or hurt the environment. Learn more about heating systems that are energy efficient and cost-effective.
Heating your home in the winter can be a challenge for your comfort and your budget, especially if your heating system isn’t the most efficient. If you’re wondering whether another type of heating method might be better for your needs or if you’re building or remodeling a home, maybe you’ve wondered what kinds of choices are out there for today’s homeowners. Here are some alternative heating sources that can keep you toasty while helping to lower your heating bills.
If you think solar heating is only for green homes with big budgets, you might need to reconsider. Solar heating systems are growing in popularity and affordability. In fact, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association®, the return on investment for installing a solar system can be as little as three to six years.
Solar heating and cooling systems use thermal energy from the sun instead of electricity, oil, or natural gas for heating and cooling. Most systems are comprised of a solar collector, insulated piping, and a hot water storage tank. Solar collector panels are installed on the home’s exterior, usually on a wall with southern exposure.
Because solar systems are a form of renewable energy that can help decrease dependency on imported fuels and exposure to fossil fuel price increases, and because they reduce pollution, they are considered to be environmentally friendly. Some states offer tax incentives for solar energy systems.
Compared to traditional air-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps are quieter and don’t depend on the temperature of outside air. These systems also need little maintenance and have a long lifespan. Using the temperature of the earth, which remains at fairly constant just a few feet below the surface, geothermal heat pumps exchange heat with the earth instead of using outside air temperature. This process enables homeowners to save energy and heating costs, even though the initial installation of a geothermal system can be significantly more expensive than traditional air-source systems.
Radiant Floor Heat
Energy efficient and comfortable, radiant floor heating is one of the preferred heating methods for many home builders today. It’s also popular with homeowners because most of the equipment is installed beneath the floor (or in wall or ceiling panels for other types of radiant systems), so there aren’t any registers or radiators to interfere with furniture arrangements or traffic flow. Part of the reason why radiant heating is more efficient than some other heating types is because it eliminates the heat lost through ductwork. It is also less likely to distribute allergens than forced air systems, and it is quiet to operate.
Many people mistakenly believe that the only time radiant heating systems can be installed is when a house is under construction, but there are actually innovations that make it possible to retrofit radiant heat systems for existing homes. There are both electric radiant systems that use cables and hydronic radiant systems that use hot water inside tubing. Programmable thermostats can be used with some radiant heating systems, as can solar panels.
For homeowners in mild climates (where temperatures only occasionally fall below 30 degrees Fahrenheit), a hybrid heating system may be cost effective. Hybrid systems primarily use electricity but have a secondary fuel source, often natural gas, that switches on during high-demand periods. Most hybrid systems use an outdoor sensor and thermostat to activate the secondary source when temperatures fall. Since natural gas is usually cheaper than electricity, hybrid systems can be less expensive to operate than all-electric systems in some regions.
Wood stoves can be used as supplemental heat to reduce dependency on other types of energy, or can heat an entire house. In addition to being renewable, wood is usually less expensive than other heat sources such as gas, oil, or electricity. When installing a wood stove, it’s important to follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations as well as local building and fire codes. In addition to wood stoves, you can also install inserts into existing fireplaces that supply energy efficient heat.
AHS Home Warranties with systems coverage include some alternative heating systems, such as geothermal, radiant floor, and hybrid furnaces. (Solar heating and wood stoves are not covered under AHS systems plans.) In addition to providing budget protection for covered malfunctions, an AHS Home Warranty gives you access to the AHS Nationwide Network of qualified repair professionals, which can be a valuable resource if your heating systems fails during the cold winter months.