5 Alternative Heating Systems for Your Home

By Ygrene on January 24, 2018

Most North American homes utilize forced-air heating , with boilers, furnaces, and radiators being the most common. These forced-air systems are a mainstay in the North American home because they require little to no new utility line runs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), their efficiency has also increased, with more recent models touting at least 90% fuel utilization efficiency.

However, there are alternative heating systems that may be better suited for your home. To help you decide what makes the most sense for you and your family, we outline below the top five alternative heating systems: Geothermal, Heating Oil, Pellet Stoves, and Underfloor Heating. These heating alternatives are as efficient as the newer forced-air system but utilize different technologies to maximize efficiency and minimize environmental impact.

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To help you decide what makes the most sense for you and your family, here are five alternative heating sources to consider for your home.

1. Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps rely on consistent underground temperatures to efficiently heat a home during the winter. Depending on a home’s location, the temperature underground is between 45°F (7°C) to 75°F (21°C) throughout the entire year – often warmer than winter surface temperatures. The warmer underground temperature may make geothermal pumps more efficient than air-source heat pumps, which must first warm cold air from the outside.

The price of a geothermal heating system is more significant than a comparable air source system because the installation process involves drilling a hole in the ground or placing heat-transferring coils in a nearby body of water. The expense of this alternative heating system is estimated to be recovered between a five and ten-year period and can last up to 20 years with minimal maintenance.

2. Heating Oil

Natural gas is a common fuel source for home central heating systems, but not everyone has access to it. Rural areas with limited access to natural gas use oil-powered furnaces to keep their homes warm. This alternative heating fuel is cheaper than its natural-gas peers at a slightly less fuel efficiency rating of 80% - 90%. However, oil furnaces have a couple of significant advantages in addition to their lower initial price tag.

Heating oil as an alternative heating fuel can be environmentally friendly. Homeowners can burn a biofuel blend in their oil heating systems, lowering pollution levels and costs. Heating oil provides more heat per BTU (a unit that measures the energy needed to produce heat) than other heating fuel. This means you can use less fuel to heat your home.

3. Pellet Stoves

Once the appliance of choice for home heating, wood stoves are coming back as an alternative heating solution thanks to higher-efficiency, cleaner-burning pellet stoves. Some of these units are even powerful enough to heat an entire home. The “pellets” that give this alternative heating system its name are usually made of a wood-based compound that includes other organic materials such as corn husks or even nutshells. These stoves are also easier to install than traditional fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. The ease of installation is attractive to many homeowners or property owners that want an alternative heating system that’s efficient but doesn’t require a variety of trades to be involved.

When buying a pellet stove, choosing the correct size stove for the home is essential. Pellet stoves come in many different sizes, producing heat at rates between 8,000 and 90,000 BTU per hour (enough to heat an entire home). The drawback of pellet stoves is their maintenance requirements: you may need to fill the stove daily, clean it weekly, and professionally clean it annually.

4. Solar Heating

Solar heating is the alternative heating system that’s been around for centuries. There are two forms of solar heating: active and passive. Depending on your home, you could implement active, passive, or both.

Passive Solar Heating

Passive solar heating relies on solar gain, where solar heat passes through windows and skylights and provides warmth for the home. The heat can be retained with an absorber such as your flooring. Your home should have adequate insulation, windows, and energy-efficient doors for best results.

As an alternative heating system, passive solar heating can work as a supplement to standard heating systems. Installing skylights and south-facing energy-efficient windows can improve solar gain by allowing more sunlight to enter during winter and retain it for more extended periods of time. This helps your active heating system to turn on much later.

Active Solar Heating

Active solar heating is less common than passive solar heating, but it is still a valuable alternative system to aid your current standard central heating.

Active solar heating systems are simple in design but require specialized installation making the initial cost higher than passive. In an active solar heating system, the sun’s rays warm a liquid (water), or sometimes air that is then stored or transferred directly to the living area, either with a blower or a radiant heat system. The storage method may vary from home to home, but the concept remains similar throughout all active solar heating systems.

5. Under-floor Heating

Under-floor radiant heat systems can save on energy costs by eliminating the heat loss when hot air passes through ductwork. Scientific American estimates that under-floor alternative heating systems are 15 percent more efficient than standard forced-air systems. Utilizing this alternative heating system is beneficial to people with allergies because it doesn’t blow air through the home as a forced-air system does. The main drawback of under-floor heating is its installation complexity. The installation requires your existing floor to be removed so water pipes can be installed under it. Unfortunately, this roadblock makes under-floor heating more suitable for new construction or large remodels.

What’s the Best Alternative Heating System for Your Home?

The best alternative heating system depends on your home’s existing infrastructure and whether you want to use the alternative heating source to supplement the existing system or replace it. Another variable in the decision is the cost of the energy used to create heat. If you plan on using PACE financingfor your home, a PACE expert at Ygrene can help you weigh your options – and choose a heating system with a good chance of paying for itself over time with the money saved on heating costs. To get your project started, click below to get approved within less than 30 minutes.

PACE can help you finance alternative heating, making your home more comfortable and energy efficient. Contact Ygrene at (855) 901-3999; info@ygreneworks.com to see if PACE is available in your area.