In today's economy, homeowners are always looking for ways to save on utilities. The largest impact of savings often lie in your Heating, Air Conditioning and Ventilation (HVAC) system's ability to efficiently heat or cool your home. In addition to traditional gas furnace systems, there are some other ways to heat your home if you are interested in energy savings or if your home has a unique configuration or heating needs.
In this article, you'll find out how you may be able to save on heating costs with four heating alternatives to replace or supplement your gas furnace:
One of the key factors that differentiate the boiler from the furnace is that the boiler heats water to its boiling point and then moves the heated water (or steam in steam systems) into radiators or baseboard heaters throughout the home.
When considering heating sources for your home, a significant tool that can help you determine how efficient your present system is is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The AFUE measures how much heat loss a specific type of system will incur. The higher the AFUE rating percentage, the more efficient the system.
Retrofitting your furnace or boiler with improvements could be costly and may result in being just as expensive as buying a new system. To understand how efficient your present system is, consider using this rating system that measures a system’s efficiency based on its features.
If you live in an area with moderate temperatures, the heat pump system may be your best choice. Basically, in the winter, a heat pump moves heat into your home from the outside. Likewise, in the summer, it moves heat from the inside to the outside.
If your home uses electricity to heat the space, a heat pump could trim energy expenses by as much as 30 to 40 percent. High efficiency heat pumps can also make cooling your home more energy efficient. However, in lower temperatures, the heat pump system becomes less effective without help from other systems.
Perhaps the most cost effective option in alternative heating is the geothermal system. It’s expensive to install, but very cost efficient to operate throughout the years. The system involves using pipes that are buried throughout the lot, and uses the heat that is generated from the sun to warm the home. Below is a simple illustration of how geothermal heating and cooling works.
Geothermal is one of the most energy efficient systems available and can be coupled with solar energy making the home a ‘geo-solar’ system. Geothermal and solar systems are normally backed by the government with incentives and tax credits.
Radiant heat is the warmth you feel at a distance from a heat source. Radiant heat systems use this concept to heat without radiators, vents or ductwork. There are three types of radiant floor systems:
Hydronic Radiant Floor Systems: Hydronic, or liquid systems are the most commonly used systems when it comes to effective heating alternatives. This system uses a boiler to heat the water, and then transfers the heated water through tubing under the floor. There are several factors concerning installation costs of this type of system. Labor, floor type and home size are just a few factors that can affect overall costs.
Electric Radiant Floor Systems: This system uses cables or plastics built into the floor or subfloor of a home. The catch is that this system is only cost-effective if there is a large enough thermal mass – like a large slab of concrete - that can be heated in the off peak hours and used to warm the home for up to 10 hours without the use of any other system.
Radiant Air Floor Systems: Of all the heating alternatives available, radiant air floor systems are probably best left in the past. This system can be used in combination with a solar system, but moving air throughout the home becomes an issue of cost efficiency, especially at night.
Using the information above should provide you with a better understanding of your system, your home options and some other heating systems when considering heating alternatives for your home.
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