Home Heating Alternatives - it's your future and your choice
We're always thinking about home heating alternatives anytime we consider renting, leasing or buying a home. Usually we're thinking about the cost and convenience of fuel oil, natural gas, propane and electricity.
It's time we carefully consider other alternatives to heating our home. Let's think about wood, solar power, geothermal, ground source heating, bio fuels, waste oil and hydrogen power.
For some of us, thinking about these alternatives is a stretch.
Some of us are thinking that anything out of the ordinary is just too far out there, too expensive, not feasible or otherwise so far off the beaten track that we just won't seriously consider them.
I'm not one to spout off about "peak oil" or use other alarmist slogans, but it's clear to me that as populations grow, greater demands will be made on our limited resources like oil, natural gas and coal. Whether it's cost, availability, extraction capability, market speculation, war, embargo, labor dispute, private property rights or environmental concerns, each of our resources is likely to see some sort of shift with respect to price.
As the prices of certain commodities shift upwards, we'll have to start looking elsewhere to find sources of energy. I think we should start looking elsewhere now. Since staying warm in the winter months is one of our largest costs, let's start looking at home heating alternatives now, so we're managing the issue and not the other way around.
Home Heating Alternatives - easy ones
Wood is here and now. It's renewable, and it can be harnessed in several ways. Traditionally, we have wood stoves and fireplace inserts.
On the not-so-traditional side we have indoor furnaces and outdoor furnaces. Indoor furnaces can work in conjunction with a forced air furnace. Outdoor furnaces use hydronic heating to either warm floors and radiators, or interface with a "water to air" heat exchanger in the forced air furnace.
Solar power is here to stay. It's something we get naturally, and it's relatively easy to harness. Solar power to heat our homes can be active or passive. We can use it to heat a room or an entire home.
Since solar power is a daytime resource, we need a "thermal battery" commonly referred to as thermal mass so we can store the energy for use during the night when we aren't getting sunshine.
Waste oil is a tried and true technology. It's used mostly to heat shops and warehouses and other limited applications where there is a supply of waste oil at hand. Getting your hands on the waste oil resource isn't difficult, but with waste oil recycling, the source of the material could be problematic.
Home Heating Alternatives - not-so-easy
Ground source heating isn't new, but it's not commonly used. Of all the home heating alternatives, this one provides us with a source of heat 24 hours a day, but it relies on electricity to "bump up" the energy and transfer it from the ground to the home.
Ground source heating requires long runs of piping or a deep well to tap into the constant ground temperature a good distance beneath the soil.
Wind power for electricity is another of the home heating alternatives, but it's probably the worst application of electricity, so we probably should look elsewhere for primary alternative to traditional home heating fuels.
Wind power for heat is still an experimental effort, but it works well in theory and has been proven to be effective. Instead of turning the mechanical energy of the wind into electricity and then into heat, this technology takes the mechanical energy and turns it into friction that heats water.
This approach eliminates one change of energy form, so it's a bit more efficient than wind generators heating water via electricity. The drawback is that the entire operation is very mechanical and I know of no application yet in a residential setting.
Geothermal is a real resource that is seemingly endless, but there are very few areas that can take advantage of geothermal activities, thus the application of such geothermal based home heating alternatives will be very limited.
Bio fuels are being used to operate vehicles, so this could also be used to heat a home. Bio fuels encompass bio diesel and methane gas from systems that digest manure to produce the gas. Both technologies have the limitation of source material. If you're friends with a restaurant owner, you can get the fuel. If you're a farmer or a rancher, you can get the fuel.
Hydrogen is the much talked about fuel of the future. It holds great promise as a gas that can be harnessed for many applications. The big drawback with hydrogen is it reacts with steel, it's difficult to store, and it poses quite an explosion hazard.
Nevertheless, hydrogen can be used for cooking, heating water, grilling and home heating if you have a way to generate it and store it in sufficient quantities for regular use until more can be generated.
Wrapping it Up
Part of my approach to frugal living is to plan for the future - because I know it's coming. The idea is that I'd like to have a secure future, not an uncertain one, so I'm investigating home heating alternatives because I want to eliminate that high cost utility by getting "off the grid" so I'm not subject to the price swings of the marketplace. Therefore, this is another example of trying to create marketplace alternatives so I don't have to participate.
I'm using wood now because it's plentiful and cheap, but I'll be augmenting that will solar power soon. I also have an interest in hydrogen and wind power, and my plans for energy self sufficiency include those technologies as well.
Done with Home Heating Alternatives, take me to Ways to Save Energy