Winter Heating

MOTHER EARTH NEWS – Do you feel the pinch of inflation and want more economic heating options during the cold months? Truly efficient heating systems may involve new construction or a home overhaul. But small changes can accrue big savings. Here are some economic heating tips for winter homes.

  • Many home heating options, such as transitions to natural gas or installing heat pumps, pay off more in the long run. But they can be too expensive for savings this season.
  • Before undertaking a whole-home overhaul, measure your energy costs. An energy audit can also identify hazards such as carbon monoxide.
  • Insulating pipes and heating ducts can prevent loss of heat from your hot water or furnace.
  • Building an inexpensive solar air heater, and placing it beside the sunniest windows of your home, can provide passive heat.
  • Heat grabbers work via the same concept of grabbing the sunís rays and converting it into heat for your home.

What is the most cost-efficient way to heat a home? Lately, natural gas has been the best option, as it is cheaper than electric heat and propane, and itís often available in urban areas. However, rural properties may be unable to upgrade to natural gas, relying instead on propane or wood heat. And, while wood heat is cheap if you have an abundance of trees in your area, a cord of wood can be expensive in desert or prairie settings.

The best time to consider economic heating is while building the home. This is when contractors can incorporate “https://www.motherearthnews.com/sustainable-living/energy-efficiency/home-heating-options-zm0z12djzsor/?utm_source=OgdenNews&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=Syndication” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>home heating options such as heat pumps, which transfer heat to and from the ground or the atmosphere. Air-source heat pumps draw heat from the air, concentrate it, and then distribute it through the house via ducts or pipes. This technology even works on cold days. Ground-source heat pumps, also called “geothermal systems,” draw heat from the earth, via pipes 6 to 8 feet beneath the surface or from vertical wells that descent a few hundred feet. Geothermal systems also work to cool homes during summer months by collecting heat from the building and pushing it into the earth. While heat pumps donít burn fossil fuels, they due require electricity to circulate the air, and that electricity generation may come from fossil fuels. Many homeowners with these heat pumps report massive energy savings, but only after saving enough energy to pay of construction costs, which can take a decade. They also don’t work nearly as well in extreme climates.

Construction ideas for energy-efficient homes also include berm construction, where the ground insulates part of the house, or passive solar design that places windows in the right position to catch winter sun but avoid direct light in the summer.

If your home already uses boilers or furnaces, you may opt to upgrade. Newer, energy-efficient models operate via the same concept but have insulation, direct-venting systems, electric ignition, or better heat exchangers and condensers.

Before spending money on these home upgrades, though, measure your energy costs via an audit. Many local programs offer this as a free service while others provide discounted costs. Overall, though, homeowners find the higher-end costs of $500 to be worth it, as the savings return within a year or two with a more efficient house. A formal home energy audit considers the age of your home, furnace, and hot water heater. Technicians may conduct a blower door test, which involves closing off all windows then fitting a fan into an open doorway to measure air pressure and the overall air exchange rate. This can identify whether heat leaks from your house via drafts. Another audit benefit is the combustion safety check, which can determine whether carbon monoxide leaks from your furnace and will hurt your family if you close all windows and vents.

To perform your own combustion test, especially after insulating any drafts:

  1. Turn your hot water heater to “pilot.”
  2. Run hot water for five minutes, which will cause your hot water heater to kick on.
  3. Securely close windows and doors.
  4. Turn on dryers and exhaust fans within the kitchen and bathroom.
  5. Light your water heater burner.

After one minute, check to see if it feels warm and moist, or hold up a smoking match to see whether air blows out of the house. Remember that, if your water heater or furnace leaks carbon monoxide, that airflow is important to mitigate carbon monoxide.

After the audit, technicians may recommend cheaper options such as spraying insulation into an attic, installing weather stripping, closing drafts, or insulating pipes and heating ducts. Or, if you have an older home, technicians may recommend upgrading to double-paned windows.

If you do not have the time or money for an audit and upgrades this year, invest in weather stripping and consider building one of several DIY solar air heaters. These can reduce heating costs and increase comfort in any home, no matter whether they use wood heat, gas, or electricity.

A thermosiphon collector consists of clear, corrugated polycarbonate panels. Many people place these outside windows, so the house can also receive illumination from the sun. They operate best on sunny or partially cloudy days, so homes may need to use furnaces more on heavily overcast days. But, under the right conditions, it can raise internal temperatures 25 to 35 degrees above outside temperatures. Read our article on solar air heaters for a full tutorial. Since these solar air heaters use clear polycarbonate, they are nearly invisible and donít detract from a homeís outside appearance.

Another “//www.motherearthnews.com/diy/diy-solar-heating-zmaz77sozgoe/?utm_source=OgdenNews&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=Syndication” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>DIY solar heating option, called a “heat grabber,” is way more visible and may not be allowed by HOA regulations. However, it can significantly help rural homes or places where this broad, dark panel wonít be an issue.

This window box system can be fabricated in less than an hour with materials from a home improvement store. Once constructed, place this heat grabber outside a window on a south-facing wall (in the Northern Hemisphere) at an angle of your latitude plus 10 degrees. (In the Southern Hemisphere, place it along a north-facing wall.) That means, if you live on the 45th parallel, you should place the heat grabber at a 55-degree angle. Technically, the heat grabber is a weathertight, insulated box with a glass top. It hooks over a windowsill, and homeowners then close the window to sit snugly against the glass. The sun shines on the glass, warming foil inside; hot air rises out of the grabber. This unit relies solely on the sun’s energy to gather heat and push it inside a house. And, since the unit sits below the window, it doesn’t impede sunlight or a stunning view of a winter landscape. Build this heat grabber via instructions on our site, or purchase larger plans that are easier to read.

Whether you can conduct an entire home overhaul to invest in more economic heating for your homes, or building a simple solar heater – or choosing the median path of conducting a home energy audit to determine where to apply insulation – choosing a more efficient system can save a few dollars this year, with exponential savings through the years.