If you haven’t already noticed, it’s getting pretty chilly outside. But before you reach for your electric space heater or crank the thermostat up, you should know that there are several sustainable methods to stay toasty while keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum.
Heating and hot water are responsible for 42 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions. Therefore, to say we need to find reliable sources of heat is a vast understatement. Here are three of our favorite sustainable heating methods for you to look into.
How It Works: Geothermal heating relies on the heat below the Earth’s surface to heat your home. The system pumps hot water or air up, converts it into steam which is then turned into electricity to heat the home. Once that steam has cooled off, it’s put back under the surface to restart the process, making this a closed-loop system.
Pros: Once installed, geothermal heating can save you up to 50 percent in utility bills. It’s a reliable, sustainable, and renewable source of heat. As the seasons change, you can also use geothermal cooling to stay comfortable during high summer.
Cons: The initial cost of geothermal heating is incredibly high, so this will not be a viable option for everyone. It’s also important to manage how much geothermal energy fluid is being taken out and put back in so you don’t end up depleting your source.
Wood Burning Stove
How It Works: This process is relatively simple. Wood is put in the body on the stove to burn while continuous airflow provides the flames with the oxygen they need to keep burning. All the exhaust gases leave the house safely via the chimney. Wood-burning stoves work particularly well in open-plan homes where the heat can travel around the space easily.
Pros: They are incredibly efficient and have become more sustainable over the years. As the name suggests, these stoves rely on wood, which is far more eco-friendly than fuel-based energies. If you get a wood-burning stove with a back boiler, it can also double as a water heater.
Cons: Wood-burning stoves require some maintenance, so if you aren’t prepared to buy and load them with wood, this may not be the choice for you. They also aren’t great for homes with lots of closed-off rooms.
Solar Thermal Energy
How It Works: A solar thermal system relies on the sun for energy, which it converts into heat through a transfer fluid. The solar panels must be used alongside a boiler that collects the heated fluid (water mixed with antifreeze). Once the boiler has released all the heat in the fluid, it is sent back up to the panels to collect more heat for the home.
Pros: The sun is renewable, so you will never run out of energy. If you already have a heating system in place, you can introduce solar thermal energy into it easily. Once the system is installed, homeowners can expect to save 30-60 percent on their energy costs.
Cons: Like geothermal heating, solar thermal panels are initially expensive, although they will save you money in the long run. They also require a lot of space. The panels need plenty of roof space and the boiler needs to be large enough to store a sufficient amount of energy. Finally, if you don’t live in an area with plenty of sunlight, getting enough energy to stay warm through winter may not be possible.
At the End of the Day
Relying on the Earth’s heat, heat generated from burning wood, or the sun, is far more sustainable and logical than continuing to use fossil fuels to make electricity for heating. Hopefully, as these heating systems become more popular, their installment rates will lower, making them a realistic choice for more households.
Living in a world void of non-renewable heating sources may seem like an impossible dream, but we can all take steps towards it by making our homes as sustainable as we can.
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