Alternative Home Heating Systems

fireplaceMost people get by just fine with their standard natural gas furnace. In North America this is far and away the most common source of heat in most people’s homes and for good reason. It works reliably. Natural gas is inexpensive. Most homes already have the infrastructure for a forced-air heating system. It makes sense to have a forced air natural gas furnace. But just because it does the job just fine doesn’t mean it is necessary the best and most ideal option available.

The problem is most people don’t even know about many of the alternatives to standard and conventional residential heating methods. Anyone ready this right now probably has in their home either a furnace or a boiler and those are both fine options, but they’re not the only ones. The point is that there might be another option out there you haven’t considered yet that might perfectly suit your needs. Knowledge is power and today we’re going to be investigating the knowledge out there and available about all of the alternative home heating systems that exist right now. Heating in Austin is a wide field filled with many options and innovations that make it possible to really customize your home living experience to your preferences. From the eco-friendly to the economically smart, read on to learn more about alternative Home heating systems.

Radiant Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating systems work just like how their name suggests. Instead of delivering the heat via warmed air that is blown throughout your home, the heat is radiated straight through the walls and floors of your home. One of the major benefits of this method of heat delivery is that radiant floor heating is often touted as one of the comfortable forms of heating as the distribution of heat is about as even as possible throughout your home. No area or room is going to be hotter or colder than any other as the heat is radiated evenly throughout constantly.

This extra comfort is great, but in addition to this added comfort, there are a number of ways that radiant heating systems can save you money: Radiant heating systems use much less energy than furnaces, and they do not suffer from leaky air duct energy losses. Radiant heating systems continue to heat rooms for up to ten hours after they have been shut off A radiant heating system can be installed in one room to supplement other heating systems; this way you are not wasting energy to heat the whole house when you only occupy one room.

The way radiant floor heating generally works is by using tubes that circulate warm water just underneath the floor. In this way it’s much like a boiler system except the radiator runs all throughout the house underneath the floors rather than inefficiently in the corners of a few rooms.

There are some drawbacks to this type of system though, the main one being the initial cost. While it is true that radiant heating systems can be very efficient, the initial installation cost is going to be fairly expensive compared to your average home heating system like a furnace as new infrastructure will need to be added all throughout the home underneath the floor. That makes it a better option for those who are building a new house than those looking to retrofit. It also requires a very experienced system designer and installer, and limits carpet choices and other floor finishes. All in all, it’s an option worth considering for its enhanced comfort and superior efficiency if you’re willing to put up with the grander upfront price.

Ductless Heat Pumps

The main difference between regular heating methods, furnaces and heat pumps specifically, and ductless heat pumps, is in the name. Ductless heat pumps don’t use the traditional ductwork infrastructure that furnaces do and as such they can make great retrofit additions to an old house without ductwork. You might also see these kinds of systems referred to as mini-split systems. Here’s how they work.

Like standard air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components, an outdoor compressor and condenser and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units. The main advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. Some models can have as many as four indoor air-handling units (for four zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. The number depends on how much heating or cooling is required for the building or each zone (which in turn is affected by how well the building is insulated and air sealed). Each of the zones has its own thermostat, so you only need to condition occupied spaces. This will save energy and money.

Ductless mini-split systems are easier to install than some other types of space conditioning systems. For example, the hook-up between the outdoor and indoor units generally requires only a three-inch hole through a wall for the conduit. Most manufacturers of this type of system can provide a variety of lengths of connecting conduits, and, if necessary, you can locate the outdoor unit as far away as 50 feet from the indoor evaporator. This makes it possible to warm rooms on the front side of a house, but locate the compressor in a more advantageous or inconspicuous place on the outside of the building.

Some of the disadvantages of ductless heat pumps are that they are sometimes difficult to do right and sometimes more expensive than other ductless options. The installer must correctly size each indoor unit and determine the best location for its installation. Oversized or incorrectly located air handlers can result in short cycling, which wastes energy and does not provide proper temperature or humidity control. Too large a system is more expensive to buy and operate. Overall this a great option for those who want more control over the zoning and distribution of heat in their home and especially those who are looking for a great heating option for a home without traditional ductwork found in most modern American homes.

Active and Passive Solar Heating

Now we’re getting to the options that rate the highest when it comes to environmental friendliness. Solar power is an exciting and rapidly developing world and when it comes to heating your home there are a multitude of options out there if you want to take advantage of the power of the sun. The main division of these options is the difference between active and passive solar heating.

We’ll start with passive. Passive heating is all about using the design of the house to maximize the amount of free heating you get just by the sun doing its own thing. No solar panels are involved in this type of system but it has its limitations. Since all you’re doing is letting the sun heat your home naturally as much as it can, you’ll often need supplementary forms of heating in order to keep you warm throughout the cold months. And because this type of system only works on a house design level, it is by its very natural only suitable for a new construction, not a retro fit.

The other main drawback is that you have to have specific requirements met with the location of your house in order to make passive solar heating work. But, location permitting, a passive solar system should be a no-brainer for new construction. That’s because you exchange the cost of feeding and maintaining a heating system for minimal additional cost, if any, in building. The specialized walls that are one solution for a fully passive system can be made of materials as cheap as discarded tires and rammed earth, and offer unmatched acoustic privacy and structural stability. Two minimal requirements for passive solar heating are a southern exposure with unmediated access to the sun and a material, often but not always structural, that provides thermal mass for the storage and release of heat.

Active solar heating is the other side of the solar heating coin and it involves using the sun to attain energy through solar panels which in turn use electricity to generate heat. It involves more steps than passive heating but is more controlled and less, well, passive. These systems use liquid or air to absorb solar radiation in a device called a collector. The stored heat can then be distributed through a building's existing heat system. In terms of efficiency, the right active solar heating system can provide 40% to 80% of a home's heating needs, according to the Department of Energy. During the winter, however, active solar heating systems are not capable of entirely replacing a conventional heating system and will need to be supplemented.

The great thing about solar heating is that if you’re house location receives good enough sunlight to work with solar systems you can incorporate both active and passive heating to maximize the amount of heating you get from the natural heat of the sun.

Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces

It may seem like a step backwards considering how old the basic principles are, but nowadays it turns out wood burning stoves come more advanced than ever. Wood heating can make a lot of sense in rural areas, especially if you enjoy stacking wood and stoking the stove or furnace. Wood prices are generally lower than gas, oil, or electricity. If you cut your own wood, the savings can be large. Pollutants from wood burning have been a problem in some parts of the country, causing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement regulations that govern pollution emissions from wood stoves. As a result, new models are quite clean-burning.

New wood burning stoves these days are safer, cleaner, and more efficient than ever, making this an attractive option especially as a supplemental heating method or for those without ductwork in their home. Certain models are designed to fit inside an existing fireplace, which reduces installation costs. But wood burning stoves are not for everyone. The cost of transporting firewood, given high gas prices, can make it more expensive for urban dwellers.

Heating Alternatives and Heating Repair in Austin

There’s a whole array of options out there when it comes to how you decide to heat your home. From old technology like wood burning to state-of-the-art technology like solar panels, there’s innovation everywhere and different options are going to be ideal for different situations and locations. The best way to find out what would be a good heating solution for you is to look into some of these options and the more traditional options and consider factors like location, old or new home, what kind of infrastructure you have, and other preferences.

And, if you’re not looking to upgrade or replace your current home heating system, don’t forget that regular tune ups are always a good idea if you want your heater to last as long as possible. Heater repair in Austin doesn’t have to be pain. With AC Express, you can get Austin heater repair quickly and easily, as we offer same day heater repair services to those in Austin and throughout area, from Buda and Kyle to Pflugerville and Round Rock. For quality cooling and heating services in Austin, call today!