Green Home Heating Options

A house wrapped in a red scarf and hat.

With winter approaching, it’s impossible not to think about rising energy costs and the high cost of using non-renewable energy. Whether you want to save the planet or you want to save cash on those monthly bills, green home heating options are a good way to start moving in the right direction when it comes to energy efficiency. The more clean, renewable energy you use, the less it’s going to cost everyone—including you.

Solar Power

Solar panels on a roof's house with yellow flowers in the foreground.

The great untapped market in green energy, the sun is potentially an infinite source of energy for the entire planet. (After all, it works for plants.) But it's still an inefficient sole solution for most homeowners as a green heating option. Solar hot water systems are very affordable when it comes to monthly bills, but these systems must be very large and rather complex to efficiently heat an entire house. Due to weather patterns, many solar systems cannot solely support a home, and often a secondary system is required. This makes solar power a less-than-perfect choice when it comes to affordable green energy solutions.

Radiating Solar Power

When combined with a radiant floor heating system, solar power is a very earth-friendly and energy efficient heating choice—but this makes the system even more complex. Radiant flooring is placed above the subfloor of the home and actually radiates heat into rooms without the use of forced air. Pipes are placed right into the flooring system to carry hot water under your feet, which radiates heat outward and upward to make your home feel much cozier. This can be extremely beneficial to people with allergy problems, as fewer allergens are dispersed through the air with radiant flooring systems.

This installation will require you to take up all of your floors and run piping under them, which can be a very expensive and time-consuming process. Once in place, however, radiant floor heating systems that are fueled by solar power will greatly reduce your energy bills. Even so, you'll still need a system powered by a fossil fuel to serve as a backup to keep water heated.

Wood-Burning Stoves

A woodburning stove in a bedroom.

It sounds more like moving backwards in technology than forwards, but there's a new trend in green-friendly heating: wood-burning stoves. Times have changed, and these new stoves are remarkably efficient and cleaner-burning than their forefathers. New wood-burning stoves are powerful enough to heat an entire average-sized home. Many newer stoves are designed to burn small pellets primarily made of sawdust, which is a much cleaner solution than burning fossil fuels. If you can’t get one of these stoves inside your home, look for outdoor pellet stove options. For safety’s sake, these can be placed outside and used to heat exterior walls of the home. The heat radiates inward to provide you with needed warmth.

In order to use a wood or pellet-burning stove, you'll need to have proper ventilation. That means you'll need a chimney, and you will need a professional to evaluate your space and install the correct size heater in your home. Find a professional through the National Fireplace Institute who can complete this type of work. They have a list of certified pros who can help you get a new stove installed. However, keep in mind that even the evaluation can be costly, and installation of a new appliance will be expensive. But eventually this cost will be offset by the money you save on your heating system.

Heat Pumps

A couple of heat pumps outside a house.

Though powered by electricity, heat pumps are a remarkably efficient way to keep your home heated. Ground-source heat pumps, also known as geo-thermal heat pumps, actually use geothermal energy to warm your home. This is achieved through pipes buried six to eight feet underground, below your home. Sometimes, a deep well may also be used to access the earth's natural geothermal energy. The heat is carried through the pipes into the house with ducts, infrastructure that is already present in homes that have central heating systems. Heat pumps use very little electricity to operate, which makes them an energy-saving solution (but technically not completely green if you are receiving your electricity through fossil fuels).

Insulate Your Home Better

Sometimes, the best green home heating options begin with a good infrastructure. Apply your own DIY skills to make your home more energy-efficient overall. First, insulate everything. A money-saving option is to gather up all of your old jeans and cut them into big pieces to insulate your attic, basement, and any other area of your home that may be losing too much heat. (Natural cotton is an excellent insulator, and now you've finally found a use for all that old denim you've been hanging onto.) Old, torn-up newspapers are another effective DIY insulation material. Insulate your shutters, eaves, awnings, and anywhere else where heat may be escaping your home. Saving the heat you create is a great way to lower your energy bills, use less energy overall, and do your part for the environment.

The Future of Green Living

Researchers are making incredible strides when it comes to renewable energy, but the truth is that many systems are still large and complex—and still inefficient at heating single-family homes. Until the technology is more refined, fully living the green lifestyle is a challenge for most homeowners. In the meantime, do everything you can to be more energy efficient and explore green living options that will help you reduce your own energy costs and the pollution you help to create. Every little bit helps, and every day science is making new strides towards removing fossil fuels from the energy equation. Keep using your DIY skills to help them get there even faster, and find your own green solutions where you can.