With winter fast approaching, most homeowners are once again thinking about heating their homes for the season. If you live in a region with long, cold winters, the costs of heating your home for four to six months of the year can be staggering.
Luckily, there are several great alternative fuel sources out there that can heat your home more efficiently and cheaply than ever before. If you’re in the market to replace your current furnace with a new system, here are some ideas to think about as you consider your options.
Anthracite Coal Stoves
Anthracite coal, or “hard” coal, burns cleaner than soft coal and leaves behind little residue. It also provides the most heat per pound of any of the fossil fuels, making it a more efficient choice than most homeowners realize. If you live in the eastern half of the United States, coal is readily available, and you can likely heat your home for under $1,000 per winter in fuel costs once you invest in an efficient coal stove and blower system.
Geothermal heating systems harness the power of the earth’s natural underground warmth and pump it into your home via a heat pump system. Though a geothermal system is one of the most eco-friendly home heating options and costs very little to operate once it’s installed, the start-up costs can be twice as much as that of a standard oil- or gas-burning furnace.
Heating Oil Furnaces
Home heating oil is common in the Northeast, and a new furnace can be highly efficient, making this a much cleaner and more affordable choice than it was back in the 1970s. Though the price of heating oil fluctuates in much the same manner as gasoline, this year prices are expected to remain low, especially if the weather remains relatively mild.
Masonry heaters are typically wood-burning stoves that have a large, indoor chimney made of brick. Though the chimney ultimately vents smoke to the outside, the large surface area of brick holds in heat and efficiently radiates it into the room, making a masonry heater more efficient than a standard wood stove. This is a great option if you live near a free or low-cost source of timber and enjoy chopping wood for outdoor exercise in the winter.
Pellet stoves have skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, thanks to their inexpensive fuel source. Pellets are a manufactured fuel made primarily of sawdust and other waste that is recycled into a clean-burning pellet. You can pick up bags of pellets at most home centers, and a pellet stove typically costs less to install than a traditional furnace.
Propane Wall Furnaces
If you don’t have a municipal natural gas line available, or if connecting to an existing source is prohibitively expensive, a propane wall furnace can be a good option. It’s easy to have a propane tank refilled, and propane fireplaces are by far the most decorative option. Many people use them to replace existing fireplaces or to add a warm focal point to a living room or den remodel.
Weigh Your Options
Choosing the best alternative heat source for your home depends on where you live and what fuel sources are readily available in your area. It’s important to carefully research the cost of the system as well as its installation. You should also compare the cost of potential fuel sources over time to get a good sense of the average cost.
No matter what heat source you eventually choose, upgrading to an efficient furnace or stove will save you energy and reduce your carbon footprint — both of which are big benefits in the long run.