As winter approaches and the cost of energy continues to rise, the thought of how to heat your home can be daunting. TODAY contributor and do-it-yourself expert Lou Manfredini offers options for keeping warm for less money while making long-term heating investments that are more eco-friendly.
Every year we talk about the rising cost of energy as it pertains to our homes. But this year, on the heels of one of the biggest run-ups on the price of oil, home heating prices are on pace to be the highest yet. In particular if you heat with oil, prices are estimated to hit $4.13 a gallon, an increase of 25 percent over last year. Natural gas prices are estimated to go up 17 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration. While I cannot tell you how to get the energy prices to come down, I can make some suggestions that will allow you to heat your home for less — and also make one suggestion that you may not have considered.
Hot water boiler
This is one of the most efficient ways to heat a home, since the hot water that runs through the radiators has residual value once the boiler shuts down. A well-maintained boiler can operate for 20, 30, even 50 years. But over time the efficiency can suffer. Replacing your boiler and converting to natural gas can have a dramatic savings. There are now highly efficient boilers available that can operate at 94 percent efficiency. A traditional boiler starts around 75-80 percent. The size of these boilers has also been reduced, as with the Buderus GB142 — this unit actually can hang on the wall and be direct vented with PVC piping to ease in the installation. This boiler, installed, can run about $5,000-$7,000, and can save you up to $50-$80 a month in heating cost compared to your older boiler. To learn more, go to Buderus.net.
Forced air furnaces
This is the most common way to heat and cool a home. These units have a life of about 20-25 years. And the technology keeps improving; one such improvement is the Carrier Hybrid Heat system (Carrier.com). This unit not only uses natural gas to heat your home on colder days, but has a super-efficient electric heat pump to keep your home comfortable when the demand is less. This controlled two-punch system optimizes the energy used to get you the most from a combination of two traditional systems. The average installed price is about $7,000-$12,000.
Geothermal heat pumps
Harness the ambient temperature from the earth, which can be from 40-80 degrees, depending on the depth. Pipes are drilled and buried in the ground and a fluid is circulated through them to capture the ground’s temperature. By transferring that hot or cold earth temperature to a heat exchanger, your home can be heated or cooled. Compared to traditional systems, the overall energy savings can be more than 50 percent. One consideration is that the installation of these units can be more costly, but payback can start in as little as five years. FHP (Fhp-mfg.com) has produced heat pumps since the 1970s, but the Aquarius II system was only launched this year. The Aquarius II system is one of the most efficient on the market and is built in the USA.
Outdoor wood furnace
Fact: Wood is a renewable resource. Fact: Oil is not. While a wood furnace is not for everyone, their popularity is growing. Around 40,000 units are sold in the U.S. and Canada industry wide. These outdoor furnaces are installed in your yard and hot-water piping is connected to your home. The water heated by the fire circulates through your boiler or forced air furnace to provide the heat you need. Around 90 pounds of wood can heat the typical 4,000-square-foot, well-insulated home for around 12 hours. An oil-fired boiler can use up to 200 gallons of fuel a month. The Classic (Centralboiler.com) costs around $11,000 plus installation, needs minimal maintenance and can virtually eliminate the need to use fossil fuels for your home. Your carbon footprint just got a whole lot smaller.
All of these units need to be professionally installed, but with the above systems you now have choices. Choose the one that fits your situation best. And remember to use installers that have the most experience and best reputation in your area.
If you have questions or comments, please visit Lou Manfredini at housesmartstv.com.
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