If you're building a new home or renovating an old one, heating your home is one of the main items you'll need to consider to complete your project. Even existing heating systems are often subject to review, because operating costs for heating a home tend to fluctuate from one year to the next as fuels are market driven. And it's not unusual to revise your heating strategy completely to gain efficiencies and reduce your overall annual heating costs. Efficient fuel types for heating your home will also vary, depending where you live; what is cheaper at one end of the country, may not be at the opposite end. As a first step toward energy efficient heating, buy only Energy Star heating appliances and review my energy saving tips for other ways to reduce your heating costs.
Supplemental heating can also play an important role when combined with your existing heating system and can help to lower your heating costs. There are several options for home heating systems and decisions are often based on the budget and availability of fuel types in your area. Deciding on a main heating system is your first priority, followed by supplemental or alternative heating sources as a way to further reduce your heating costs.
Keep in mind that regardless what heating system you install, maintenance of heating appliances is crucial if you want to get the most efficiency out of your heating system. Maintenance includes recommended qualified servicing, as well as regular filter changes (if applicable) which is easy for the homeowner to do.
Please note that if you have any type of liquid fuel or wood heating your home or servicing a cooking range or hot water heater, for safety reasons, you should install a carbon monoxide detector. A carbon monoxide detector should also be installed in RV's when propane gas is used.
As with any appliance, consumers should be carefull to only buy heating appliances that are certified for use and meets their local codes and safety regulations.
There are various types of electric home heating, from whole-home furnaces to multifunction units that can provide heating as well as air conditioning. Supplemental zone heating in way of portable heaters or installed baseboard heaters can also warm up some cold areas or enhance your main heating system. Review the options available and find an efficient electric heating source for your home.
In certain areas, natural gas heating is much more cost efficient than propane gas, electricity or oil. Appliances used in the delivery of natural gas include whole-home furnaces with ducting, space or wall-mounted heaters and fireplaces. Natural gas is a safe and clean heating fuel type. When you have natural gas for heating your home, you can reap more economies by using it to heat hot water, to fuel a cooking range or dryer, or the outdoor barbeque. Natural gas connections should only be completed by a qualified technician.
Propane gas is very popular as a camping fuel for heating, cooking and refrigeration, but it's also a viable fuel for heating your home. Though it usually is more expensive to operate propane gas appliances than natural gas, in some areas, propane gas may be the only heating fuel available. Propane gas heating requires professional installation and servicing, and heating appliances vary from space heaters to fireplaces which can enhance your decor while supplying clean heat. When buying propane heaters, consumers should confirm where it can be used, whether indoors or outdoors.
Oil heating has historically been the most common fuel for heating a home and remains the only available choice for some. But with oil prices being market driven, this type of heating may be more expensive in some areas. Oil burning heating appliances come in many different forms, shapes and sizes, from large furnaces to room space heaters and fireplaces. Installation of oil-burning appliances should be completed by a qualified technician.
Hot water baseboard or radiator heating involves a boiler system with a network of hot water radiators in various rooms of the home. More cost efficient than some other forms of heating, a hot water heating system is usually installed when the home is being constructed. There have been large strides made in recent years in the efficiency and process of hot water heating systems. While the initial outlay to heat with water may be higher than some other heating sources, it's a good choice for some homes.
There's another hot water type of heating that involves a combustion process with a wood-burning outdoor boiler furnace where water is heated and transfered via piping to warm the home. This heating process requires an ample supply of wood, sufficient outdoor space and compliance with local codes. For these reasons, this heating method is more popular in rural areas.
Geothermal heating uses a technology that harnesses heat from below the earth to heat the home.
- Learn more about Geothermal Heating from About's Guide to Home Repair
- Understanding Geothermal from About's Guide to Geology
If you live in a hot climate, you may want to consider combining heating with cooling in the same unit to reap the cost savings of a multifunction system. There are whole home central systems with ducting that include air conditioning and heating, as well as portable multifunction units. Ductless mini-split air conditioning systems are also gaining popularity and some have heating features. Though not all multifunction units have heating funtions, some do and it can be very handy to have cooling, dehumidification and/or heating in one compact portable unit.
Heating with wood, whether with a wood-burning heat or pellet stove, furnace or fireplace remains a practical and cost-efficient way to heat a home or room. However, it does require an affordable and available wood supply, proper stove maintenance and adherence to common safety guidelines for clearances and overall use. Heating with wood is quite popular to supplement an existing heat source and reduce energy costs.
Though there are exceptions, most portable propane, gas, kerosene or oil heaters are designed for use only outdoors or well ventilated areas. These heaters have been more commonly used for camping or construction sites. Some outdoor propane heaters have been gaining popularity with consumers who are using them to heat patio, pool and decks.