Alternative Heating Solutions for the 21st century and beyond

An information hub for alternative heating systems such as passive and active solar designs, low-emission stoves and geothermal systems. was born out of a question: How high must heating oil prices climb before consumers demand change? The sharp rise in interest for alternative heating methods would suggest that we have reached that point. The time to look for smarter, cleaner ways to heat homes is now. With systems such as solar heating, geothermal heating and alternative stoves becoming more affordable and available, many are turning away from fossil fuels, and toward healthier, more dependable energy sources.

Solar heating systems can be either passive or active. Passive solar heating relies on building design to collect and hold sunlight. Passive solar homes have large, south-facing windows and thermal mass surfaces. Thermal mass is an absorptive material such as tile, concrete, or even water, which collects and stores heat for later use. The thermal mass can be incorporated into flooring or walls. Active solar heating systems consist of solar collectors, heat pumps, exchangers, storage tanks, and controls to gather, transfer, and disburse heat throughout a home, like in a parabolic solar steam boiler, for instance. Active systems rely on electricity to move the gathered heat from the solar collector through the home. Both alternative heating methods use a completely renewable source (the sun) to provide warm air and hot water to homes. No harmful emissions are produced, and significant monthly savings can be seen with implementation.

Geothermal residential heating systems use the Earth’s heat as a source of warmth for homes. Because the temperature of the Earth remains constant just below the surface, underground piping can be installed with a fluid to absorb the heat. The fluid is then pumped into the home where a heat exchanger extracts the warmth, and a fan then distributes the heat throughout the home. This alternative heating method is extremely quiet, safe, and very efficient. Existing ductwork can be used, making this an ideal system to retrofit into any home. Like a solar heat system, the heat source for a geothermal heating system will never run out, and is readily available at any given time.

Alternative stoves using corn, wood, and wood pellets have recently seen a huge rise in popularity as people seek alternative heating methods that can support local industry and that aren’t imported from abroad. Wood and corn can be grown locally, and are a much more affordable commodity than heating oil, or even natural gas. Although many people install these stoves to supplement existing conventional heaters, often the alternative stove provides enough heat for the entire home. Many of these stoves are direct vent systems, meaning that no additional venting system or chimney is needed. One major advantage that alternative stoves offer is convenience. Because they range in size and capacity, a stove can be found to fit in most rooms of any home. The fuel is easily stored, and the stoves are effortlessly controlled with thermostats.

Competition among alternative heating companies is driving prices down, and making companies more motivated to please their customers. The federal government is even lending a hand, and offering certain tax credits for the purchase of solar heating systems, and geothermal systems as well. It is time to take advantage of the superior systems available, even if that means taking an unconventional approach at heating and cooling your home. Everyone stands to benefit.