Tuesday, 15 December 2015
5 Ways to Heat Local Spaces
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Podcast, Heating options, Listen

 For a few months of the year, heat is essential in Middle Tennessee. Although central heating systems (a gas furnace or electric heat pump) are common, suppose you only need to heat a certain room or area of the house? Perhaps you've re-purposed a previously unheated space such as a garage, or you closed off part of the house in the winter and so only require heating in a smaller area. Maybe you have one room in your house that is just never warm enough, despite having central heat.  Well, there are many local heating options that can address these issues.  Local or room heating uses a separate thermostat for each room or area, and thus allows you to take advantage of adjusting just that area to the temperature you want, rather than setting one temperature for the whole house as you would with a central heating system.  Here are 5 local heat options to consider:

Radiant floor heat

This works by heating your floors from underneath, creating an environment that is heated evenly, quietly, efficiently, and without the drying effects of forced air. Check out our story "Say Goodbye to Cold Floors with Radiant Heating" for more. This is also a good supplemental option (used in conjunction with central heat) to increase your comfort level in areas where you may have cold floors, such as a bathroom, shower, or uncarpeted area.

Mini-Split

This uses a wall-mounted unit, called a cassette, that provides both heat and air-conditioning without ductwork.  Find out more about mini-splits from our previous blog story here, and in our post about Panasonic's Exterios mini-split which uses inverter and room occupancy technologies.  Mini-splits are available in different sizes and offer a variety of features, including remote control. They are quiet, since the "noisy" part is outside. Plus, compared to central heating systems, they are super-efficient because they eliminate ductwork, which is a source of heat loss.

Baseboard heat

These are typically electric metal heating elements that sit inconspicuously below windows along the baseboard around a room's periphery. They heat through convection, not forced air.  They are quiet, since there are no blowers.  Because they are installed near the floor and heat naturally rises, and they use no ductwork, they are efficient, too.

 

Portable room heaters

These are space heaters you can buy at any big box or hardware store. They can be plugged into any wall electrical outlet and can be carried from room to room as needed. There are many kinds and sizes with different types of on/off, timer, remote control, and fan features, and there are a variety of technologies used: radiant, convection, ceramic, infrared, quartz, or oil-filled (sealed).

 

Fireplace or wood stove with blower

These burn wood, wood pellets, or other biomass fuel (corn, nutshells, switchgrass, etc.).  By installing a blower, a huge portion of the heat that would otherwise go up in smoke through the chimney is captured and sent back into the room. The blower requires an electrical outlet for the fan and can be thermostatically controlled. It is important to note that in addition to having access to wood or wood pellets which must be stored on-site, this type of solution causes creosote buildup in the chimney and thus requires yearly chimney cleaning.  It also creates more atmospheric CO2 than some alternative solutions.

Be sure to check out the pros and cons of each heating solution before making a purchase. Whatever you choose, we wish you and yours a warm holiday season.

 

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Posted on 12/15/2015 6:03 AM by Tony Anderson
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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
'Tis the Season for Geothermal
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It used to be that if you had central heat, you had either a gas furnace or an electric heat pump.  But with energy costs and environmental concerns playing a more prominent role in our energy choices, high-efficiency, clean or renewable energy sources have taken off.  Geothermal or ground source heating meets all these concerns!  So it comes as no surprise that from now (program was established in 2009) through December 31, 2016 (more than a year from now), homeowners who install EnergyStar-certified geothermal heat pumps are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit.

 

Energy Efficiency

Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) are among the most efficient and comfortable heating and cooling technologies currently available. EnergyStar-certified geothermal heat pumps are over 45% more energy efficient than standard furnace or heat pump options. Geothermal technology uses the earth's natural heat to provide heating, cooling, and often, water heating, too! GHPs equipped with a device called a "desuperheater" can heat household water. During the summer, the heat that is taken out of the house is used to heat the water for free. In the winter, water heating costs are reduced by about half. 

Clean Energy

Most importantly, geothermal is a clean energy technology you can feel good about. It does not burn fossil fuels, so it reduces our dependence on foreign oil. In fact, closed loop geothermal systems release essentially no emissions or toxic gases. Because there is an unlimited amount of heat generated by the Earth's core, it is a sustainable energy source.

Ways to Offset Costs

The costs for installing a geothermal system are pretty steep, so it's a good thing that Uncle Sam is willing to help out!  But, a geothermal system can pay for itself in 3-8 years and add significant resale value to your home. It may also be possible to include the purchase of a geothermal system in an "energy-efficient mortgage" that would cover installation costs and other energy-saving improvements to the home. When included in a mortgage, your investment in geothermal will produce a positive cash flow from the beginning. For example, the installation cost of a geothermal system may add $30 per month to each mortgage payment, but the energy cost savings easily exceed that over the course of each year.

Many Options

Besides the 30% federal tax credit, there are a multitude of other provisions and incentives available from federal, state, and local governments, power providers, and banks or mortgage companies. These include loan programs, rebates, property tax or sales tax incentives, and grants. Check these out at the  DSIRE website, or on the EnergyStar website run by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. While you're at it, check out our other posts on geothermal:

Tis the Season

The season for saving on geothermal goes through 2016. That means there are only about 270 shopping days left (excluding weekends and holidays)!  Get your 30% federal tax credit now and start reaping the cost benefits and environmental benefits every day. 

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Posted on 12/01/2015 4:01 AM by Eddie Hutton
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