November 15, 2018

Written with contributions and editing by Scott Sklar, The Stella Group.

The extraction, conversion, and utilization of energy is the single largest cause of air and water pollution. It also causes the largest emissions of greenhouses gases, which results in change in global climate.

As Americans, we strive for a comfortable lifestyle. However, this often necessitates using fossil fuels to get that comfort. In this blog post, we’ll consider the footprint that the cleaner energy movement - through energy generation - is making on the world and some solutions for home heating.

Through more efficient heating, you help lower the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that you contribute to the atmosphere. This is important because, as your carbon footprint grows, so do its effects.

What are low carbon power sources?

Many of the following efficient and renewable energy options below emit lower (or no) carbon, often cost less than what you are currently paying, and tend to perform more reliably.

Solar

The sun is the most vibrant renewable resource to which we have access. Over time, using solar energy can help to save homeowners money and can reduce our carbon emissions.

Solar hot water

Solar water heaters involves a storage tank that is heated by the sun.

There are two types of solar  - passive (e.g., a sunroom, not requiring mechanical systems) and active. With an active solar water heating system, a solar-driven pump will circulate the water for you - a smart choice in climates that reach below-freezing temperatures. Larger solar water heating systems can provide space heating usually using radiant floor heating or radiator heating, primarily in moderate climates.

Solar hot water systems can be compatible with wood stoves (for space and water heating). They work by pumping hot water into the stove’s hot water loop to eliminate use of wood when the sun is out.

Solar electric

You’ve probably seen or heard of solar electric panels, also known as photovoltaics or PV. Over one million US buildings utilize them to provide mid-day electricity.

Learn more about the steps to go solar.

Geo-exchange systems (Geothermal energy)

Geo-exchange systems, also referred to as geothermal heat pumps, can be considered if you have the available space and budget - drilling or ditching will be required. This type of system requires piping into the ground and tubes are either filled with water or a greenhouse gas-friendly refrigerant. These systems use the 55 °F temperature of the ground to carry the heat out of the house into the ground (acting like a refrigerator) in summer; or enhancing the 55 °F to 70 °F during winter. These systems usually save between 46% - 67% more electricity than conventional HVAC systems.

Wind power

If you have ever taken a road trip, it is likely that you have seen wind farms. Wind turbines create electricity in an efficient way. Kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy; the wind powers a generator within the turbine. Wind power is one of the most space efficient forms of sustainable power, with the largest designs being able to generate enough to power 600 U.S. homes.

Hydro (water)

This is the largest and oldest renewable source for generating electricity. Hydropower uses moving water to turn a turbine. The old way used reservoirs, dams and diversions to generate electricity. Newer approaches use free-flow generators that just sit below the water and allow water currents and fish to flow without barriers.

Biomass

Using growing matter and wastes to generate heat and electricity is called biomass. All sorts of plant-based materials such as forest wastes, food processing wastes, biosolids from sewage and water treatment plants, and animal manures can be used for biomass. Although carbon emissions are still created, biomass is far less harmful than traditional coal-burning methods of generating power.

Using wood, especially waste woods and wood pellets, which burn cleanly, is another smart way to use biomass. A wood stove is a great way to keep your house warm. They are small and versatile - some offer the option to cook on top of the surface. Because they do not run on gas or fuel, you must have space for a vent pipe and an adequate supply of wood to burn. Even when there is no electricity, a wood burning stove is reliable and effective.

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Dave Miller, Guest Poster

Dave Miller is an HVAC tech who now dedicates himself to sharing knowledge on his website HeatTalk.com. Dave has worked for over 10 years in the HVAC industry and for the last 5 has run his own contracting business. Dave can be found on Twitter with the handle @heattalkcom and you can also find him on Facebook.