Puget Sound weather looks like it is finally falling into line with the calendar and it is beginning to cool down, which usually results in thermostats turning up! Over the next couple of months we’ll talk about different ways to stay warm while reducing your energy costs and impact on the planet at the same time!
Traditional heating sources including “forced air furnaces” baseboard and cadet heaters are not the most efficient ways to heat your home. Depending on the heater they can heat unevenly, inefficiently use energy, and most importantly once they are turned off the space begins to cool down immediately.
The three most energy and cost efficient options for heating your home are passive solar, radiant heating, and ductless heat pump systems.
Passive Solar with some radiant backup system (in preparation for the next ice age or that really, really cold storms we can get occasionally). Passive solar allows the home to heat itself – no moving parts, no electricity or fuel needed. But passive solar isn’t an option as a retrofit in most homes in the Seattle area since its “parts” are really about good solar position and proper heat sinks (among other things). If your designing from the ground up on a good site, be sure to vet this option before choosing other solutions.
Radiant heat is another excellent option, but what type really depends on your situation: Are you doing other remodeling? Will you be installing solar to offset electrical consumption? Are you working towards a net-zero energy home? What is your budget? ??One of the beautiful things about radiant heat is that it not only heats the molecules in the air it also heats objects within a space (some more or less effectively than others). What that means is that when the radiant heating source is turned down or off, the objects in the room that have been heated in the process are still radiating heat – and it isn’t costing you a thing. Additionally, many radiant systems allow you to set temperatures in each room. As you can see from the graph below (courtesy of Joule Design), overall operating costs are significantly less compared to baseboard or furnace options.
Below is a list of some of the popular radiant solutions:
- radiant boiler (expensive but a viable option during a big remodel or in new construction)
- radiant electrical floor (good for small rooms where new tile, concrete or cork floor is being installed)
- radiant electrical wall (easy retrofit; immensely more efficient and safe than traditional cadet or baseboard heaters)
- radiant electrical ceiling panels (easy retrofit; great for all room sizes but particularly small rooms where wall space is precious)
Ductless mini-split heat pumps are another great option. Installation is relatively simple whether new construction or as a retrofit. Rather than radiant or “blow” heat, they recirculate air from the outside. Learn more about how they work here. Unlike their big brother (air source heat pumps), they work well as independent units.
Mighty House is a huge fan of radiant heat – and particularly of the radiant ceiling panels for all the reasons mentioned earlier:
- easy and inexpensive to install as a retrofit or during a remodel
- super efficient to operate
- if it breaks (which they never do), it is easy to replace (if a radiant floor system breaks, the floor may need to be removed to fix the heat)
- zoned heating
- contributes to turning conventional home into a net zero home when combined with other energy efficiency measures and a solar array!
But choosing what type really depends on your situation: Are you doing other remodeling? Will you be installing solar to offset electrical consumption? Are you working towards a net-zero energy home? What is your budget? Not all systems fit all homes the same. Let us know if we can help you find the most sustainable heat system for your home and life.