Energy Efficient Heating

Eco-Friendly Solutions to Heating Your Home

Heating your home can take a huge toll on your electricity bill and increase your home's carbon footprint dramatically. In this article you will learn the different energy efficient heating systems that you can implement in your home.  


Solar hot water

If you have an area of south facing roof or available land, a solar hot water system can reduce your annual carbon footprint by up to 678kg. There are two types of technology, the older flat plates and the newer evacuated tubes, which are being used by 40 million households in China, with prices starting at $190. They will likely cost $5,000 to $8,000 in North America and reduce your hot water bill by 33% to 75%. There may be local grants or incentives available, and your payback will depend on how much hot water you use. If you have a heated pool, you should definitely invest in a solar hot water system.


Heat pumps

In a temperate climate where the winters are mild (warmer than –10 Co), an air-source heat pump that extracts heat from the air and circulates it through your home by ducts or under floor pipes is a really good investment, getting a payback in 2–7 years. If your house does not have a duct system to distribute the heat, you will need a mini-split system, which will cost 30% more. A ground-source heat pump (also known as geo-exchange or geothermal) works in all climates, using pipes filled with a fluid that freezes at a very low temperature installed under your garden or driveway, where the temperature is a constant 7–14°C (45–58°F). For each unit of energy used by the pump, you’ll get 3–4 units back. If you live on rock, the system uses deep boreholes, with a slower payback from 8 to 30 years. In summer the system can work in reverse, cooling your home by pumping unwanted heat into the ground below. If you live next to water, a water-source heat pump can heat your home in the same way with loops that sit in the water. In Zurich and Vancouver, new homes use heat from the sewers, linked to a district heating system.


Solar heat

The best way to benefit from the sun is to build a super-efficient passive-designed solar house. In Colorado, the 4,000-square-foot Rocky Mountain Institute’s headquarters is passive solar designed and super-insulated, with advanced glazing and a large built-in greenhouse roof. Even though it is at 11,000 feet, it has no additional heat-source, and the eco-components only cost an additional $1.50 per square foot, winning their payback in just ten months.

For new builds, it is possible to design a zero-net energy house, using these technologies plus ground-source heating. Some people have designed their own solar heating systems, using solar-heat air or water stored underground and circulated under the floor. There is no standard way of doing this yet, so you need to be creative. It is also possible to install a black solar wall on the south side of any building.


Wood and biofuels

For the home-owner, a super-efficient woodstove that burns firewood or a pellet stove that burns pellets made from compressed sawdust are carbon-neutral options as long as the wood or pellets have been harvested sustainably, because the timber absorbs the CO2 before it is released in the burning. Wood smoke is a local pollutant that can be an irritant to nearby residents, however, so a wood stove is really only a rural option, and even then, you need to be mindful of your neighbors.

It is important to use a super-efficient stove and to burn only dry, sustainably harvested wood. Another option is to ask for a 20% biodiesel mix in regular heating oil, which Columbia Fuels offers on Vancouver Island, reducing the CO2 emissions by 16%.

If none of this seems easy, you are right. Retrofitting our homes to make them carbon neutral is a big challenge that needs generous financial incentives, carbon taxes and tax breaks to persuade people to make the necessary investments. This is one reason why we need to become engaged at a political level to push for this kind of change.



  • Call a solar hot water company and ask for a quote, to see what it would cost
  • Consider your heating options, and if any seem possible, follow up with phone calls


Additional Resources


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