Over the last several decades, there have been several advances made in efficient heating and cooling systems. Nowadays, it’s possible to have comfortable home, that is environmentally friendly AND wallet sensitive.
Here are just a few of the leading technologies in the environmental heating and cooling space:
High Efficiency Cooling Systems
Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems
Geothermal energy makes use of the earth’s ambient temperature to heat in the winter, and cool in the summer. The temperature underground stays more consistent throughout the year, so during the winter months, the underground temperature is warmer than the air above, and during the summer months, the opposite is true.
By running a series of air circulating tubes underground, a building can make use of the air running through them, often in conjunction with a heat pump.
Ice-Powered Air Conditioners
This little-known technology makes use of ice to power air conditioners (rather than a compressor) that cool a building’s inside space.
Ice-powered air conditioners create ice when temperatures are cooler at night, and then as the temperatures heat up during the day, the ice is used to cool the air conditioner’s refrigerant.
This eco-friendly practice can save up to 30% of energy costs.
Hybrid Solar Air Conditioners
Hybrid solar air conditioners make use of both solar power and batteries. During sunlight hours, the air conditioner uses the energy generated by the solar panels to both run the unit and also charge the batteries, and when the sun isn’t shining, the air conditioner can use the energy stored in the batteries to continue running the air.
When the sun isn’t shining, the need for air conditioning is obviously less, making it more easier for the system to run on the batteries. As an added measure, in times when the sun isn’t shining, the system can also charge itself via alternating current power (i.e. a wall plug).
With evaporative coolers like those from Bonaire, blowing air is directed over moist pads, to evaporate the water and cool the air. The air is then directed into the house, either directly from a window/wall unit, or else through ducting from a rooftop or centrally located unit.
Although this is a quite old technology, and considered “low tech”, it works very well, particularly in drier, arid climates.
Units are typically less expensive to purchase, and inexpensive to run. For buildings that already make use of solar PV, there’s even better news. Because evaporative coolers are typically run during the heat of the day (when there is the most solar energy), these units can be run with surplus solar energy.
Air Source Heat Pumps
Similar to the technology in hot water heat pumps, an air source heat pump (ASHP) is an extremely efficient, 2-way system, that can be used to heat your home in the winter, and cool it in the summer.
In either situation, an ASHP works by collecting heat from one location and transporting it to another. In the summer, heat from inside a home is collected and routed outside, resulting in cooler indoor temps. In the winter, air source heat pumps collect and condense heat from the outside air, and transport it inside. This is similar to heat transfer kits, which typically move air of different temperatures between rooms throughout the house.
Due to the fact that the thermal component is already in the air that air source heat pumps use, they can run extremely efficiently.
High Efficiency Heating Systems
Radiant Floor Heating
Radiant floor heating, or hydronic heating systems, operate by sending heated water or solution through a loop of piping within a home’s floor (usually concrete). This allows the room to gently warm, from the ground up.
With radiant systems, there is no need to blow forced air or run ducting. This can be better for people with asthma or sinus conditions. They are also quieter, and don’t require the regular maintenance of changing filters.
Passive Solar Design
Ever thought about the design of your home as a heating or cooling system? If not, you should! The simple act of where and how you design your home to be built can have a major impact on how warm or cool your home stays.
Need your home to stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter? Give your home a deep overhang, that blocks the sun from coming in windows when it is high overhead in the summer months, but still allows it to come in the windows when the sun is lower in the sky during winter months.
Other passive solar design strategies involve specific building materials, landscaping, window placement, and more.
Biomass and Pellet Stoves
When managed sustainably, plants, trees, and biomass are a regenerative and renewable resource. In particular, pellet stoves are usually fueled by pellets made of sawdust and switchgrass.
One other advantage of pellet stoves is that the space needed to store fuel pellets is far smaller than the space of a large woodpile that it might take for people heating their homes with a wood stove. Plus, handling scoops of pellets is far easier and less cumbersome than handling split logs.
Due to their efficiency, using pellet stoves to heat your home can also be a very inexpensive way to stay warm in the winter as well.
Biodiesel in Oil Heaters
Formed of “energy” crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar cane, this sustainable fuel source is mixed with conventional heating oil and burned like normal in oil furnaces. The ratio can include 5%, 10%, 20% or even more biodiesel, requiring less heating oil, and therefore operating more sustainably.
One of the other great and sustainable things about biodiesel, is that when burned, it releases fewer pollutants, such as carbon dioxide. This reduces the amount of greenhouse gas being trapped in our environment.
Active Solar Heating
While most people are familiar with solar photovoltaics (the solar energy that is converted into electricity), one of the more efficient uses of solar power is actually to heat your home. Solar hot water systems use the same technology to heat the water coming out of your faucet or shower.
Solar collectors are used to heat water, air, or other liquid, up on the roof. This air or liquid in turn, is circulated throughout the home, transferring the heat from the sun into the living space.
Due to their individual-operation design and small size, panel heaters like those from Noirot can be some of the most efficient ways to heat a home.
While it is possible to design an entire home heating system with panel heaters, usually when panel heaters are actually being used, it’s one at a time. This keeps energy usage lower, because there’s no need to operate the system throughout the entire home, heating rooms that aren’t being used.
Some homeowners even opt for portable units that they can roll between rooms as needed, meaning you don’t need to purchase as many units.