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Green Basics

Green Heating Options

Green Heating Systems Can Heat the House and Its Water

Most houses need equipment to stay warm

When the sun is shining, a passive solar house design can take advantage of available solar heat. But in many climates, winter days are short and winter weather is often cloudy, so passive solar gains are rarely adequate to keep a home warm all winter long.

A heating system strongly influences a home’s energy use. Only three things have a greater effect: air sealing, insulation, windows.

All forms of space heating have environmental as well as financial implications, so there’s no such thing as cheap heat. The main choices are natural gas, propane, electricity, fuel oil, wood or wood pellets, and solar.


A passive solar house utilizes the sun’s heat without mechanical devices. Good passive solar design, which should include attention to producing a tight, well-insulated building envelope, is the best way to minimize energy consumption. Most passive solar houses need a supplemental heating system, which can use one or a combination of several fuels.

A solar hot water system can cut energy bills for heating domestic hot water in half. Unfortunately the case for active solar space heating isn’t as compelling. Systems large enough to heat a house are complex and expensive. An inherent problem is that when the need for heat is at its peak the days are short, winter weather is often cloudy, and the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. In northern climates, it is quite difficult to design an active solar heating system capable of meeting a significant portion of winter heating loads.


In the right circumstances, firewood harvesting can be done sustainably. Since the carbon released into the atmosphere when firewood is burned is balanced by the carbon pulled from the atmosphere when trees are grown, burning wood…

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