Household Heating Systems: Although several different types of fuels are available to heat our homes, nearly half of us use natural gas. | Source: Buildings Energy Data Book 2011, 2.1.1 Residential Primary Energy Consumption, by Year and Fuel Type (Quadrillion Btu and Percent of Total).
Heating your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home — typically making up about 42% of your utility bill.
No matter what kind of heating system you have in your house, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. But remember, an energy-efficient furnace alone will not have as great an impact on your energy bills as using the whole-house approach. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can save about 30% on your energy bill while reducing environmental emissions.
- Set your programmable thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and lower the setpoint when you’re sleeping or away from home.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as recommended.
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
- Eliminate trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if unsure about how to perform this task, contact a professional.
- Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
- Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
- During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
Select energy-efficient products when you buy new heating equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. See the efficiency standards for information on minimum ratings, and look for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing new products.
A variety of technologies are available for heating your house. In addition to heat pumps, which are discussed separately, many homes use the following approaches:
Active Solar Heating
Uses the sun to heat either air or liquid and can serve as a supplemental heat source.
Electric Resistance Heating
Among the most expensive ways to heat a home.
Furnaces and Boilers
By far the most common way to heat a home.
Wood and Pellet Heating
Provides a way to heat your home using biomass or waste sources.
Steam and Hot Water Radiators
While forced-air heating systems, heat pumps, and air conditioners rely on ducts, water and steam heat systems use radiators that only deliver heat.
Can draw on a number of energy sources, including electricity, boilers, solar energy, and wood and pellet-fuel heating.
Less efficient than central heating systems, but can save energy when used appropriately.