Last week, in Part 1 of Life with oil, I discussed what I was doing to reduce the amount of gas I use for transportation purposes. This week I want to bring up our other big use of oil-based products: home heating.
This is going to be more and more of a problem for us since we use heating oil to heat our house. Sure, we use BioHeat, which is a blend of biofuel and oil, so there is some environmental impact there on two fronts, but at least the emissions are less. I want to switch to something more sustainable long term as well as something that won't have huge cost run ups as the price of oil increases.
At our old house we had a natural gas furnace and it is a viable alternative for some people, but we do not have natural gas lines going through our current neighborhood and, since it is believed that we have already reached "peak" natural gas as well, I fully expect to see prices of natural gas going up, too. It may not be seen as quickly, but I don't want to switch to something new and then regret it in 5 - 10 years.
Burning stuff (wood, corn pellets, etc.) isn't very practical since most of the time there's a burn ban in the city and using wood doesn't seem sustainable for urban dwellers and I believe corn pellets are going to be harder and harder to come by and/or will go up in price.
So, what's left? Electric heat is an option. We are signed up for 100% Green Power, meaning that we are getting all our electricity from wind, hydro and the like. The only real issue that I see with switching to electric heat is possibly overtaxing portions of the grid, especially on cold days when the demand is already high. Of course, this is only a problem if everyone decides to jump onto electric heating. My super-frigid house temps aren't going to be taxing much of anything.
I'm really intrigued by these solar air heating panels where the energy collected is used strictly for heating the home and does not go into your electrical usage. It would be a cheaper solution than getting full-on solar panels since the energy is targeted specifically to home heating. It would be nice to eventually use solar for other energy usage, but I'm just not willing to spend the money on them yet.
I suppose we could switch to electric heat and then eventually look into doing full solar if the prices become more reasonable. That way we take advantage of cheap, green energy now and then can move to solar generated electricity later if that looks viable. That seems like a good option if other things don't pan out.
In the meantime, I'm going to look into the solar air heating panels since I think it would cost less than $5,000 for a home heating upgrade.
What about you? How do you heat your home? If you use heating oil or natural gas are you putting any thought into switching to something else when the costs run too high? What are your thoughts on wood and corn pellet heating?