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Don’t Discount the Viability of Electric Heat

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Electricity is a versatile but precious energy source. When it is used for less refined needs such as heating it should be used as efficiently as possible. If electricity is the energy choice for home heat, it’s wise to understand the various options available as well as ideas to minimize energy consumption and save money.

Heat Pumps:

There are two common types of heat pumps: air-source and geothermal. Either one can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. An air-source pump pulls its heat indoors from the outdoor air in the winter and from the indoor air in the summer. It is a very efficient way to heat a home except for in for homes in colder climates. A geo-thermal pump extracts heat from the indoor air when it’s hot outside, but when it’s cold outside, it draws heat from the ground, which maintains a nearly constant temperature of fifty to sixty degrees fahrenheit.

Electric Baseboard Heaters:

These are zonal heaters controlled by thermostats located within each room. They are usually installed underneath windows. There, the heater’s rising warm air counteracts the window’s falling cooler air. They’re seldom located on interior walls because standard heating practice is to heat at the home’s perimeter where the greatest heat loss occurs.

Electric Radiant Heat:

Electric furnaces and baseboard heaters circulate heat by moving warm air. In contrast, radiant heating systems radiate heat to the room’s objects, including people. The most common types are electric heating cables that are embedded into floors or ceilings. Other radiant-heating systems use special gypsum ceiling panels equipped with factory embedded heating cables. Newer, ceiling-mounted radiant panels made of metal provide radiant heat faster than other types because they contain less material to warm up. Radiant heat offers draft-free heating that is easily zoned. Unlike other heating systems, it occupies no interior space, which allows for complete freedom to place furniture without worrying about impeding airflow from floor registers or baseboard heaters.

Electric Furnaces:

These can be a more expensive option because of the loss of heat through the ducts.  If the heat ducts run through unheated areas, they lose some of their heat through air leakage as well as heat radiation and convection from the duct’s surface.

A relatively airtight, electrically heated home should be supplied with fresh air from a controlled, mechanical ventilation system. This system can consist of exhaust fans, a central exhaust air system, an air-to-air exchanger with its own ducts or an outdoor air inlet into an electric or heat pump.

No matter what electric heating system is used, there are steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption, including:

  • Maximizing insulation
  • Installing quality windows and doors
  • Reducing air-leakage
  • Utilizing zone heating
  • Regularly replacing or cleaning filters in forced-air system.

These will all make the home more comfortable and efficient, which will lots of money in the long run.

Further Reading:

Energy Savers

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling

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