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Question DetailsAsked on 4/6/2018

i have a really small house, but want the best way to heat it that economically won't impact the environment.

my entire house is less than 600 square feet.

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1 Answer


Sounds like you already have the house, so digging down about 10-20 feet where the ground temperature is constantly around 50, then insulating the underground living space with about a foot thickness of hair you comb out of polar bears or muskox or yaks while they are asleep will probably not work.

And sorry - living in a house instead of a hollowed tree or cave is going to impact the environment - as well as driving your car, buying produced goods and food, etc. Even breathing - don't forget to stop that because you exhale pollutants and consume precious oxygen. Now - to get practical.

In areas with natural gas service, that is probably 99.99% of the time the cheapest and also environmentally soundest. Produces almost no pollution other than for a couple of seconds when first firing up and, properly done, very little pollution per unit of energy when drilled and produced. Clean combustion produces essentially (down to ppm level) just CO2 and water vapor, and the energy used in production and transportation is about as low as you can get for energy, with essentially zero losses en route, and depending on the heater you buy can run minimum 80% efficient burning (by law) on up to about 99% for the most expensive units (up to about 95% efficient without getting carried away about it).

Electric sounds clean - like what they tout about electric cars, but that ignores that it has to be generated (usually by burning coal or natural gas) at maybe 30-45% production efficiency, then another 5-15% losses in transmission so commonly 1/3 to 1/2 of the energy is lost in the process before it ever gets to you - and that is not free, hence electricity generally costs more than natural gas by quite a bit, even though once it is in the house the heating efficiency can be 90-100%.

Propane, compressed natural gas, butane etc are basicaly like natural gas, but the appliances typically cost slightly more, and the fuel is more expensive by a good percentage, but if you don't have pipeline natural gas service you have not choice there.

Ditto to cooking and laundry - gas is generally more energy efficient and cheaper, as long as you don't mind the somewhat higher risk and the taste in your food.

Hot water heating is another energy consumer - again natural gas is usually cheapest and by far most efficient, and if the heater is located so the waste heat from it is useful in heating the house, with a high efficiency unit overall energy efficiency can be well into the high 90% range.

Actually, regardless of how you heat your house, in most areas, stopping leakage out of the house, having proper insulation, having reasonably energy efficient windows and doors, and especially minimizing A/C (cooling) use if you have A/C or a heat pump can save as much energy as using higher efficiency appliances.

Actually, if in a warm area where not much heating is needed and temperatures rarely get below about 40, a heat pump (which serves as heater and A/C both) is generally the most efficient without getting into a very pricey geothermal system - with natural gas supplementary heating unit if needed in your area. Efficiency of a heat pump (when not using the auxiliary gas or electric heat unit for cold weather) can commonly be around 10 times the energy used to run it in heating, and around 18-30 in cooling, so if climatic environment supports their use, can be far more efficient (assuming your electric rates are not outrageous) than a furnace or boiler. And does not cost dramatically more than conventional heating/cooling units to buy and install - looks and operates much like a normal air conditioner, with additional heating chamber if needed for cold weather when the heat pump is not able to provide enough heat from the outside air.

Solar sounds good in theory, but costs a LOT to install and is commonly not easy to integrate into your use cycle without substantial sizeable battery storage, and of course for a very small house your normal energy usage will be low, hence a solar system would have to be used for many more years than normal to pay off. Generally, very few people live in their house for enough decades to pay off a solar system, plus it is a big negative to many potentiall buyers come resale time.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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