In many places around the world, heating is an absolute necessity due to extremely cold temperatures at certain times of the year – or even throughout the entire year. Anyone who has ever owned or been responsible for a home in one of the colder areas of the world will know just how expensive it can be to stay warm over the winter.
Even when heating is not absolutely necessary, many people heat their homes so they can stay comfortable or purely out of habit. It isn’t uncommon to see a family walking around their home in shorts and t-shirts while having the heater on at the same time.
Not only are most home heating methods expensive, but they are also terrible for the environment.
How to warm your home without electricity?
Since electricity is relatively expensive (not to mention environmentally damaging due to the burning of fossil fuels when generated), you can decrease your heating costs by reducing your electricity consumption.
Some cheap and simple ways you can do this include:
Firewood as a fuel for heating
In most rural or semi-rural areas, firewood can be cut or obtained for very little cost or even free. This means that you can reduce your heating costs to next to nothing by using wood as your main fuel source.
It is important to note that certain types of wood are more suitable for burning than others. Hardwood trees will burn hotter for longer, which means that you will consume less fuel and that is another aspect you should aim for in order to be sustainable. Softwood trees will disappear quickly when burnt and usually aren’t the best choice when it comes to producing long term source of heat.
There are number of different ways you can burn your firewood to generate heat. The best method will depend on the shape and size of your home along with personal preferences.
Some of the things you can use to burn wood include:
- Wood stoves – This is by far the most popular method of heating using wood and involves installing a simple wood stove at a strategic location in your home. Wood stoves are also extremely versatile, as they can be used to cook, to boil water and to heat water for washing.
- Fireplaces – The fireplace is the oldest home heating method known to man. Unfortunately, since they are relatively inefficient compared to other heating methods, they aren’t widely used today. However, nothing beats sitting around an open fire on a cold winter’s night!
- Wood furnaces – Wood furnaces are installed outside the home, and typically only need to be refilled once a day. They generate heat which is then transferred to the home through ventilation ducts.
Non-electric pellet stoves
Non-electric pellet stoves are basically the modern cousin of fireplaces, and are both cheap and green. They run on wood pellets made from compacted sawdust or woodchips (or other leftover wood products which would otherwise be discarded) and emit very few greenhouse gases when burnt, relative to any other organic fuel.
Wood pellets are much more efficient than plain wood or other fossil fuels, and cost very little. The average American household can be heated with between two and three tons of pellets per year, which cost between $180 and $250 a ton. This works out at anything from $750 per year to heat your entire home – an extremely cheap option !
Pellet stoves are also not expensive to install, as they are usually direct vented and therefore require no chimney or other large parts.
Heat and power generators
Many different power and heat generators which run on a range of different fuels are available to warm your home. Most of these rely on burning something and collecting the heat generated. Some of the more popular fuels include:
- Gasoline or diesel – Yes, these both burn extremely well, and can be used to generate heat, but they also release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases when burnt. Since these fuels do not belong to renewable resources, they aren’t really a good choice of fuel.
- Biofuels – These are a more renewable source of energy but are more or less the same as diesel or gasoline.
- Animal dung – Using animal dung as a fuel to generate heat is the most renewable option. Actually, it is used by millions of people worldwide, even in the modern age of fossil fuels.
- Coal – Coal is the traditional heating fuel, but also releases harmful pollutants, and is not sustainable to use.
Solar energy to warm your home
Solar power is becoming more and more popular throughout the world and relies on the same principle of heating as when being connected to the electrical grid. Basically, solar panels are mounted on the roof of your house or on the ground. Photovoltaic solar panels generate electricity which can be stored in batteries or used immediately.
The same heating methods are used as for normal electricity – reverse cycle air conditioners, electric heaters, and other appliances.
Infrared heating panels in combination with photovoltaic solar panels
Infrared heating panels make use of infrared light to warm you, rather than using the principles of convection in the way most heating systems do. Infrared light (or waves, whatever you want to call it) are able to travel through air until they hit a solid object, which they warm.
This includes our bodies, and is actually the reason why you are able to feel warmed by the sun even on the coldest winters day.
If you choose to use infrared heating panels in your home, then consider using them in conjunction with solar panels. If you do this then you will find yourself with a heating system that is 100 percent emission free, doesn’t use electricity from the grid and costs nothing to run!
You can place them high on the wall or on the ceiling so that they don’t take up floor space like a traditional radiator would. Some infrared heating panels are even designed to double as a mirror. Imagine that, your bathroom mirror could also become a free heater!
Heating with compost
This one of the crazier methods of generating heat but works well and is absolutely sustainable. The general principle behind this is that compost generates heat when decomposing.
If you can capture this heat in some way (for example, by running water pipes through your compost heap), then you can use it to warm your home.
Tips to keep your house warmer without heating
#1 Close the curtains – A huge amount of heat escapes via radiation into the external environment. Since your windows are the thinnest part of your house, they provide the most direct and easiest route for heat to escape. By closing the curtains, you are effectively placing a layer of insulation over the windows and cutting back on the amount of heat leaving your house.
#2 Hang things on your walls – As thick as they may be, your walls will also conduct heat away from the interior of the house towards the colder exterior. By hanging things on your walls – simple posters, framed pictures, or any other wall hangings – you are creating an extra layer of insulation.
#3 Cover your front door – Once again, covering things reduces the conductive heat loss. It is especially important to cover any doors leading outside, as they will often contain small gaps leading that let the warmer internal air directly exchange with the cooler outside air.
#4 Use aluminum foil to direct heat – If you use radiators, and especially if they are attached to external walls, a lot of heat will escape in directions you don’t want it to. By covering the wall behind your radiator with aluminum foil you can prevent this heat loss by ensuring it will be reflected back into the room.
#5 Close the doors to empty rooms – This is common sense, but it is amazing how many people use large amounts of energy to warm empty rooms which they don’t even use.
#6 Cover your floors – A lot of heat can be lost through bare floors. Cover wooden floors with rugs and blankets, and close the doors into your bathrooms and other rooms with tiled floors.
#7 Use a filler to fill gaps in wooden floors – If your floors contain small gaps or cracks – which many do – even more heat will be lost. You can fill these gaps with specially designed silicon-based fillers and cut back on the need to heat.
#8 Install pelmets above your curtains – Pelmets are covers which block the gap between the curtain rod and the wall above a window. It is amazing how much heat can be lost through such a small gap, and how much energy you can save by installing pelmets.
#9 Insulate your hot water pipes – While this won’t directly warm your house, it will reduce your heating costs by reducing the amount of energy lost between the hot water system and your taps.
#10 Wear warm clothes – As simple as this sounds, it is something which is often forgotten by many people! Rather than wearing summer pajamas and trying to warm your entire house, wear warmer clothes like Ugg boots, a furry jumper, and tracksuit pants. This means that you won’t have to warm your house to nearly the same temperature and will greatly reduce heating costs.
#11 Let the sun in during the day – While it is important that you close your curtains at night, it is equally important to open them during the day! The sun is a huge source of thermal energy, and by letting it shine into your house you can reduce the amount of warming that is needed at night.
#12 Use flannel sheets – Swapping your light cotton summer sheets for heavier flannel ones will keep you much warmer at night, meaning you won’t need to heat as much.
Energy efficiency & renewable energy future
If you are building a new home or renovating your existing one, then you need to make sure that you include as much insulation and other heat-proofing options as possible. If you do this your home will have very low heating requirements, which means that any heating method is going to be relatively green and cheap.
If you have low energy requirements you should be able to use solar power for most if not all of your heating energy. The way you connect your solar panels and use their electricity to heat your home is up to you, but there are many options on the market. Infrared panels (discussed above) are becoming popular.
No matter which heating option you choose, if you are using solar electricity then it is going to be relatively clean and cheap option.