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5 Best Alternative Home Heating Options to Gas

Key Takeaways

  • Ground Source Heat Pumps are the most efficient, but also the most expensive alternative home heating option.
  • Radiant Heating Solutions offer the most comfortable heat, are the least invasive, and are the most aesthetically compatible home heating systems.
  • Biomass Boilers are a good carbon neutral option but are less efficient than radiant heating or heat pumps.

1. Radiant Underfloor Heating

radiant floor heating

Overview

Radiant underfloor heating systems are available in two primary forms: electric and hydronic, each with distinct features and benefits.

Electric Radiant Floor Heating

Electric, or dry, systems utilize an array of electric cables installed beneath the floor to generate heat. 

These systems are typically easier and less expensive to install, making them a preferred choice for adding heating to existing buildings and smaller areas. 

The maintenance demands of electric radiant heating are relatively low, often requiring little to no upkeep. 

They offer the advantage of precise temperature control through simple thermostats or advanced smart control systems, which also allow for zoned heating—enabling different temperature settings in different areas of your home. 

Electric radiant floor heating provides a blend of convenience, comfort, and cost-effectiveness, making it an appealing option for modern home heating.

Hydronic Radiant Floor Heating

Contrasting with electric systems, hydronic, or wet, systems function by circulating heated water through pipes laid underneath the floor. 

This method of heat distribution involves a more intricate installation process, often necessitating thoughtful planning and potentially significant modifications to the existing structure of a building. 

The upfront cost for a hydronic radiant floor heating system tends to be higher in comparison to its electric counterpart, reflecting the complexity and the number of components used, such as boilers, water pumps, and the piping network. 

These systems also demand more rigorous maintenance routines to ensure they perform efficiently. 

One limitation of hydronic systems is the lack of zoned heating capability, which means they cannot provide different temperatures in separate zones of the house as electric systems can. 

Despite these factors, hydronic radiant heating is highly valued for its efficiency in larger spaces and consistent warmth.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

Efficiency

100% energy efficient.

Costs

$25-$48 per square foot (including installation).

Installation Time

Approximately 2-5 days per room (depending on size)

Environmental Benefits

Radiant heating systems excel in energy efficiency compared to traditional heating methods

Their operation at lower temperatures, paired with a more uniform heat distribution, leads to a noticeable reduction in energy usage. 

Integrating these systems with solar energy elevates their eco-friendliness, as they utilize sustainable energy sources, thereby diminishing reliance on fossil fuels and lowering emissions. 

This integration is a strategic step towards transforming a home into a truly net-zero energy property, aligning with contemporary environmental goals. 

This approach not only benefits the environment but also contributes to long-term cost savings in home heating.

2. Heat Pumps

Overview

Heat pumps are a heating and cooling system that transfer heat from one place to another using a compressor and a circulating structure of liquid or gas refrigerant. 

They extract heat from the outside air or ground to heat a space and can reverse the process to cool a space in warmer months. 

This makes them an efficient and versatile option for both heating and cooling needs in various climates.

Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs)

Air source heat pumps extract warmth from outside air and bring it indoors, functioning well even in sub-zero temperatures. 

Using a refrigerant system, they absorb and amplify outdoor heat, then distribute it inside via radiators or vents. These pumps are highly energy-efficient, producing three times more heat per energy unit used. 

When combined with renewable energy sources like solar panels, they offer enhanced environmental benefits, providing clean heating and reducing carbon footprint for sustainable living.

Ground Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs)

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) extract heat from the ground, using a network of underground pipes filled with a water and antifreeze mix. 

They are notably efficient, achieving about 400% efficiency. However, this efficiency comes with higher purchase and installation costs. 

GSHPs require a significant land area for the pipe network, often up to 1200 square meters, roughly three times the heated property’s footprint. 

These factors, especially the land requirement and installation expense, make GSHPs less practical for many homeowners compared to the more space-efficient and cost-effective ASHPs

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

Efficiency

 Air Source Heat Pumps – 300% energy efficient.

Ground Source Heat Pumps – 400% energy efficient.

Costs

Air Source Heat Pump $4000-$8000 (including installation).

Ground Source Heat Pump $15,000-$40,000 (including installation).

Installation Time

Air Source Heat Pumps – approximately 2-5 days

Ground Source Heat Pumps – up to 3 weeks.

Environmental Benefits

Heat pumps are highly praised for their eco-friendly features, notably their low carbon emissions and superior efficiency. 

These systems consume considerably less electricity compared to conventional heating methods, contributing significantly to the reduction of environmental impact. 

The potential to power heat pumps with renewable energy sources further enhances their appeal, positioning them at the forefront of sustainable heating technology. 

This combination of low energy usage and compatibility with green energy sources marks heat pumps as a progressive choice for environmentally conscious homeowners seeking efficient and eco-friendly heating solutions.

3. Radiant Wall and Ceiling Panels

Radiant Wall and Ceiling Panels

Overview

Radiant wall and ceiling panels present a versatile and innovative heating solution, serving as an effective alternative to other heating options, particularly in smaller spaces like bathrooms, or as a complementary system to underfloor heating in larger areas.

Application in Smaller Rooms

In smaller rooms, such as bathrooms, where floor space might be limited or where the installation of underfloor heating might not be feasible, radiant wall and ceiling panels are an ideal solution. 

These panels can be installed on walls or ceilings and operate by emitting infrared heat directly into the room, warming it efficiently and evenly. 

Their application in such spaces not only ensures a comfortable temperature but also adds to the aesthetic appeal of the room, as these panels can be sleek and unobtrusive.

Augmenting Underfloor Heating in Larger Spaces

In larger spaces, radiant wall and ceiling panels can be used in conjunction with underfloor heating to enhance the overall heating efficiency of the area. 

This combination ensures that heat is distributed evenly throughout the room, eliminating cold spots and creating a uniformly comfortable environment. 

This is particularly beneficial in rooms with high ceilings or in areas where underfloor heating alone might not provide sufficient warmth.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

Efficiency

100% energy efficient

Costs

$100-$1900

Installation Time

1 day

While it is possible to install radiant heating panels yourself, it is strongly advised that you employ a professional electrician or qualified installer to carry out the installation.

Environmental Benefits

As electric radiant heating panels are built with the same technology as electric underfloor heating they share many of the same environmental benefits. 

However, one or two wall or ceiling panels will use less electricity than underfloor heating in many instances, thereby reducing the amount of energy required to heat the room and the subsequent carbon footprint. 

This makes them an ideal alternative for use in smaller spaces for people that want a lower upfront investment as well as a smaller carbon footprint.

4. Biomass Boilers

biomass boiler

Overview

Biomass boilers offer a sustainable heating solution by burning organic materials like wood pellets, chips, or logs. 

This method of generating heat and hot water positions them as an effective and eco-friendly alternative to conventional coal or gas boilers and furnace systems. 

By utilizing renewable resources, biomass boilers contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions, aligning with modern environmental goals. 

Their compatibility with various organic materials also provides flexibility and can often lead to cost savings, especially in areas where these materials are readily available. This makes biomass boilers a practical and green choice for residential heating and hot water needs.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

Efficiency

90% energy efficient (approx).

Costs

Approximately $20,000 including installation.

Installation Time

Roughly 2-3 days.

Environmental Benefits

When biomass fuel, such as wood pellets or logs, is burned in biomass boilers, the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is approximately equal to what was absorbed by these plants during their growth period. 

This process establishes a cycle of carbon neutrality, as the emissions are balanced by the carbon captured during the plants’ life cycle. As a result, biomass boilers are recognized as a sustainable and environmentally friendly heating option. 

Their ability to maintain a balanced carbon cycle without adding extra emissions makes them a solid choice for those seeking a greener, more sustainable way to heat their homes.

5. Solar Water Heating

Solar Water Heating

Overview

As alluded to earlier, it’s important to remember that some options, such as radiant heating and heat pumps, typically do not include the provision of hot water for domestic use. This is a crucial aspect to consider when selecting an environmentally friendly heating system.

Solar water heating systems emerge as an excellent choice for those incorporating radiant heating or heat pumps into their homes but also wish to avoid dependence on traditional furnaces for hot water needs. 

These systems harness solar energy to heat water, seamlessly integrating with other sustainable heating technologies. 

This approach not only ensures a comprehensive eco-friendly solution for home heating but also addresses the hot water requirements effectively, making solar water heating a practical and green addition to modern homes.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

Cons:

Efficiency

15%-20% energy efficient (average).

Costs

$100 per square foot (approx. including installation).

Installation Time

Typically 1-3 days depending on the size of the system.

Environmental Benefits

Solar water heating is fundamentally an eco-friendly method, leveraging the abundant and renewable resource of solar energy. 

This approach decreases dependency on conventional power grids and plays a significant role in lowering carbon emissions. 

Utilizing the power of the sun to heat water is not only an environmentally conscious choice but also an efficient one. It offers a clean and effective solution for water heating needs. 

Additionally, the use of solar energy for heating water can lead to considerable savings on energy bills, making it a financially viable option for many households. 

This combination of sustainability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness makes solar water heating a compelling choice for those looking to adopt greener home heating solutions.

FAQs

What is the cheapest fuel to heat a house?

Natural gas is still the cheapest fuel to heat a house. For non-gas alternatives the cheapest options are solid-fuel stoves, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps in that order.

What is the smartest way to heat your house?

If by smart, you mean efficient, then heat pumps are your best bet when looking to heat your home with something other than a gas furnace.

Which type of heating system is generally the most costly to install?

A ground source heat pump system is not only the most efficient, it is also the most expensive with prices reaching $40,000+ in some cases.

Bringing The Heat

In summary, the best alternatives to gas heating include Heat Pumps for high efficiency, Radiant Heating for comfort, aesthetics, and affordability, and Biomass Boilers as a carbon-neutral option. 

Ground Source Heat Pumps are the most efficient but by far the most expensive and they require a significant amount of land to even be an option, while Radiant Heating offers an optimal blend of efficiency and ease of installation. 

Biomass Boilers provide an eco-friendly solution but are less efficient. 

Each system balances efficiency, environmental impact, and cost, offering viable choices for those seeking sustainable and effective home heating alternatives to traditional gas systems.

If you are ready to replace your gas heating system, wait no longer – start designing your new bespoke home heating system.