Even if you owned a million-dollar townhouse in Boston’s Back Bay, you wouldn’t be able to fit a townhouse, a small porch, a couple of parking spaces, and a closed loop geothermal heating system on a 25′ x 100′ lot. Learn more by visiting Anytime Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
However, if you could get the idea past the Historical Preservation organisations, a roof-top solar panel for hot water would be feasible.
If you live in Alabama, where the humidity is heavy, a swamp cooler would never be a reasonable alternative to more costly air conditioning.
Only after you’ve narrowed down your alternative heating options based on where you live can you start focusing your time and energy on the most appropriate and cost-effective heating option.
Alternative Heating in Cities
For city or small-lot suburban homes, geothermal, outdoor furnaces, and most wind power are not suitable. A property size of one acre or more is preferred, except for very small wind turbines (i.e., with rotors one metre or less in diameter) on very small towers.
For as long as I can recall, wood-burning stoves have been used in urban areas. In 1976, I purchased my first airtight stove. Corn and wood pellet stoves are gaining popularity as new installations or replacements for old wood stoves.
Last winter, one Connecticut pellet stove dealer told me that he sold so many wood pellet and corn stoves that he had to temporarily close one of his two stores due to a lack of inventory.
The completely vented fireplace insert is a variation of the wood or pellet stove. They’re comparable to freestanding stoves in price and provide a convenient way to convert an obsolete fireplace into a source of heat for multiple rooms.
Unvented gas log fireplaces or propane space heaters are less costly to buy and build, but they are controversial in terms of health risks, and in some areas, they are banned. Check to see if the device you’re buying has an ODS (Oxygen Depletion Sensor). When the oxygen level in the room falls below 18 percent, this safety system switches off the heater. (The average is around 21%.)
Decorative gel fireplaces are attractive, but they aren’t considered reliable heating sources.
Radiant heat, both electric and hydronic (hot water), is highly flexible and can be mounted almost anywhere. The hydronic application of radiant heat can be used to heat driveways, hot tubs, and, of course, your house, and can be powered by anything from corn to coal.
In urban areas, solar for hot water is becoming more common. In the Port Norfolk neighbourhood of Boston, a neighbour of mine recently built a solar array on the roof of his two-family house. His contractor did an excellent job, and it adds nothing to the visual appeal of his home. He also claims that his hot water bill is now “chump change.”
Not to mention the humble space heater. An affordable space heater is often the first option to replace a traditional heating system for many homeowners who spend the majority of their time in just one room of an eight-room building.