As we all know, the cost to fill your car with gas has gone up in recent years. The cost to fill your fridge with food has gone up, and the cost to fill your home with heat has also gone up.
People who are looking at other home heating options are realizing it may take them spending some money now to save some money in the future on their home heating costs.
In Part 1 we told you about some of the alternative heating options on the market, and pointed out a house with poor insulation is going to be expensive to keep warm, no matter the source of your heat.
In most cases, the increase in savings can be tied to efficiency.
"There's not a whole heck of a lot you can do with the fossil fuels," said Charlie Veilleux the Co-Chair of the Refrigeration, Air Condition and Heating Department at Eastern Maine Community Collge. "I mean there are only 140 thousand BTU's in a gallon of oil, I don't care what you do with it, I don't care how your prepare it with a burner there, you can't get more heat out of it than what is there. Same is true with natural gas, so you're only going to reach a certain efficiency level with these technologies and you're not going to be able to exceed that."
And each home, situation, and budget is different. Some people may have just bought a new oil burning furnace or built a house before the economic down turn, but savings can still happen in that scenario.
"If somebody just put a newer style, high efficient cast iron boiler in within the last couple of years, it's probably headed towards just replacing the burner which is cost savings from cutting the entire boiler out and replacing it with a wall hung boiler," said Rick Gomm, the other Co-Chair of the RACH Department at EMCC. "The efficiency is greater with a wall hung boiler but again, the overall cost of replacing the boiler a couple years back is just really more price effective to go with replacing the burner."
If someone is building a new house now and has the land to use, Veilleux suggests not putting in any type of fossil fuel heat source.
"Probably the geothermal heat pump would be able to provide your heating and your cooling and be able to do it very, very efficiently. The efficiency of a geothermal heat pump system can be anywhere from, as compared to electricity which would be 100 percent efficient, there's no flue loss, there's no energy loss. If you compare it with electricity, the heat pump could be anywhere from three to five hundred percent efficient, depending on how it's coupled to the earth."
But if you want to replace the heating unit already in your home, Veilleux has other advice. "Existing homes, if natural gas is available, that would be the probably be the least expensive conversion to make and you'd get the biggest bang for your buck, without a doubt."
But the key phrase is "if natural gas is available." It's not available for everyone in Maine right now.
"We've said this in my class a couple of times," said Gomm. "A lot of guys say 'Well they'll never get natural gas there' and I've always said, give it another five to ten years and we'll know for sure if we will be able to. Will they? We don't know today, but somebody, someday might dream up a way of getting it there. If that's the case, you'll probably see most people head in that direction, but for the guy that's out in the country, oil is still here. I feel unless you go with the alternative of wood or a heat pump, it's hard to go away from oil when you are out in the country just for the simple fact of you need something for your hot water."
With all the changes they've seen in the last 10-20 years, Gomm knows more changes are coming. "The biggest fear is some stuff you buy today and you install it and in five years it's hard to tell if it will even be there because something bigger and better is going to come out. For somebody right now that's in a position, that has no choice but to convert, realistically I think the same things will be there, it just might be better engineering behind it."
Home Heating Options Part 1