Benefits of Renewable Space Heating for the Environment & Your Pocket
Renewable heating, along with renewable cooling, has been described as the sleeping giant of energy-efficient energy sources. This is because renewable thermal technologies offer sustainable solutions that will immediately reduce global dependence on fossil fuels. They also offer a myriad of opportunities for us to save money as a result of the financial benefits offered to stakeholders.
There are, of course, different types of renewable energy all of which are harnessed from sources that are naturally replenished. So, if you want to harness the power of renewable energy for your home or commercial building, you would be advised to seek the assistance of a New York or Chicago engineering firm, or a firm that operates in or near the city where you live.
Sources of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy has five primary sources:
- Moving water used to produce hydropower that is used to generate electricity which, in turn, is used for space heating. It relies on water vapor created when solar energy heats natural water sources, that then falls to earth in the form of rain, hail, and snow. Needless to say, it doesn’t work in times of drought.
- Geothermal heat from the inside of the earth that is used for space heating, to heat water, and to generate electricity.
- Wind, or more accurately moving air, which is used generate electricity that can be used for all forms of heating, including space heating.
- The sun, which produces solar energy for all kinds of heat and to generate electricity.
- Biomass, which is organic material derived from animals and plants, and includes:
- Wood and wood waste that is burned as fuel to create space heat or to generate electricity.
- Agricultural waste (from crops) that is often converted into liquid biofuels.
- Waste from garbage that may be used in power plants to generate electricity or which is converted to biogas in landfills.
- Human sewage and animal manure that may be converted to biogas for fuel.
While solid biomass like wood can be burned to produce heat, other types are converted into biogas or liquid biofuels which can also be burned to create energy. Examples include ethanol that is made from crops including sugar cane and corn and biodiesel that is made from animal fats and various vegetable oils.
Benefits of Renewable Heating
In general terms, the benefits of renewable heating and cooling include:
- Predictable energy prices that are often fixed.
- Provision of a hedge against the financial volatility of conventional sources of energy, particularly electricity, oil, and gas.
- A reduction of harmful emissions without any negative impact on heating performance or comfort.
- Use of sustainable renewable sources instead of fossil fuels that are finite and essentially damaging.
- Development of domestic energy sources which increases energy security.
- Stimulation of domestic economic growth.
While renewable space heating represents only one type of energy consumption, it is the major user, representing about 42% of energy use in U.S. homes and about 36% in commercial buildings in the U.S.
Space Heating & Compatible Renewable Technologies
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that close to a third of all homeowners’ energy-related expenses are for space heating, and this translates to tens of billions of dollars annually ($27 billion according to available 2010 U.S. Department of Energy data). Most of the money spent is on natural gas and, where there isn’t natural gas, heating oil or propane gas.
None of these are renewable sources.
What this means is that space heating produces hundreds of millions of metric tons of hugely harmful carbon dioxide emissions every year.
While renewable space heating operates in a similar way to conventional space heating, renewable resources rather than fossil fuels are used. Another difference is that not all renewable heating systems are able to provide constant heat, biomass being the exception. However, New York and Chicago engineers, and, in fact, any engineers with the relevant training and experience will be able to advise which will work best for your building or home.
At present, the best renewable technologies for space heating are:
- Solar, in the form of both evacuated and flat-plate collectors, both of which are scalable so can be used on big and small buildings. Transpired collectors may also be used, though they deliver low-temperature heat and are best suited to buildings with south-facing walls.
- Geothermal, which operates with ground-source heat pumps.
- Biomass, which simply (and effectively) takes the place of fossil fuels. It does though depend on the fuel you are using.
If you’re not sure which direction to take, start by considering cost together with what isn’t environmentally friendly. Also be sure to shun fossil fuels even if, like natural gas, they are cheaper, and make sure whatever option you choose is energy efficient.
You owe it to yourself and to the planet.
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of New York Engineers, an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of 30+ mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City, and has led over 1,000 projects in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia.