As the trees outside begin to change colours and leaves fall at a rate you wouldn't think possible, many of us are digging out and setting up heaters or ensuring our firewood stockpile is looking healthy. But which of these is better for the environment one might ask?
Let's look into each option a little further.
If you are using an electric heater, the cost to the environment of heating a room by as little as one extra degree for a year can be equal to between 310kg and 360kg of extra carbon dioxide that is being released into our atmosphere. That’s a little bit scary!!
Oil heaters are not such a good choice either. Oil is made from fossil fuels and is a non-renewable and non-sustainable fuel source. It’s also incredibly resource intensive to mine, refine, store and transport.
If your oil heater is a fin or radia system, it will need electricity to heat the oil in the system, which potentially comes at a cost to the environment (unless you use a renewable power source). If your heating system burns oil, it will have higher carbon emissions than substitutes such as wood or gas. If possible, it’s best to avoid this option.
What are the most effective heating methods that are also best for the environment?
So, we’ve established that fossil fuel driven heating systems are not necessarily the most environmentally friendly way to keep us warm in winter. But what are the best systems to keep us warm and reduce the impact of heating our homes over the cooler months? We’ve listed the most efficient heating solutions below.
Using Solar Power to Run Heaters
We all know using solar power is incredibly efficient and far better for the environment. Installing solar panels on your roof can provide an efficient and environmentally friendly source of electricity to run your traditional heater. The only negative impact is from manufacturing of the panels initially, but these have a life of 10+ years, so it’s still better than other alternatives.
It’s the most traditional source of heating and a lot of us have fond memories of wood heaters. So how much does this impact the environment?
Wood is a renewable source of energy, although it might take a few decades for trees to grow, they do eventually grow, and they trap carbon dioxide along the way. A 10-year-old tree will trap just over 20kg of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. At the same time, it also releases enough oxygen into the atmosphere to support two humans for the same amount of time!
It is, however, labour and resource intensive to harvest and does add a bit of carbon to the atmosphere when it’s burned. However, if you look at the big picture, it pretty much pays for itself in terms of its environmental cost. That’s a pretty good option.
Propane Gas Heaters
Not sure what propane is? It’s a bi-product of the petrol refining or natural gas production process.
It can be an efficient option in terms of emissions, as it burns cleaner than petrol or oil. It is classified as a non-renewable fuel, though, and manufacturing, storage and transport are highly resource intensive.
Natural Gas Heaters
The news in this space is quite good. Natural gas heaters produce lower gas emissions than oil or electricity and is one of the most economical in terms of cost to you to run.
In not so good news, though, it is a non-renewable fuel and reserves are declining. A process called ‘fracking’ has started being used to extract more gas out of reserves, however this has a heavy impact on surrounding environments, ecosystems and water supplies.
When you are considering your home heating options that have the least impact on the environment as possible, choosing a heater that uses renewable energy sources is best.