Living in a remote or rural area can provide a number of advantages over urban living, particularly for those who desire solitude or privacy. However, when winter storms hit, you may find yourself facing an extended period of time without electricity as crews work hard to restore power to the homes in your area. Even with a backup generator to help keep essential appliances running during these times, operating an old or inefficient heating system can create a tremendous strain on your power source. What are your best heating options if you live in an area with frequent power outages? Read on to learn about the importance of heating efficiency and some furnace replacement options that can keep you and your family cozy through even severe storms.
Why are efficient heating systems important when power is out?
Whether you're running on a backup gasoline, propane, or oil generator, you're usually generating much less power than available through your utility supply company. As a result, installing a heating system that uses as little power as possible will prevent you from putting excess strain on your generator while still ensuring there's plenty of juice left to power the refrigerator, freezer, water heater, and other essential appliances. Cycling the heating system on and off to allow you to continue to run other appliances can let temperatures drop too far and actually cause you to use even more energy to return the room to a comfortable temperature.
What are your best heating options if you're running off a generator?
Although you may be tempted to utilize a portable electric space heater in lieu of a whole-house heating system when operating on a limited power source, this can actually be counterproductive. Small convection heaters aren't designed for efficiency and can draw a significant amount of power, especially if the surrounding room is cold.
Instead, you may want to investigate a geothermal heat pump. Rather than running off gas or oil, this pump utilizes the earth's own heat to generate energy. A geothermal heat pump consists of a number of conductive pipes placed underground, where the temperature remains a constant 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the heat pump (despite its name) to provide cool air in the summer as well as heat in the winter, and the only electricity utilized is that which is required to pump the heated air through your home's vents. Even a small generator should be able to power a geothermal heat pump indefinitely, allowing you to maintain a fairly normal lifestyle and avoid having to evacuate even during an extended power outage.
Another viable option, particularly for remote wooden areas, is an exterior wood stove. Unlike an interior wood stove or wood-burning furnace, which operates using radiant heat to warm the immediately adjacent room, an exterior wood stove funnels heated, smoke-free air through an insulated pipe buried beneath the ground into your home's central heating system where it is equally distributed to each room. Much like a geothermal heat pump, an exterior wood stove uses only a minute amount of electricity to operate the blower motor to ventilate warm air throughout your home. You'll need to periodically replenish the furnace with slow-burning wood and clean out any excess ashes to keep it in good operating condition.
Installing an exterior wood stove should help you dramatically reduce your winter energy bills, whether your heating system is being powered by public utilities or your own backup generator. This is especially true if you have a number of trees that can be felled and split for firewood, eliminating your need to purchase any heating wood.
For more information, contact a heating contractor.