Heating Our Spaces and Not the Planet

When it comes to improving the efficiency and sustainability of heating our homes and businesses, the solutions can be complex and varied. However, one thing is clear: the way we heat our spaces has a significant impact on both energy consumption, indoor air quality, and the environment. We recently published an article that explores the benefits and drawbacks of different heating systems, emphasizing the importance of all-electric ‘fuel’ approaches and the incredible synergy between heat pumps and infrared radiant heat.
The Importance of Insulation and Ventilation
Efficient heating begins with a well-insulated and ventilated space. High-performance insulation and ventilation reduce the energy required to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. Addressing these passive components is a critical first step in creating an energy-efficient and sustainable heating system. And while it is not always possible to effectively or cost-efficiently improve those systems, you can still create an energy-efficient, healthy heating and cooling system – with just a few extra nuances.

Moving Away from Fossil Fuels

Using fossil fuels for heating is no longer a sustainable option. An all-electric approach is essential for achieving sustainability goals. While much of our electricity is still generated from fossil fuels, homes that rely solely on electric heating become cleaner as the electricity grid becomes greener. Moving to all-electric systems in our architecture covers the use portion of the transition to decarbonization, which is much more than half the battle.

The Drawbacks of Centralized Heating Systems

Centralized ducted and hydronic systems, regardless of how the heat is generated, have inherent inefficiencies. These systems lose heat through ducts or pipes, especially in unconditioned spaces like crawlspaces, and often waste heat by heating unoccupied or little used spaces. Centralized systems can also be a source of much debate in shared spaces – one person being too hot, another being too cold! Heating and cooling spaces as needed, when needed, and to the comfort of the current occupant is a key component to sustainable, effective, and efficient HVAC solutions.

The Efficiency of Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are among the most efficient heating systems available, as they transfer more than twice the energy they consume. By absorbing heat from the air and transferring it indoors or outdoors, heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling. Ductless, mini-split heat pumps (DMHP/DHPs) are particularly efficient because they deliver air directly into spaces without the inefficiencies associated with ducted systems. However, the refrigerants used in these systems can be environmentally harmful if not effectively managed. There are newer, more climate-friendly refrigerants that have been developed, though there is still debate between professionals around “soft-impacts.”

The Advantages of Electric Infrared Radiant Heat

Electric infrared radiant heat addresses several challenges that heat pumps cannot. Unlike other electric resistance heaters, which waste energy as light, infrared systems efficiently convert electricity into heat. These systems warm objects and people directly, creating a comfortable environment without the need for moving parts or noisy fans. They are particularly effective for heating smaller spaces and can be a cost-effective, long-term solution.

Transcending Tradition with Hybrid Solutions

For many homes, a combination of heat pumps and infrared radiant heat offers the best solution. Heat pumps are ideal for large, open spaces and areas with high ceilings, while infrared radiant heaters can supplement heating in smaller, enclosed spaces. This hybrid approach ensures even heating throughout the home, minimizing cold spots and reducing the need for additional heat pump units.

Think Outside the Duct

Harnessing the best solutions for optimal results is easier than ever. As lay people, we have so much more access to information about heating and cooling solutions, we don’t have to settle for using the same technologies as the Joneses. We can find new, innovative solutions that work best for our specific requirements. Incorporating both heat pumps and infrared radiant heat into your heating system can provide a sustainable, efficient, effective, and comfortable solution for your home or business. By moving away from fossil fuels and leveraging the strengths of these technologies, we can significantly reduce our environmental impact while maintaining comfortable living and working spaces.