Which Type of Heater Has the Lowest Emissions?

By December 28, 2021Heaters
Type of Heater Has the Lowest Emissions

While Frisco certainly has less demand for home heating than many other areas in the USA, houses here still need a reliable heat source during the winter months. In general, heating costs can account for around 30% of utility bills on average. That means a lot of energy is used to heat your home, and that energy has to come from somewhere.

While there are many different types of heaters today, chances are your Frisco home uses either a gas furnace or electric heat. Both have their upsides and downsides, and it isn’t always obvious which is best for your home. There’s more to consider than one might think when it comes to emissions.

How Your Home’s Heating System Works

While heating systems all work towards a common goal, they accomplish it differently. If you have gas heating in your home, you’ll have either a furnace or a boiler. These two appliances serve the same purpose in different ways, with both making it possible to circulate heat throughout your home.

A furnace exchanges heat from burning gas to air that flows through heat exchangers in the furnace. This heated air is then directed through the ductwork in your home, providing warmth throughout.

A boiler, on the other hand, heats the water. This heated water then circulates through pipes running through your walls. While the distribution method is different, both solutions rely on burning natural gas to heat your home.

Electric heating is different, relying on electricity to heat your home. In some cases, an electric boiler can distribute heat as a gas boiler does. In other cases, a home might rely on electric baseboard heaters. These contain thin wires that heat up and directly heat the air in the room, working on the same principle that lets a toaster generate heat.

Emissions from Your Home’s Furnace

The fuel burned in your furnace is natural gas, also known as methane. This abundant resource is relatively easy to handle, being distributed through pipelines. Of course, this means it’s only an option in regions that have natural gas pipeline networks. However, its low cost has led to gas networks being everywhere.

Natural gas does create emissions. It doesn’t simply disappear when burned. It makes combustion products that must be released into the atmosphere. Like any other fuel source, the carbon in natural gas is turned into carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide when burned.

While carbon dioxide emissions are a primary concern for being environmentally unfriendly, natural gas doesn’t cause many other emissions. 

Fuels like oil, diesel, gasoline, and even wood have chemicals that lead to sulfur and nitrogen compound emissions. Natural gas, on the other hand, produces essentially just carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

While natural gas is in many ways a better option when it comes to the environment, it is still consuming resources and putting carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. In theory, a solution that provides heating without the need to extract natural gas or other fossil fuels would be much better, but can that theory be put into action today?

The Problem with Electric Heaters

You might think that an electric heater produces zero emissions at a casual glance. The baseboard heaters or electric boilers in your home aren’t giving off carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide or any other emissions, but there’s far more to consider than what’s going on in your home.

The electricity that you use to heat your home comes from somewhere. It has to be generated at some kind of power plant. To accurately measure the emissions from electrical heaters, we need to look at the generating stations that produce the electricity.

While renewable energy production is on the rise, electricity in the USA is still derived mainly from fossil fuels. In fact, one-third of US electricity is generated from burning coal, producing carbon dioxide and a wide variety of other harmful emissions.

Over two-thirds of electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels in general, including natural gas, oil, and coal. What this means is that, despite not producing any emissions in your own home, your electric heaters are still contributing to overall emissions.

It’s also important to consider the waste generated by all of the extra steps required for electrical heating. While a gas furnace simply burns gas and transfers the heat to air inside your home, electrical heat relies on electrical transmission systems and the initial generation of electricity.

Essentially, the process turns fuel into heat into electricity and then back into heat, adding another potential step where energy loss can occur. While a move towards an electrical grid that relies less on fossil fuels and more on renewable resources could see the net emissions from electrical power improve, this simply hasn’t happened yet.

Other Methods that Really Can Reduce Your Heating Emissions

While switching from a gas furnace to an electric heater probably isn’t going to improve emissions, there are some innovative steps that you can take to reduce emissions. In fact, simply improving the efficiency of your furnace helps in the long run. If you have an older furnace, newer models work more efficiently and reduce your overall emissions.

People interested in truly optimizing their emissions can look into geothermal heating. This approach involves burying pipes underneath the ground to take advantage of the steady temperature there.

During the winter, it’s warmer underground than above ground, and it’s cooler underground in the summer. Geothermal heating lets you take advantage of that difference to pre-heat or pre-cool your HVAC intake air.

Active solar heating is another method to reduce heating emissions. Basically, a fluid runs through flat-plate collectors on your roof, absorbing heat from sunlight and transferring it inside, more efficiently gathering heat than electric solar panels.

Making Your Furnace or Heater as Efficient as Possible

Of course, you don’t need to undergo some significant installation to reduce your emissions right away. Instead, you can reach out to Sirius Plumbing and Air Conditioning for a heating system tune-up in Frisco.

No matter what type of heating system you use, the increased efficiency that a tune-up provides translates into less power used and fewer emissions generated, so give us a call today.

Author Mark King

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