Save Money with Alternative Heating & Cooling Options
A swamp cooler or “evaporative cooler” functions similarly to a conventional air conditioner, but at a fraction of the price. Swamp coolers operate on less than a quarter of the electricity of a regular air conditioning system and cool the air by blowing air through wet pads. Because these appliances blow slightly humidified air into the home, these are only suitable for climates that are relatively dry.
Wood has been used as a heating fuel since antiquity, and there are a variety of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves on the market today. Although wood can be used as a primary heat source, wood is best used as a supplement to existing central heating systems. If you have access to inexpensive or free wood, installing a wood-burning stove can dramatically reduce your energy bill.
Burning wood in an older fireplace is not practical, as the wood burns uncontrollably and inefficiently, with 90% of the heat energy produced going up the flue and producing copious amounts of smoke. In addition, heat that is generated through a fireplace leaks through windows and allows for drafts.
Standalone Wood Furnaces
The popularity of exterior wood furnaces continues to increase. These units consist of a small building that sits outside of a house that contains a wood-burning stove. This stove heats water that is then pumped into the house through underground pipes, with the pipes then traveling to a conventional air handler. These systems are advantageous because they use logs that do not require cutting or splitting, and they need to be fueled only once or twice a day.
Corn stoves are popular alternatives in areas where field corn is abundant and inexpensive. Corn stoves have a hopper on top or on the side into which bags or bushels of corn are deposited. An auger controlled by a thermostat then shuffles the corn into a firebox, where an intense fire combusts the corn and turns it into heat that is moved around the room by a small fan.
Masonry heaters burn wood in an enclosed firebox and the combustion gases travel through a maze of masonry passages where they release their heat. While many of these heaters are ornate and can be considered works of art, these are often large and expensive, and a room or an entire area in a home is usually designed around a masonry heater.
While these cooling and heating methods require an initial investment, they can still help keep your energy costs down and provide comfort for you and your family.