If you live in a colder climate, winter means burning a lot of fuel to heat your home. This will almost certainly lead to a rise in your utility bills, but also means increasing your carbon footprint as you try to stay warm during the colder months.
If you’re interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle and doing your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, now’s the time to think about your home heating fuel source — especially if you have an oil furnace. Thanks to new technology, there are several options out there that are more efficient and less damaging to the environment than your old petroleum-powered burner.
BioHeat: An Improved Home Heating oil Blend
If you have an older home that relies on home heating oil to fuel the furnace — this is especially common in the Northeast and New England — you already know that the price of your fuel can fluctuate wildly depending on the economy and the weather. Home heating oil is also a pure petroleum product, which is about as far as you can get from a sustainable option for home heating.
Still, if you have a newer furnace that burns fuel efficiently, you’re not doing that badly with oil. In fact, you can even choose a more sustainable fuel with BioHeat. BioHeat is a blend of traditional home heating oil and biodiesel. Biodeisel comes from fatty acids found in vegetable oil, fungi, algae and even recycled restaurant oils. Overall, about 47 percent of it is soybean oil.
Using BioHeat means that a percentage of your heating oil comes from a sustainable, renewable source instead of from fossil fuels. As technology improves, the percentage of your fuel available as biodiesel should also increase, meaning that your oil furnace could run entirely on plants instead of dinosaurs.
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Other Ways to Reduce Your Heating oil Dependence
Switching to a biodiesel for your home heating is one way to cut down on your home’s fossil fuel needs, and it’s often the easiest way to make a positive change for the health of the environment. You can also try the following tips to further cut back your oil usage — without changing your whole method of heating:
- Add Insulation: If your home is drafty, try adding insulation to the attic — or have it blown into the walls — to reduce your heat loss. Air sealing around outlets, windows and doors will also help hold in heat and reduce the amount of oil you need to burn to stay warm.
- Change the Filter: A dirty filter in your furnace will cause it to run less efficiently, cycling on more often in an attempt to draw more air through the system. Clean or replace your filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to keep airflow strong and reduce your fuel usage.
- Insulate the Ducts: If the ductwork in your basement isn’t insulated, you could be losing a lot of hot air to an unused space. Insulating ducts is time consuming, but most DIYers can get the job done on their own. Doing so will push the hotter air into your rooms so you heat up more quickly — and use less oil.
Choosing an Alternative Heating Method
If your furnace is older and inefficient, you may want to replace it with a new heating system. This presents an opportunity to research many alternative fuel sources as well. Once a new furnace is on the table, you have a wide-open range of choices for more sustainable ways to heat your home. Some good options include:
- Gas Heat: Though natural gas is also a fossil fuel, gas furnaces are more efficient than oil ones. This means that you’ll need to burn less fuel to create your heat, which is overall better for the environment. If you don’t have gas lines in your neighborhood, propane can be a good solution.
- Fireplaces: If you spend most of your time in the living room, a wood stove or gas fireplace can take burden off your primary furnace for most of the day. Wood stoves use a sustainable fuel source and are typically more efficient than an old-fashioned fireplace, so a retrofit is a good idea.
- Solar Heaters: Passive solar systems collect warmth from the sun and direct it into your house or outbuilding to supplement your furnace. On sunny days, your furnace will run far less, saving you fuel in the process.
Whether you plan to stick with oil and choose a more sustainable biodiesel blend or try a new home heating fuel, be sure to research your options and ask questions about the efficiency of the system you’re considering. Heating technology has come a long way, and you should be able to make your home more environmentally friendly while staying comfortable this winter with some smart choices.