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7 Best Eco Friendly Heating Systems & Ideas For A Toasty Home 2022

log burner tiny home

Heating your home is a necessity for the vast majority of us.

If you live in the UK for example, you’re likely to use your heating regularly for around half a year with the average temperature under 10oC (50oF) . I know that’s the case with me.

Most of us rely on a central heating system with combi boilers being a popular choice in modern homes. Most combi boiler systems are powered by gas.

There’s no getting away from a heating system, but heating your home doesn’t always have to be done at the expense of the environment.

There are a number of eco friendly ways to heat your home that work effectively (you’ll feel nice and warm) and efficiently (you’ll use less energy and have to pay less for fuel).

Let’s take a look at the best eco friendly heating systems for your home.

opus harmony ecodesign ready stove 2022

The problem with modern heating methods

Unfortunately, many modern heating options aren’t too environmentally friendly.

Although energy providers, such as Ecotricity and Octopus, are getting better at sourcing fuels from renewable energy forms, fossil fuels are still all too prevalent.

We’re all pretty accustomed now to the harm that burning an inordinate amount of fossil fuels cause to the world – unnaturally fast warming, more frequent extreme climatic events, air pollution, landscape and habitat destruction. Plus a whole load more. It’s not good.

This is why it’s crucial to be aware of the eco friendly ways you can heat your home, so we can get away from fossil fuel use.

charnwood country 4 wood burning stove defra approved
You can buy a fantastic wood burning stove like this Charnwood Country 4 over at directstoves.com.

7 Best Eco Friendly Heating Systems For Your Home

Here are some of the better ways to heat your home with the environment in mind.

There is some form of carbon footprint associated with all of these methods, but they’re not, or shouldn’t be, involving the burning of fossil fuels

1. Multi-Fuel Stoves – Wood, Pellets and Biomass

Multi-fuel stoves are an eco friendly way to heat your tiny home.

You can get separate wood burning stoves or multifuel stoves.

for pellets, but I’ve grouped them together as they work on the same premise. However please note, the environmental and eco-friendly credentials of different fuel types can differ.

As the name suggest, you can burn different materials in a multi-fuel stove.

The most common type of fuel to burn in a stove is wood in the form of logs, however, a multi-fuel stove will also allow you to burn biomass pellets, wooden chips, peat bricks, turf briquettes, heat logs and even coffee logs.

The wider option of materials makes it an attractive option. It also means you’re not solely reliant on wooden logs, which are in a way depleting a resource. This can be done in a more sustainable and renewable manner.

Whether you opt for a multi-fuel or purely wood burning stove, they both occupy a fairly small footprint of space within your home and just need a single chimney vent going to the outside.

They’re also not as expensive as you probably think with prices ranging from £500 (for an excellent stove) up to the costly end of £2,000.

ProsCons
Off-grid heating solutionStove isn’t attached to a thermostat
Double up for cooking/water boiling Heat isn’t initially available instantly
Emit radiant heat from all sidesCan’t leave unattended
Good heat efficiencyNot remote controllable
Clean fuel choice
Cheap to run
Carbon neutral
Unique fire ambience

2. Biomass Boilers

red biomass boiler and wood stack

Biomass boilers are a more eco friendly heating system than traditional gas-powered boilers.

Biomass boilers work in a simple way. Biomass is burned and heat is generated. This heat warms water in a boiler. This is then circulated around the house.

Different biomass fuel sources can be used, including wood, pellets and other logs.

Pellets, for example, can be made from recycled sources such as sawdust, wood shavings and forms of grass. The organic matter gets crushed and compressed together to form the pellets.

These biomass pellets also tend to emit less pollution in comparison to wood logs.

You can read up on the pros vs cons of biomass boilers here.

ProsCons
Off-grid powerLarge up-front cost
Low running costsRequire regular maintenance
70-90% energy efficientCarbon dioxide still emitted
Considered carbon neutralLarge and bulky

3. Ground Source Heat Pump

When you’re doing your research for eco friendly heating systems, one option you’ll see is ground source heating.

This type of system draws heat from the ground underneath your home, which is more constant than air temperature.

Installing ground source heating requires a whole load of underground pipework that transfers heat to a heat pump and then circulates it around your home. Some heating units can include a hot water cylinder.

Ground source heat pumps require connection to an electricity source to work. This can be via mains electric or solar panels. That said, heat pumps are a highly efficient form of heating.

They are a very environmentally friendly heating method according to Energy Star and can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

But they are also expensive – between £10,000-£20,000 – plus yearly servicing costs into the £100s.

Ground source heat pumps are becoming a popular eco friendly heating choice for home renovators and self builders.

ProsCons
Zero carbon emissionsHigh cost
Work day and night with same efficiency Regular, costly maintenance needed
Very efficient Need a lot of space
Grants availableRequire an electricity source

4. Underfloor Heating

Underfloor radiant heating, as it’s formally known, sounds a rather luxurious way to heat your home.

You might not put it everywhere, but it can work very effectively in certain areas. The premise of radiant heating is to heat up an object rather than the air.

In the case of underfloor radiant heating, the technology cleverly heats a large surface, where the heat then rises and warms the whole area above the surface. It’s a good way of distributing warmth efficiently and effectively, and you won’t get any cold spots.

There are two main types of underfloor heating:

  • Water-based
  • Electric

A water-based system works through underfloor pipes, whereas an electric-based system heats underfloor wire loops.

Both systems can work in conjunction with a variety of flooring material, including wood, laminate, vinyl, tile and carpet. Both can be powered by solar or another off-grid method.

ProsCons
Easy to runInstallation cost
Doesn’t take up any living spaceMay need a qualified electrician to install
Works with all flooring types
Safe to use
Energy efficient
Easy to control temperature (Smart Thermostat)
Requires no maintenance
Won’t leave any cold spots where installed

5. Solar Heating

solar panels eco heating system

If there’s one consistent source of energy in the world, it’s solar.

The sun is always emitting a tremendous amount of energy and light that can be harnessed during daylight hours.

Solar energy is probably the ultimate renewable in that it’s free, constant and environmentally friendly.

We can’t always see the sun in the UK, but you’ll be glad to know that it’s not an absolute necessity for your solar heating system to work. Although bad weather will reduce efficiency, plenty of solar energy is still getting through.

There are three main options for solar heating:

  1. Solar air heaters
  2. Solar water heaters
  3. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels

All three require separate systems and can be quite expensive to install.

Solar air heaters and solar water heaters can heat your home directly, but solar PV panels first and foremost produce electricity. This electricity can then be used to power systems within your home, including for example an efficiency electric heater.

Although they do require a fairly hefty initial investment (which you can get grants for), solar heating offers a lifetime of renewable, free energy that’s as clean as a whistle.

All three systems can offer a completely off-grid lifestyle for your heating needs, but if you are planning to, or do, live off-grid then it’ll be wise to invest in a solar storage battery so that you have a constant source of energy when it’s dark outside.

ProsCons
Little to no maintenance costsHigh initial investment costs
Free energy from the sunMay need a qualified professional to install
Provide very clean green energyRoof space could be an issue
Safe to useBad weather will lower efficiency
Efficient heat energySolar energy storage batteries can be expensive

6. Electric Heaters & Radiators

Electric heaters are a popular way to heat rooms in a home.

The main benefit is that you have heat at the click of a button. No warming up time or burning of fuels.  

Electric heaters require a connection to a power source (usually mains electric) and they’re known to consume a lot of energy.

Although electric energy can be generated cleanly, the cost unit price of electricity is high. This means running your electric heater can mount up over time.

You can learn here on how much it costs to run an electric fire.

There are all sorts of electric heat appliances available today, including standalone heaters, fires, wall heaters and radiators.

ProsCons
Inexpensive to buyEnergy intensive to run
No maintenance costsLikely to leave cold spots within your home
Can be thermostat controlledCan be bulky
Immediate heat availableLikely to require mains power

7. Green Energy Supplier

If it’s not possible for you to install one of the above eco friendly heating systems, you’re next best bet is to switch supplier to a Green Energy provider.

Gone are the days when everyone had to choose from one of the ‘Big 6’ energy providers that fueled all homes with a combination of fossil fuels.

We’re now in a much better situation to be able to choose an environmentally conscious energy provider. Green suppliers in the UK, such as Ecotricity and Octopus Energy, provide electricity from 100% renewable sources, harnessing energy from solar, wind and water.

Rather than many confusing tariffs, these green suppliers tend to offer fixed rates or a small number of options. However all are usually very affordable and competitive, more often than not cheaper than fossil fuel-based energy suppliers.

Because they tend to be a bit more new-school in their approach, everything is done online, seamlessly and without hassle – no more waiting on the phone for 30 minutes before getting through to an unhelpful advisor, only to find out you have to write a letter or something.

Customer service is top priority and because of this, they offer highly tuned digital systems for all their communications, including switching providers which is incredibly easy and no hassle at all on your part.

ProsCons
100% renewable electricity (reduced carbon footprint)Still a type of mains energy
Affordable, cheap, non-confusing tariffsNot compatible with off-grid living
‘On tap’ energy, no disruption to servicePotential geographic limitation
Easy to switch to green provider

On-grid vs off-grid heating systems

From a top level approach, your tiny home has two main energy streams it can utilise:

  1. On-grid power
  2. Off-grid power

If you opt for an on-grid heating system, you’ll be reliant on mains energy. This means you won’t just be able to up sticks and move your tiny home (if it’s of the mobile variety), meaning it’ll be more or less permanently placed.

With an off-grid heating system, you’ll be able to take your source of energy and heat anywhere you go without worrying about plugging into the grid. If you’re a tiny home owner or just sustainability-focussed, the idea of being self-sufficient is a very appealing one.

On the whole, cutting reliance on mains energy will have a positive environmental impact. For some people living in tiny homes, this is absolutely possible, whereas others still may be reliant on mains power. Living ‘off-grid’ provides much more scope to be eco-friendly, however, there are still methods and strategies you can put into play if your home is on-grid reliant.


Additional ways to help your eco friendly heating

The best way to make any home more efficient from a heating point of view, is to ensure that it’s fully insulated.

Top-notch eco friendly insulation will reduce your energy usage, reduce bills and lower your carbon footprint.

You’ll also want to make sure you don’t have any draughts allowing your warm air to escape to the outside. There are many ways to improve home insulation.

Smart thermostats – such as those from Nest and Hive – are a great way to regulate indoor temperatures efficiently, effectively and easily. Being more efficient with your energy of course saves you money and the unnecessary use of a resource.

Another little tip is to just adjust your thermostat a little bit lower.

Even reducing the desired temperature by 1oC can save a large amount of energy over the year and I bet you barely notice the difference to your warmth and comfort.


Before you go…

Heating your home is likely to be one of your biggest monthly utility costs. This is true for those with traditional boilers or those who use gas fires.

Eco friendly heating systems can help reduce costs by being extremely efficient. But they do come with a cost.

Efficiency is often integral for living a less impactful and more sustainable life.

Assess your electrical appliances and usage. Going for more efficient models, such as energy efficient fridge freezers and eco dishwashers can help reduce costs over the year.


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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.

Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.