No matter where you live in the world or the type of home you live in, you’re going to rely on some sort of heating or cooling to make life comfortable.
HVAC, or heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, is how our homes and workplaces stay comfortable by balancing the indoor temperature and providing adequate airflow.
This is achieved in different ways like air conditioning, fans, and heaters, with every home using something unique.
What does HVAC encompass and what are the environment-friendly HVAC options out there?
HVAC encompasses everything from fans and air conditioners to windows, vents, and, heaters. The most environmentally friendly options are those that use the least energy to run, like whole-house fans and systems that rely on the sun to work.
If you’re building a new home or want to upgrade your existing one to feature these green heating and cooling systems, there are loads to choose from.
We’re going to compare and contrast the most popular environment-friendly HVAC systems on the market and show you a little more about what they entail.
- 1 Active and Passive HVAC Systems
- 2 Which HVAC System Is Right For You?
- 3 The Most Environmentally Friendly HVAC Systems
- 4 Designing Your Home with Green HVAC in Mind
- 5 Achieving the Ideal Temperature, the Green Way
- 6 Related Questions
Active and Passive HVAC Systems
When looking at environmentally friendly heating and cooling, there are two categories they can usually be grouped into types of system.
Passive and active systems are used to define how they’re powered and what methods they use to provide their heating and cooling to the home.
A passive system is one that uses the earth’s natural ability to heat and cool on its own and harnesses that ability.
Passive system homes will use things like light-colored roofs to reduce temperatures, architecturally designed spaces that improve airflow, or special windows that remove hot air from inside and draw cool air in naturally.
Active HVAC systems are still green but use several mechanical systems that provide heating and cooling and do so without using a lot of energy.
This could include things like solar power panels on the roof or relying on geothermal power, as they’re working on a more energy-efficient basis but still relying on other sources or mechanical systems to work.
Which HVAC System Is Right For You?
An HVAC system can vary greatly depending on a few factors. The size of the home, the areas they have to heat, the outdoor climate and weather conditions, the comfort factor of its inhabitants, and how much they want to spend.
Each HVAC system you review has to be a perfect fit in more areas than one, so consider these things when making your choice.
- The area you live in and its climate will narrow or widen your choices for HVAC systems. Those in a usually hot or cold climate will usually need just one type of system that provides either heating or cooling, but while it’s running it’s doing so at capacity.
- Where needed, a home might use a variable speed heating or cooling system if the temperature regularly fluctuates. These can reduce energy costs as well and are recommended if the temperature changes a lot.
- Some homes require zoned systems that provide different temperatures to different parts of the house. This is helpful for individual comfort levels but also to regulate the temperature depending on the construction and layout of the home.
- Humidity control is available with some HVAC options with the use of either humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Adding a humidifier can be helpful for dry climates and a dehumidifier for those living in the tropics, and they can be used as a standalone system or as part of air-conditions and heaters.
While keeping all of these factors in mind, you’ll be able to find some great, environmentally friendly options.
Whether you need something compact and powerful or a system that can meet the changing weather, there are affordable and green HVAC systems out there that can do it all.
The Most Environmentally Friendly HVAC Systems
There seems to be an environmentally friendly alternative for just about everything these days, and HVAC systems are no different.
If you want to make an important switch to green energy and are placing your focus on heating and cooling, these are the best ways to do it.
Geothermal energy is the new solar, using the natural temperature of the earth to do your work. If you were to dig under the earth’s surface just a few feet, you’d find the water is a constant 42 to 80 degrees Celsius, which is good news for us.
Geothermal exchange systems use this energy to either heat or cool as needed just by using a special heat pump.
The pumps feature a fluid inside that brings hot water into the house when it’s cold, and during summer, works in reverse by removing the heat from the house.
Whole House Fans
A whole house fan is an eco-friendly way to cool your house and improve its ventilation. Through a series of vents and slits, a central fan is used to suck the hot air out of the house and blow it outside.
As it does, it draws in cool air from outside using a large vacuum and spreads it throughout the house. This means the interior reaches the same temperature as the air outside without relying on much electricity at all.
Radiant Floor Heating
Our floors are one of the most important parts of the home when it comes to temperatures and radiant floor heating works on that premise.
Water-based radiant floor heating systems run hot water through wires underneath the floor, giving them heat that raises the temperature of the house. Compared to electric systems, they consume a lot less energy but are just as effective.
These systems are slightly more to install but they work a treat, and you’ll never have to worry about wasted energy.
The absorption method is a specific type of heating and cooling that’s powered by natural sources like solar power, geothermal power, and natural gas.
For heating, absorption heat pumps use a gas burner to operate and an ammonia solution to run instead of a refrigerant, so it’s completely natural. This process uses the earth’s heat to operate the pump which then pushes the heated liquid into the house.
As it pumps, the temperature in the house increase, and during summer, it works in reverse to cool it down. Once set up, it requires no electricity at all to work, so you’re only operating on systems already in place like solar or geothermal power.
There are two options for solar power when it comes to HVAC for the home. The first is passive solar technology which includes walls and windows being specially made to collect energy from the sun and release it as needed.
If this option is used, you’ll still need to rely on some form of mechanical equipment to make it work, like radiant flooring or a specialized air system.
Second, and most popular, is active solar technology which makes use of solar cells that transfer the sun’s energy into electricity. This free electricity can then be used to power the home, including your heating and cooling systems.
The hydronic system is nothing new for heating homes, but it has undergone some changes in recent years that make it more eco-friendly.
Hydronic systems use boilers to heat liquids which are then run through pipes in the house to provide heat, coming out in places like the floorboard or radiator.
Traditional ones used antifreeze and sometimes water, with the modern styles using water almost exclusively.
These systems are powered up with geothermal and solar energy, requiring no electricity at all, and deliver warmth straight into the home when you need it.
Although it sounds technical, biomass is just a fancy way of describing energy that’s come from a living thing. The most famous use of biomass we know is throwing some wood on the fire, and it’s a type of loving heat we’ve all experienced.
Did you know you could use modern biomass technology to heat your home, though?
These large-scale heating systems rely onto on clean-burning materials to run so there are fewer pollutants, and they cost almost nothing to run once installed.
One study found that savings of between 29 to 57 percent were possible with this type of heating system, which is a huge amount for any home.
Ice Powered Air Conditioners
An ice powered air conditioner might sound like something from the stone ages but it’s actually a modern feat that can cool your home in an environmentally friendly way.
These systems work by freezing around 450 gallons of water by pushing it through and over copper coils until it turns to ice.
This ice stores until daytime and then powers the air conditioner unit’s compressor, rather than relying on the energy-hungry compressor to do the job. This unique cooling system is meant to save around a third of the usual energy consumption, which is pretty impressive for ice.
Biodiesel can be used as an alternative energy source that’s great for heating the home, provided you can come across it.
Biodiesel is sometimes used in cars and tractors and it’s known for releasing fewer pollutants which makes it ideal for home, especially where carbon dioxide is concerned.
Although expensive and hard to come by, it is possible to use biodiesel in your household oil burner to create a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly HVAC system.
Using wind as a way to generate power is no new feat, but did you know you can also use it to heat your house?
One study at an Oregon State University found that a small-sized windmill that sits on a rooftop provided enough energy to power a water heater.
This water heater would then be able to pump through pipes installed throughout the house and behind the walls, effectively heating the entire home using just wind.
Although this type of setup isn’t available commercially, it’s a good sign of what’s to come for green HVAC systems.
Quiet Duct Wrap
Insulation is an easy way to keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer, but Quiet Duct Wrap is a whole new way to do it. This is a thermal acoustic source of insulation made from natural fibers, so it contains no fiberglass.
It’s great at regulating temperature and offers additional protection from mold, pests, and fungi, making it more than just an HVAC option.
It can be expensive to have installed but will last for years to come and make a green and noticeable difference to your household temperatures.
Designing Your Home with Green HVAC in Mind
One of the most important features people should consider these days when building or renovating a house is how energy efficient it is.
As the heating and cooling make up over half of our energy use, there are a few ways you can ensure you’re using them efficiently with a few simple measures.
Using HVAC zones is the most energy-efficient way to design a home and it produces the least amount of power. Compared to traditional HVAC systems that usually work at cooling or heating the entire home, you’re able to control separate zones one at a time.
This also means you can turn off the heating or cooling altogether in rooms that aren’t being used, saving a lot of power and money in the process.
Another modern invention that helps with green homes is energy analysis software.
This tool is used on a larger scale by architects and engineers but can also be implemented in the home to determine which HVAC systems are going to be the most beneficial for the homeowner in terms of energy and money saved.
It’s worthwhile having a professional assess your home before you begin the project and make your own decision on HVAC.
Achieving the Ideal Temperature, the Green Way
Every home is unique and its needs for heating and cooling can change every day, and not just with the seasons.
Some homes require round the clock temperature control and others only need it for extreme conditions, so no matter where your household lies, you’re going to need to rely on an HVAC system of some sort.
Thankfully, there are environmentally friendly alternatives to just about every HVAC system out there, and most of them are well within the average household’s budget.
Whether you want to heat the floorboards and soak up the warmth or have fresh, cool air blasting in into the house, there’s a new and improved way to do it that’s also friendly to the earth.
There are loads of choices out there for people upgrading their homes or building a new one, and a lot of them are cheaper than you realize.
Having eco-friendly heating and cooling in place will save you long term energy costs but also give you peace of mind that you’re doing your part for the planet, which is a pretty neat feeling as well.
Our home’s heating, cooling, and ventilation systems play a huge part in our comfort levels, and they’re an important part of a home’s design.
Old or new, all homes have some sort of HVAC systems and units in place, and it’s important to understand how they work.
If you’re wondering about green alternatives to HVAC systems, we’ve answered some common questions about the difference they can make to your home.
How Do You Improve Air Quality in a Green Home?
In addition to your environmentally friendly HVAC system, there are ways you can improve the quality of the air you live in that are also green.
Stopping indoor pollution like smoking, having indoor plants, removing synthetic rugs and carpets, using a dehumidifier, and switching to green household cleaners can all help improve air quality.
Are Air Conditioners Environmentally Friendly?
Some climates require an air conditioner during summer, and you don’t have to give this up completely, provided it stays at a reasonable temperature and doesn’t run all day and night.
Does a Ceiling Fan Use a Lot of Electricity?
In terms of overall power usage, ceiling fans score quite low. A standard ceiling fan runs at around 50-80 watts and costs less than one cent per hour to run in a single room.
Compared to other HVAC options this is a very energy-efficient way to keep the room ventilated and cool.