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Over 50 percent of all U.S. households heat their homes with natural gas, heating oil or electric heaters. This winter, heating oil prices are expected to soar upward by as much as 31 percent, and natural gas prices are expected to rise by nearly 22 percent. This has prompted many homeowners to look at alternative heating sources. A wood boiler is not only energy-efficient and sustainable but also affordable. In addition, solar heating, ground-source heat pumps and pellet stoves are all viable alternatives.

Wood Boilers and Gasification
Wood boilers, also know as outdoor wood furnaces or gasification boilers, are one of the cleanest and affordable systems available for home heating. While this technology is not new, it has gained considerable popularity in the past few years as homeowners seek cheap, sustainable sources of heat. A wood boiler is one of the most efficient forms of heating because it uses nearly all of the potential energy of the fuel. Traditional wood-burning stoves release polluting gases and potential energy into the atmosphere, but wood boilers collect these flammable gases in a separate chamber where they are also ignited for heat.

Solar Heating
Solar heating is available in two forms: passive and active. Passive solar heating maximizes a home’s ability to collect heat from the sun. However, a passive solar heating system can be expensive in the short term, and its effectiveness depends on the local climate. Active solar heating incorporates solar collectors and mechanical systems to transfer solar-heated liquid or air through a home.

Ground-Source Heat Pumps
Ground-source heat pumps use geothermal energy to heat homes. Temperatures below the surface of the Earth are relatively high and remain constant throughout the year. By burying a series of tubes deep in the ground, liquid running inside the tubes can carry geothermal heat up into a home. These systems cost from $5,000 to $10,000 to install, and they double as heat-dispersion systems in the summer.

Pellet Stoves
Pellet stoves are very similar to traditional wood-burning stoves except, they use a pellet fuel made from scrap wood, corncobs or other sustainable materials. While stoves are much less efficient than wood boilers, pellets are more efficient as a fuel than cordwood is. One positive feature of pellets is that they can also be used in wood gasification boilers. This makes wood boilers fueled with pellets one of the best choices you can make when it comes to alternative home heating.

Michele Filipkowski is part of a team of elite writers that have contributed to hundreds of blogs. Contact her @micheleashley89.