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Indoor Climate Control
THE ENERGY OPTIONS.
Two hundred years ago, heating systems were decidedly low-tech. If you wanted warmth, you lit a fire in the fireplace. If you were hot, you opened the doors and windows.
In the twentieth century, wood and coal, long the most common energy choices, have been largely superceded by oil, municipal gas, and electricity. Increasingly solar and geothermal energy are being used, too, often in conjunction with more traditional sources. The best choice for you depends upon many factors, including the nature of your existing system, the climate where you live, the relative energy costs in your area, and of course, your budget.
The choice isn't always obvious. In many parts of the country, natural gas is the least expensive fuel and the clear favorite. In some rural parts of the country, however, where there are no pipelines, liquefied petroleum (LP) is the substitute. It often isn't as economical as natural gas.
For many years, oil was the great energy bargain. Then in the 1970s, prices rose rapidly. As the cost of oil skyrocketed, countless homeowners in northern areas installed woodstoves, seeking to take advantage of a resource that was widely available, cheap, and renewable. But the rules continue to change. Today we think of burning wood as labor intensive and, particularly with older stoves that lack the latest advances, it's distinctly unfriendly to the environment. A woodstove sends up the chimney a range of unburned gases and releases particulate matter as well. In the meantime, oil prices have come back down, and today oil is, once again, favorably priced.
All of which is to say the right fuel isn't obvious. Your decision about which source you should use should be made in tandem to your decision about the heat distribution system.
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