Tired Of Paying For Utilities? The Pros And Cons Of Alternative Heating Sources

If you are looking for a way to move from using electricity, oil, or gas to heat your home, you may be on track to save yourself some money. However, there are some things you should know about using alternative heating methods, in order to choose the one that is most convenient for your family. 


Coal, once used widely in homes across Canada, is now an underutilized resource. However coal offers a variety of benefits over modern heating. These include:

  • a cheaper cost. Coal actually can be very affordable. Depending on your house size and heating needs, buying coal in bulk can cost up to 40% less than natural gas, and over 60% less than heating oil.
  • coal burns more efficiently than oil or gas heat. Also, coal burns hotter than oil or gas, which means you will need less coal to heat a space.
  • coal can be regulated by a thermostat. While you can get coal furnaces that require you to manually figure out how much coal to burn through trial and error, more modern designs feed the fire when the house cools, and slows the burn when the house is warm.

There is a reason, however, that many people have chosen to go with gas or oil furnaces. Coal has some disadvantages, and you should be prepared for them if you decide to use this fuel. They include:

  • the need for storage space. If you buy coal by the tonne, you'll need a place to keep it. Usually, a shed or in-ground box works quite well. If you have a small property, this may be a problem.
  • cleaning and feeding the coal stove. Even if your stove is regulated by thermostat, you will need to make sure you clear the ashes from the furnace every few days, and reload the coal hopper just as often. Coal means more work for you.
  • cleanliness. Not all types of coal are created equally. If you go for anthracite coal, your fire will burn cleanly and efficiently. However, some coal is bitumenous, which means it has not been refined of impurities, and will produce a greasy smoke when burned. This will require you to clean your house more often. If you are burning cleaner coal, you may not have this problem as often, but you will still need to clean your walls and other surfaces every few months. 


Another type of heating source that people turn to to avoid using conventional heating methods is the wood stove. These come in many forms, but remember, if you're trying to save costs, you should opt for a stove that burns logs instead of pellets. Wood stove have several advantages, including:

  • cheap or free fuel. Don't be fooled into buying chopped and stacked wood at full price. You can usually get wood for free or at least for a fraction of the normal cost. If you have forested land, you can get wood for yourself by harvesting the dead or sickly trees each year. You can also offer to clear wood from farmland, or clear scraps from lumberyards. 
  • well-distributed heat. If your wood stove is central to the home and is connected to the HVAC system with fans, you will feel the benefits of the heat in every room.
  • wood is a renewable resource. Unlike fossil fuels, trees continue to grow. Harvested wood for fuel can also help clear out trees that are diseased or dying, meaning that fewer healthy trees are burned.
  • wood fuel has a high return on energy return for energy invested.

So, why aren't all households burning wood? Well, some of the disadvantages include:

  • work and storage. If you're harvesting your own wood, you'll do the work with a chainsaw and the ax or log-splitter yourself. You need a place to dry and store the wood so that it is cured before burning, as you can't burn green trees. You'll need a place to put your ashes as well. 
  • pollution. Wood smoke is harmful to humans, and can contribute to poor air quality. However, modern wood stoves burn more efficiently than those of decade past, and you can have filters installed to help reduce your footprint. 

There are many ways to save when it comes to fuel costs, especially if you choose wood or coal heat. For more about this topic, contact a heating specialist today to see which option may be best for your home, and then you can start saving.