In Nova Scotia, 58 per cent of homeown- ers heat their homes with oil. The reason, says Debbie Jamieson with the Canadian Oil Heat Association, is that heating with oil is reliable, comfortable, and provides more heat per BTU than any other fuel source on the market.
“Today the oil heat industry in Nova Scotia delivers a new and improved home heating fuel to many areas of the province that surpasses earlier heating efficiency and environmental perfor- mance standards,” Jamieson says
She says oil isn’t an inefficient, unsafe dinosaur fuel source that produces harmful emissions. Over the past three decades, the oil and the technology used in oil heating has changed significantly, making oil heat a suitable option for many homes. The refining process is now able to cut out significant amounts of sulfur in the oil. The introduction of other fuel technology such as bio-blends helps reduce emissions to near-zero levels.
Heating technology is also now much more efficient. Products such as Energy
Star qualified oil-fired appliances reach efficiencies of up to 97 per cent, Jamieson says, making oil an affordable option that is easier on the environment. She also says that many homeowners are using oil heat along with renewable sources such as solar water heating systems.
Solar Hot Water
Another benefit of using oil to heat your home is the option to introduce renew- able sources of heat, such as solar energy.
Specifically designed to absorb power from the sun’s rays, systems using solar evacuated glass tube technology can be fitted to supply pre-heated water to any domestic hot water boiler – oil, gas or electrically heated – making them a truly diverse and realistic renewable energy option for any home using hot water baseboards, radiators or in-floor radiant heat.
The system works in conjunction with a traditional water heater, which will serve as the backup system at times when the sun isn’t shining. An anti-freeze solution that flows through the system’s pipes is heated, which in turn heats the water via a heat exchanger.
Typically rooftop installations, the systems are relatively straight-forward for licensed professionals to install on both new and existing homes. Tom Allen is with Thermo Dynamics, a company that sells a number of solar- based products, including solar water heaters, solar-powered pumps, and natural convection heat exchangers. Allen says these products may require a
larger up-front investment, but after five to ten years, the energy produced will be free since these products can last up to 50 years. Other benefits include reduced emissions and a smaller environmental footprint.
Kelly Lunn, owner of Encom Alternative Energy Solutions, agrees that the long- term savings available from alternative energy sources is well worth the initial investment. Encom offers clients a range of products from solar hot water systems, energy efficient heating systems, clean fuel automatic generators and off-grid
or grid-tie power systems that use solar or electric power. However Kelly notes that homeowners really need to do their homework when they are researching a company that uses alternative sources of power. That research will also save the homeowner money.
“Make sure the company has a good reputation, a large client base and install and support the systems they provide directly (not subcontracted), along with good long-term warranties. And if the systems they are considering are CSA approved, then the rebates available can be as high as few thousand dollars.” Many of EnCom’s clients are getting up to $3750 in rebates (after an energy audit.
Lunn also suggests homeowners ask for references from the company and research them through via the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association.
There are other options to consider when choosing your source of home heating, such as a heat pump. Heat pumps and forced-air systems are popular in many homes. But not all heat pumps are created equally. Jack Knox with Hali- fax Heating says many new homes are equipped with heating systems too small for the requirements of the home. Homeowners, he says, need to do their homework to avoid additional costs when they realize the system they have is not the right one. All of the equipment should meet CSA F280 standards.
“This information is not important until it’s too hot and you can’t sleep or it’s too cold and you can’t get warm,” Knox says, whose company offers a range of forced air and hot water solutions. True, there may be more upfront costs to buy the proper size equipment, but the savings to be made over years will more than make up for the original investment. Knox says an extra $1000 upfront for the proper system could mean savings of $300 a year.
Installation is important too. Knox says 80 per cent of the performance of a heat pump is based on the proper instal- lation. And the proper installation of the rest of the system, including duct work, is crucial, too. Knox says duct work that is not done correctly can mean a heat pump system will quit before its time. “The heat pump is the heart and lungs of the house, but if the circulation system is not working the heart will die.”There are also ductless options, which Knox says are “every bit as good as having your house ducted.”
There are a few factors homeowners need to consider when searching for heating options. Knox suggests homeowners have a heat loss calculation done on their home, on room-to-room basis. That’s because each room has different heating and cooling requirements based on their use and the direction they face. Home-owners should ask for the drawings of the design of the system to make sure the system is correct. Of course, homeowners won’t know the specifics of a system, but a professional could help them.
“Make sure the work is done properly,” Knox says. “It’s not worth taking a chance.”