Updating “Legacy” Heating and Cooling Systems for Greener Homes

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home heating system

Green living magazines and other popular forums spend a lot of space on high-end LEED house designs and systems that run completely on alternative or sustainable energy services.

As inspirational and interesting as it is to browse through fancy new stuff like geothermal and straw bale construction solutions, these kinds of innovations don’t cover the full range of ideas involved in making American homes greener. In fact, there’s a case to be made that a lot of these high-end building ideas don’t even scratch the surface.

The Average American Homeowner

While a few wealthy Americans have built impressive new green structures to live in, many of us live in pretty antiquated homes and rely on traditional or even partially obsolete technologies. Visit an average neighborhood and look at the heating systems connected to each building. Legacy systems like oil heat are relatively common, but they’re also some of the biggest obstacles to a greener block and a greener city.

Issues with Upgrades

The problem is that in a down economy, many Americans don’t feel they have the money to spend on upgrading their systems to be more efficient and conserve environmental resources.

In many cases, installing new duct work and new HVAC heat pumps can drastically cut down on the fuel used to keep a home or property, but the upfront costs are so painful to the average household budget that many of these upgrades keep getting delayed and postponed. Too many, the costs of refitting a home for energy efficiency are as unjustifiable as, say, sprays to repel skunks or outdoor fountains.

One of the ironies here is that some of these older systems actually cost more money over time than the cost to install a new more energy-efficient system. However, it’s consumer psychology, particularly the instinct toward frugality, that informs a lot of decisions about when and how to renovate home systems. That means that, for many families, a big move toward a greener HVAC setup isn’t in the cards anytime soon.

Options and Alternatives

Rather than paying thousands of dollars to get green consultants to come in and change a home, some homeowners are using temporary solutions such as using smaller electronic heaters to create a comfortable environment in particular parts of their home, while letting other spaces conform to the outdoor temperature. Another alternative is financing a big upgrade. Although it’s unpleasant for a lot of us to sign deals that include substantial interest, this is one way for families to manage their budgets while getting rid of obsolete technologies in their properties.

While brand-new green technologies are useful and valuable, it’s important for Americans to keep looking at what the majority of homes are using and take practical, manageable steps toward greener living, rather than at a “LEED dream” that stays in the realm of possibility, rather than reality.