Houses being built today are much better insulated (and often smaller) than the ones built even a few years ago. Nowadays, a well-insulated, 1200-sq.-ft. house may have a design heat load of only 10,000 to 15,000 Btu/hour, rendering even the smallest available boiler or furnace (50,000 to 80,000 Btu/hour) overkill. In this article, contributing editor Martin Holladay looks at more appropriate solutions: a single point source such as a woodstove, a pellet stove, or a direct-vent gas space heater; electric-resistance baseboard heaters; a packaged terminal heat pump (PTHP); a ductless minisplit heat pump; and a hot-water coil in a ventilation duct. The article includes two examples of homes that use one or more of these solutions: a superinsulated duplex with a design heat load of 12,000 Btu/hour, and a net-zero-energy house with a design heat load of 10,500 Btu/hour.
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