What’s Heating You?
The chilly autumn nights reminds us that it's a good time to take a look at your household utility budget and especially the percentage that is gobbled up by the cost to heat your home or condo. Lake Tahoe property owners are fortunate to live in a climate where air-conditioning is unnecessary except for a small percentage of places that get lots of sun. So, while homeowners in the Sierras save on cooling costs during the summertime, winter heating bills can add up quickly.
There are three major types of heating systems that dominate the infrastructure of properties in our market. Forced air gas, hydronic (either baseboard or in-floor radiant) and electric baseboard heat are the primary delivery methods for warming your abode. Sometimes you’ll find in-floor radiant electric heat. But this is generally confined to bathrooms and other small areas. A relatively low percentage of people burn wood as their main source of heat. However, many homes use a wood stove or fireplace as an auxiliary heat source or just to enjoy good times around the fire.
But on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe where we have over 300 days of sunshine per year, passive solar is a very inexpensive way to heat your home during the winter months. How well you can take advantage of using passive solar designs at your property will depend on a number of things, but it's a great way to supplement your built-in heating system. Houses with a southern or western exposure are well-suited to utilizing skylights and windows along with curtains and shades to regulate the amount of passive solar heat desired.
When buyers are shopping for homes at Lake Tahoe it's a good idea to take a close look at the heating system of any property you are considering purchasing and make an inspection of it a routine part of the due diligence process. If you are allergic to dust and pollen, you may prefer a property with a hydronic heating system instead of forced air gas. A hydronic boiler circulates fluid through a closed system of pipes that could be either in-floor radiant or installed in baseboards along the walls of the rooms. These types of systems are very quiet and do not blow dust and pollen into the air like a forced air gas system. It may take a little while longer for a hydronic heating system to warm the same space as a forced air gas system, but hydronic boilers are very quiet and efficient. When installing a hydronic heating system there are normally two or more “zones” so you can control the heat in each room or on each floor. This really helps to make the system more efficient and cost effective since you don’t need to heat the whole house if you are using only a few particular rooms.
Older forced air gas systems are generally one zone for the whole house or condo. While these types of heating systems are great for warming up a place quickly, if you are only using part of your property and paying to heat the whole place it will impact your budget more than a well-designed hydronic system. Many newer homes and remodel projects are going with 2 or 3 zones when replacing the original gas furnace. Engineering breakthroughs in furnace design have resulted in super high efficiency heating systems that are far more cost effective than the units installed when most homes were built here in the 1970s through the 1990s.
You won’t find many single family homes in Incline Village and Crystal Bay with electric baseboard heating, but this type of heat still exists in many condo developments. While some electric heating systems have a separate thermostat for each room or baseboard, that is not always the case. Using electricity to generate heat can be very costly, especially if a property is old and does not have good insulation.