Fossil Fuels Vs. Natural Gas


Home heating systems (including central systems, wall/window mounted systems, roof mounted units, radiant systems or steam heated radiators) are fired by gas, electricity, coal or oil. In most parts of the country gas is far less expensive than any of the others making gas (natural or propane) our fuel of choice. Not only is gas inexpensive, 98 percent of all natural gas is pumped right here in the good old U.S. of A. The other two percent comes from Canada. Additionally, natural gas produces only one-half the CO2 produced by coal (no matter how clean it supposedly is) and 30 percent less CO2 than oil – and you know where we get most of our oil.

In other words, if you are against making the folks in the Middle East even richer than they already are you may want to look more closely at what powers the furnace in your home. Again, gas is less expensive, burns cleaner and it is not an import.

Folks in the Northwest get their electricity from the Columbia River for pennies compared to what we pay for it in other parts of the country. Hydroelectric power plants along the Columbia River are about the best and cleanest power generators that we know of. Unfortunately, hydroelectric plants like those on the Columbia can’t be built just anywhere.

What’s the point of all of our mumbo jumbo about power sources? It’s because we know that most electric power plants use imported oil or coal to generate electricity. The utilities would have us believe that plugging in an electric car for an overnight charge will save on gas or diesel fuel. Charging an electric car in your garage doesn’t eliminate the use of fossil fuels – it only changes who’s burning the fossil fuel – you or the power plant.

Thousands of folks in the northeast are switching from oil burning boilers to gas fired units. We know that in many cases this can be somewhat expensive, and even a hardship, but we hope that if you are using oil to heat your home that you change as soon as possible. It will be good for you and good for the country.

If you rent an apartment or a condo that uses oil heat speak to your landlord about upgrading to gas. If the landlord won’t listen, move to a rental unit that uses clean, inexpensive, energy efficient gas. Your rent check has the power to change the way we live – and breathe.

With everyone in the world claiming that their product is now “green” it amazes us how little real change has actually taken place. We can control our planet by making choices that benefit it and us. Eventually, gas will be replaced with wind, solar, or hydrogen energy. Until then we have to make the best of what’s available.

For more home improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59).

Tip - Combating “Dry-home Syndrome”

While your home’s heating system is designed to keep you warm during the cold winter months, it can cause your home to become too dry. Symptoms you experience as a result can range from a dry nose and throat to colds. One of the most effective methods of dealing with “dry-home syndrome” is use of a whole-house humidifier. A central humidifier supplies humidity to a home through the ductwork in a forced-air heating system. Whenever the furnace blower kicks on, the low-voltage electrical circuit that operates the humidifier does so as well. The humidifier operates when a room-mounted moisture-sensing device called a humidistat detects the air in the home is too dry. Homes with no ductwork or those heated with hot water or electricity cannot use a central humidifier. In these cases small, localized units are the answer. And that’s the On The House tip.

Question and Answer - Debris-filled furnace

Question: I would appreciate your advice, regarding what to do about a newly installed furnace.

When I turned it on for the first time, an unusual amount of debris came through the floor-vents (gritty dirt, aluminum foil pieces, stuff that looks like fluffy pieces of wool and sooty stuff too).

Assuming that the incident was a one-time thing, I cleaned up the mess and gave it no further thought. Much to my surprise, debris continues to spew out of the ducts. Although to a lesser degree, the strong blower from the furnace scatters dust everywhere.

I have been living in this house for more than 30 years and have had two other furnaces before, without all this happening.


Answer: It sounds to us like you have two problems: a sloppy furnace installation and a sloppy furnace installation. As a matter of fact we can almost guarantee that the installer you hired would probably be better off doing gardening.

The initial shower of debris (aluminum shavings, insulation, etc.) indicates a mess left in the duct pipes and adjacent air distribution cans that can only result when the installer isn’t careful about cleaning up during installation.

We feel that you should ask the contractor to come back to do a proper vacuuming of the ducting - at his expense. You didn’t leave the mess - he did. He will have to remove all of the register covers and feed a commercial (high-powered) vacuum hose deep into the ducting to clean up the mess that was left. Doing the job properly might take two visits. One to get the heavy debris and a second trip to get what comes loose after the first cleaning.

It would also be wise for you to check the furnace filters. If they were installed incorrectly or if they have gotten dirty prematurely (as a result of the grubby ducting), then during operation, the furnace will constantly generate a thin layer of dust from one corner of the house to the other.

The same thin layer of dust will result when a filter is the wrong size, has been installed backwards or is a cheap brand. Make sure that the filter being used is recommended by the manufacturer of the furnace.

Next time - hire a different contractor. And don’t recommend this one to your friends. In construction - a slob today is a slob tomorrow.


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