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Home Heating, Insulation & Energy Efficiency Questions
with replies by Thomas J. Elpel

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.


Questions Policy
      To avoid re-writing my book Living Homes for every person that comes along, please read the book before you write to me. Then, if you have any questions beyond what is presented in the text, then yes, please do write and ask away! I may be a little slow to answer, since I have more than a few distractions, but I will get back to you in time, and I will answer your question to the best of my abilities. Please let me know if I can post your letter and name to the website. Thanks!

      Also, if you have a better answer to a question than I do, or additional useful information, then please send me a note through our E-mail Contact Page, and I'll add your commentary to the web page. Questions and answers on these pages will help guide revisions of future editions of Living Homes.

Which heating method should we choose?

      I have a question about heating. In building my home I have been considering the following options to heat it.

1) Using radiant slab heating
2) Using a 72,000 BTU/Hr Fuel Oil Furnace (have already)
3) Using a Warm Morning Wood Stove (also have this already).

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.       The main concern my wife has with the radiant slab is the fact that we cannot have carpeting in the house. The reason I say this is that everything I read about this wonderful heating device requires a "bare floor" of some type. My wife likes to have carpeting if possible.

      I have the Fuel oil furnace and the wood stove already and they would heat the home just fine I believe. I can use both if I needed to. I don't have any real house plans drawn up yet, so anything is possible. I am just wondering how the floor would feel and if the carpeting is worth the trade off.

      I also hope to have the south side of the house set up to use solar heating if possible. I am sure that this would also mandate the use of no carpeting on the floor as well. So much to consider and plan on.

      Thank you for your time.



      The most important part is to make sure the rest of the house is very well insulated. We have an uninsulated slab with masonry tiles in our house (and no radiant tubing). The floor used to be very cold, until we better insulated other parts of the house. Now the floor is still mildly cool, but not bothersome at all. It is kind of like putting a hat on your head to warm your feet. Emphasize the insulation aspect everywhere else, and the floor will take care of itself.

      Keep in mind that you wouldn't want carpet in the kitchen and dining areas anyway, so you might install masonry floors there and place these rooms in the house where they would get optimal solar exposure.

      As for a heat source, would it be possible to install both the wood stove and the oil furnace? The cost should be low, since you have them both already. If you have access to cheap firewood, then it would be nice to use the stove. But it would also be handy to have the oil furnace for the various occasions when you would not be able to use the woodstove, such as when you are away on vacation, don't have time to get wood, or want to sell the house. You might also need the oil furnace for insurance purposes. Just be sure to install both of them in such a way that they could be replaced with later models if and when the need arises. You might be also be able to install some kind of ducting under the floor for the furnace.


Thomas J. Elpel

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
Check out Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.

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      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
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Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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