It may still be summer, but homeowners around the country are already in a panic over winter heating costs.
The government is predicting record-high heating costs this winter, a 20 percent increase from last year. But there are affordable, efficient heating options that can ease the pain. "Good Morning America" contributor and The Wall Street Journal writer Wendy Bounds investigated some of the latest energy-efficient, affordable heating options for the coming winter.
The pellet stove is one renewable energy source option. The stove burns wood waste material that has been reprocessed and molded into pellet form.
"Looks like rabbit food," Bounds commented.
A small pellet stove could heat an 1,800-square-foot home and shave up to 40 percent from a heating bill. Stovemakers also are building units that run off more unusual fuels, such as cherry and olive pits and corn.
Bounds also looked at the more standard version of the stove, which burns wood.
A wood-burning stove today is far more efficient than those from the 1970s and 1980s. It heats the home like a pellet stove, but burns real wood instead of compressed sawdust pellets. And it doesn't need electricity, which can add up to more savings.
Next, Bounds looked at fireplace inserts that can help keep heat from escaping the house when an open fire is roaring. They can be a good option for those who already have existing fireplaces. You simply place the unit into your fireplace for efficiency and can burn pellets or wood.
A doorway fan can help to move the heat from the stove area to other areas of the house where you know you'll need the heat.
Heating an entire house with solar energy can be very expensive, but using it to heat your water is a much more affordable compromise. Bounds found that you can get a solar system for between $3,000 and $9,000 installed, and it can offset between 50 to 75 percent of your hot water bill.
Solar tubes are one option. Thirty solar tubes will take care of the average family of four, allowing the family to do the dishes, wash their hair -- everything you need hot water for. They can help cut down on hot water bills all year, and there are often tax credits available to help pay for your initial costs.
Here are the relative costs of fuels Wendy looked at:
Wood Pellet Stove
$250 per ton (approximately three tons used per heating season)
Wood Burning Stove
$200-$300 per cord (two to five used per heating season)
To calculate the cost to heat your home per month with various fuels, click here.
And to read more about pellet fuel and its savings, click here.