Crank The Thermostat or Plug In The Space Heater?

As the cold season draws nearer, keeping the house comfortable becomes more and more of a balancing act. It can feel like you are paying a premium in gas and electricity just to keep warm at night. For the average home, heating makes up the majority of your monthly utility costs, and budget-conscious homeowners will do whatever they can to save some money during the winter. One common idea is to use a few electric space heaters rather than cranking up the thermostat. However, electric heaters can also consume large quantities of energy.

In order to determine the best course of action for your home, you have to look at a couple of key factors. The bottom line is that a space heater will never beat a properly sized furnace in terms of efficiently heating your home; however, there are certain scenarios where other solutions may be viable.

Heating a Room

If you work from home and you just need to keep your office comfortable during the day, a space heater may be the best answer. Because electric heating coils are typically at least 50% less efficient than natural gas, the rule of thumb is that the room should be less than one third of the total square footage of the home. Heating with space heaters in a smaller, confined space is a great alternative, just make sure to run the heat for the whole house a few times each day to keep the structure from freezing.

Heating a Small House

For houses smaller than 2000 square feet, no space heater will match the efficiency of your furnace. However, there is another alternative called a heat pump. During the milder periods of the winter, heat pumps run a heat that is up to forty percent more efficient than gas. Otherwise, the best solution will be to insulate the home and upgrade your windows.

Heating a Large House

Larger houses will operate most efficiently with a quality gas system, but there is still a great way to create more efficient comfort–zoning. By installing zone control, your furnace can be told to heat only the parts of the home where people are present. A high efficiency furnace that can control its energy use will give you a direct decrease in efficiency based on the percentage of the home currently being conditioned.

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Five Steps To A More Energy Efficient Home This Winter

As the temperature outside plummets, your home’s energy consumption climbs higher and higher. In order to keep the house comfortable, your furnace has to work overtime. In the modern technical age, the natural inclination is to think that the only solution is to upgrade your furnace. Fortunately, a few simple fixes can power up the effectiveness of your heating system with ease, creating a more energy efficient home at a fraction of the cost.

Fix Air Leaks

As the walls of your house expand and contract each season, little gaps will eventually begin to form in certain spots. This occurs most frequently where there are gaps in the wall, such as door frames, windows and outlets. On a cold, windy day these gaps will be easy to spot. Simply run your hand slowly along the frame of every door and window, and put a piece of tape at any spot where you feel cold air leaking in. Then, purchase a cheap caulking gun and seal every leak. This caulking will allow the house to better retain heat, thus reducing the number of times the furnace comes on each day.

Clean Air Filters

One of the biggest keys to an energy-efficient home is proper airflow. Dirty air filters restrict airflow, preventing the warm air produced by your filter from circulating effectively. Check your filters every month and change them at least once every three months to promote the best possible air circulation.

Seal Duct Leaks

Have your ductwork checked for leaks along the seams leading to the vents. This will ensure that no airflow is lost before the warm air enters your living space.

Programmable Thermostat

If you do not have a programmable thermostat, you are throwing money away each time you fiddle with the temperature. Programming allows the thermostat to keep the house comfortable during the times when people are active, and then give the unit a break when everyone is at work or asleep. Additionally, be sure to have the thermostat hold a lower temperature when you will be gone for longer than 12 hours.

Proper Pan Size

Creating an energy-efficient home extends beyond the heating system. Your stove has different burner sizes for a reason. When you use a smaller pan on a large burner, you are wasting the energy of any burner space not completely covered by the pan. Furthermore, if you use a large pan on a small burner, you will dramatically increase the cook time. This means that the burner will be on longer, consuming more energy.

Remember that energy efficiency is about the long term investment. Each small step you take may only save a few dollars this month, but that money adds up over time. Also keep in mind that when machines run more efficiently, they last longer. Getting a few more years out of your furnace could be a difference of several thousand dollars over your lifetime.

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