Energy Savings Begin with Your Thermostat
Size-wise, the thermostat to your heating and air conditioning system is fairly small. Yet this small device is obviously a major player in the control of your energy costs. According to the Department of Energy, if you set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills. Each degree accounts for a savings of as much as 1 percent when the setback period is eight hours long. (In the summer, you can follow the same strategy – just in a different direction.)
This “setback” makes even more sense when you consider that your home is either unoccupied for that period of time, or else it is when you are sleeping and don’t need the higher heating level. In other words, the energy savings come with no sacrifice in comfort.
Furthermore, you can make these temperature adjustments automatically and on a set schedule with the assistance of a programmable thermostat. These energy-saving devices can store multiple daily settings that, if needed, you can always override manually when your schedule changes. Because you can set the temperature changes to take place automatically, your house can return to a comfortable temperature before you return home or before you rise for the day.
Choosing Your Programmable Thermostat
How do you know which programmable thermostat is best for you? Energy.gov explains your basic options: “Most programmable thermostats are either digital, electromechanical, or some mixture of the two. Digital thermostats offer the most features in terms of multiple setback settings, overrides, and adjustments for daylight savings time, but may be difficult for some people to program. Electromechanical systems often involve pegs or sliding bars and are relatively simple to program.”
Will these continuing changes increase the work your system has to perform? Energy.gov provides another important piece of information: “A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer – a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.”
A Deadly Intruder that Doesn’t Make a Sound: The Dangers of CO Poisoning
There could be a danger in your home that you can’t see, feel or taste but that can create serious health risks for your family. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of various types of fuels. These include propane and natural gas, as well as wood, charcoal, oil, coal and kerosene. Equipment with internal combustion engines can also produce carbon monoxide, including generators, cars and lawn mowers.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, “On average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas.”
Because you can’t see or smell CO, people may not realize they’re being poisoned. Initial symptoms mimic the flu and other illnesses. These include: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. At higher levels of CO poisoning, symptoms become more severe: mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and death.
Preventing CO Poisoning
The CPSC offers several ways to prevent CO poisoning, including:
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. Also have chimneys and flues checked.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool in or near an enclosed space such as a garage or house – even with open doors and windows.
- Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. CO alarms should be installed in the hallway near every separate sleeping area. (CO alarm isn’t a substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO.)
- Don’t use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, tent, etc. unless use in an enclosed space is part of its design and gives instructions for this use.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
- During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
How to Lower Your Energy Use This Winter
The energy efficiency of your home is influenced in large part by small steps. Some of these practices are as simple as turning off lights when you leave a room or unplugging appliances when not in use (many of these can siphon off small amounts of electricity even when powered off). And that’s just the beginning of a long list of areas where you can lower your energy costs.
Steps for This Winter
As a matter of fact, the National Association of Home Builders provides a number of tips for reducing energy consumption in your home over the next few months. These include:
- Minimize hot water use by taking shorter showers and washing your clothes in cold water.
- Use your dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.
- Try setting your water heater at 120 degrees.
- Clean or replace heater and air conditioner filters regularly. Keep outside vents free of leaves or debris that may clog vents.
- Use kitchen, bath and other exhaust fans sparingly. They can blow away heated or cooled air.
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless you have a fire going.
- When the heat is on, set your thermostat at as low a level as you feel comfortable. You save for each degree you lower the average temperature of your home.
- Keep windows near your thermostat tightly closed; otherwise it will keep your furnace working after the rest of the house is heated to the desired temperature.
- If you have oil heat, have the firing rate checked periodically.
- Dust and vacuum radiator surfaces frequently. Dust and grime impede the flow of heat.
- Keep draperies and shades open in sunny windows; close them at night.
- Keep your heating and cooling system well-tuned by a professional service person.
Since heating and cooling take up about half of your energy bills every year, the Department of Energy says that you can save about 30 percent on your energy bill when you take a “whole-house” approach that includes proper system maintenance, air sealing, recommended insulation installation and efficient thermostat settings. If you’d like our help, schedule an appointment or learn more about Parker Heating and Air Conditioning here.
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