Save On Heating Costs, The Smart Ways
I'm not sure about you... but I like saving a few dollars here are there for a rainy day. Here in Estes Park winters can be a little tough on your heating costs. When it comes to heating your home, there are definitely a few common answers you'll hear for lowering the bills. One of them is usually to lower the thermostat - or to get a programmable thermostat, or even throw on a sweater (obvious, yet people love touting this one..) and those are true, good ideas. Serious home insulation is definitely another, and I'll probably get around to writing an article about this one at some point. Many think Solar Panels are great, but the payback time can often be 10+ years, and some folks don't even stay in the same house that long so it's not very economical. I'm talking about something different that gets overlooked often, and definitely does not get emphasized enough even when folks do think of it.
When you heat your home, the heated air rises and wants to continue to rise, straight out of your home. When it does escape, that air needs to be replaced. Where does that replacement air come from? Usually, it's from around doors and windows that have little cracks and gaps around the edges, sometimes there are outside pipes coming in the home that are not sealed up. What I'm trying to say is that with a little bit of time, and very little cost, you can seal up all those little gaps and prevent the new air from coming in, which then keeps the warm ($$ and expensive $$) air in your home.
The best part of all of this air sealing? It's really quite inexpensive. A little Caulk for the little cracks around window frames, weather stripping around the doors, or spray cans of expanding foam (one common brand is called Great Stuff) will all be readily available at your local hardware store. It would be a good idea to ask them questions about specific applications, and to read the instructions, but after that these are relatively easy do-it-yourself projects. These little improvements will pay for themselves in a shorter time span than most, and your family will be nice and toasty regardless of the temperature outside, snug as a bug in a rug!
I like the idea of having a comfortable home, so for me this is not just about the money. When a home is drafty, the cold air that seeps in creates cold spots. It could be near a big bay window, or if you are standing next to a back door. When you seal up air leaks, you create a much more comfortable home overall. To me, it just plain makes sense. If you enjoyed this article, you should check out my other write up that also pays for itself.. keep reading below..
If I had to.... put a couple of ideas on a list of things that will save on worldwide energy consumption, passive solar houses would be right up near the top. A perfect example of intelligent engineering, passive houses allow homeowners to tremendously lower the energy required to heat and cool a home because they’re so well insulated .. and designed to make intelligent use of the sun’s energy to warm spaces in cold weather. A home that is tightly insulated and warmed by the sun, (meaning that it’s a very bright, luminous space) is also more comfortable with fewer if any drafty locations. This type of design also has the benefit of not being more expensive necessarily, while saving money on heating costs every year for the life of the home - a win-win.
Most homes have some passive solar. It might be a sun room or simply a few windows facing south, but often times this can be improved to the point of dramatic passive solar gain in the winter months. In the summer when passive solar is not needed, larger overhanging roofs add shade when the sun is higher in the sky. This prevents unwanted overheating and keeps the home comfortable.
There are also retrofits that can be done with relatively minimal effort to improve many already existing homes. If you have a sun room or solarium that gets excessively hot to the point of discomfort, try adding thermal mass to the space. It can be in the form of rock, concrete, etc, or even a type of pool. What these objects do is they absorb the heat and keep the temperature fluctuations in a tighter range. Instead of your sun room climbing to 95 degrees, maybe it will only climb to 85, and at night when the temperatures drop, the thermal mass you added will slowly give off the heat it absorbed during the day. Another retrofit might be a south facing porch with an overhang. This could be easily enclosed and turned into a sun room of sorts that adds dramatic passive solar gain to a home. Even adding a quality window to the south side of a home and placing thermal mass in the area that the sun hits can have a fantastic effect on the comfort of your home.
These are just a few ideas to take advantage of mother natures free resource. There are many other options, including a favorite of mine, a Trombe wall. Another less known option is an Air Source Heat pump - which I think is so cool that I even wrote an article about them below. I can only make suggestions, and as always you should seek professionals to help you, but feel free to reach out to me and I'd be glad to help in any way I can.
I think many folks have a tendency to appreciate efficiency. Get your laundry done 5 minutes faster faster, win! Get your grocery shopping list filled and save 15%, nice! We all have an interest in savings, right?
Well, have I got a deal for you.... and it revolves around something we all have to deal with... heating our homes. Most of us are heating our homes with oil, natural gas, or worse, propane and electric. Yikes!
What if told you there is a cheaper way to do it all? Interested ? I would only assume this sounds like a good deal, and it is - and I am not trying to sell you a heating system at all, I am in the real estate business, not HVAC.
Recurring costs are the worst. Have a good week with one, and great, you feel like you've accomplished something. But hold on, there will be another week where you were lazy, or something came up, and wham! The savings from the week before is wiped out this time around. My point is, recurring costs can be irregular, expensive and frustrating.
Ok, I feel like the teasing has gone on too long here, so here's the meat and potatoes of this page ... ready? ---> AIR - SOURCE - HEAT- PUMPS. Ever hear of them? At first, neither did I! But since I'm a thorough detail-oriented guy, and I appreciate sharing, here you go.
Think of your refrigerator, it uses only electricity to keep your food cool, right? No oil, propane or natural gas, but how? Well for one, it uses a compressor to compress air and squeeze out the cold temperature it needs! Well, if you reverse that fridge technology, it HEATS your food, or better yet, your living room, which is the real goal here. Even better yet, in the summer when things are heating up, the air source heat pump will operate in the same manner as your refrigerator and cool your home also, amazing! Think I'm kidding? Google "air source heat pumps"..............
Not only all of this, but when it comes time to sell your house fast, people will love how inexpensive these units will heat your home!
The best part, these devices used to be only good in mild climates where you only needed a little extra heat to be comfortable, but now thanks to technological improvements, there are "cold climate heat pumps" that deliver wonderful heat down to -15 degrees fahrenheit! The efficiency drops a bit, but that is a very small price to pay considering the overall cost savings.
Wait, am I sensing a bit of doubt? Really, after all of the explaining? Well, I don't blame you. Most stuff online is about making money, and not about helping others. You, on the other hand, stumbled on MY site, and that means you get my habit of digging and my energy efficiency hobby. I dig LED bulbs and air sealing. You are welcome. Take a look at the Mr. Slim by Mitsubishi, and thank me later.
I have been thinking about soffit vents on and off for the last year - what they do, how they help and how all of it differs in different climates throughout the country. Now I am generally focused on the mountain climate being that I live in Estes Park Colorado, so that has been the region I think of when I came to these conclusions.
I have a somewhat typical roof ventilation system on my home from the 1970's. It has 1 gable vent, and 4 can-like roof vents. Now that isn't bad, except for 1 huge problem, no soffit vents at all. Let me explain why this is a problem.
Even during winter, the sunshine state of colorado has the suns rays hitting my roof all day, which in turn heats up the air in my attic. Now that the air is warmer, it REALLY wants to rise, and the vents indeed allow for exactly that which is good. But where does the replacement air come from?? See what I mean? It comes from inside my home, which is often heated air that I pay to make a comfortable temperature! In Estes Park, the heating season is longer than most places in the U.S.A, so letting the warm inside air creep up through my ceiling and into the attic is a huge waste of money.
Enter soffit vents. These vents go on the eaves of your home, AKA the underside edge of your roof system. Now with them in place, the warmer attic air that is escaping through the roof vents can be replaced with outside air, which then helps me to keep my warm air inside the living space!
Interesting, yet completely logical.
Jim Idler REALTOR Estes Park Real Estate