No doubt with the frigid temperatures we are experiencing this week you are giving your furnace a workout. There are many ideas floating around about how to best save energy. Bruce Snead, our director of engineering extension at Kansas State University, always has some great tips for trimming the heating bills.
Infrared heaters are becoming quite popular. An infrared heater uses non-visible light, rather than electric resistance to produce heat. I know we enjoy the warmth our infrared heater puts out to keep our basement family room cozy. And of course, since hot air rises, we notice that our furnace runs less when the heater is on downstairs.
Space heaters typically can help to take the chill off a room, but rarely can be used as a sole – or continuous-heating source. Using these heaters can reduce the relative humidity in the room. When you are choosing a space heater make sure your unit has the Underwriter’s laboratory seal of approval before buying.
It is also recommended to choose one with an automatic shut off feature if the heater is tipped over or otherwise displaced. Fancier versions advertised with furniture or fireplace like finishes will not produce more heat or yield a greater savings on heating costs than equivalent capacity, less expensive, box-like heaters.
Additional recommendations include: 1) being present when a space heater is in use; 2) plugging the heater directly into a wall socket, rather than using an extension cord, which can increase fire and tripping hazards; 3) positioning a space heater well away from combustibles such as newspapers, toys, household upholstery or window treatments, and 4) using utmost caution with children, pets and older adults present.
To reduce energy costs without using a space heater, Snead’s tips include:
• Inspect, clean or replace the furnace filter regularly (at least quarterly)
• Have furnace serviced regularly (annually or at least every two or three years) to check control settings, operation and heat exchanger for optimum performance.
• Lower the thermostat by at least one degree to reduce energy costs; lowering a thermostat by three to five degrees can yield greater savings, often without disrupting the comfort level.
• Turn back the thermostat to adjust temperatures when the family is away from home. Some people prefer a programmable thermostat for this purpose.
• Caulk the home to seal interior cracks and openings and reduce air-leaks, check weather stripping on doors and windows.
• Consider heat-shrink protective plastic on the inside of windows to reduce drafts.
• Close draperies and blinds, particularly on northern exposures. Open draperies and blinds to southern exposures to take advantage of radiant heat from the sun.
• Resist the urge to close too many ducts or vents in lesser-used rooms; closing ducts or vents to 30 percent or more of a home can increase condensation, or affect furnace operation.
More energy efficient ideas are available at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state and on-line.
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.