I don’t know if you have a similar issue, but keeping a consistent level of warmth in all of the rooms of our house is a problem. Our house is around 3500 sq. feet, and has four bedrooms on the upper level. The thermostat is located in the center of the second floor, in the hallway. I can set it at 78 degrees and it keeps the main floor and the middle of the second floor pretty-much at that temperature. The problem is that two of the bedrooms, which are located at the far end of the house, always feel cold in the winter. We felt that turning up the heat in order to keep those rooms warmer wasn’t a wise thing to do, since it might drive our heating bill through the proverbial ceiling, so we opted for getting a couple of electric space heaters for these rooms. Bad idea. Here’s why: kids live in these rooms.
We bought 1500 watt heaters with automatic temperature regulators (for obvious reasons-kids) with the idea that a portable heater would be a great way to ‘take the chill’ off the morning. We also thought that the kids would be vigilant about turning them off in the mornings when they left for school. Wrong again. What we didn’t think about was that these thermostatically controlled heaters would automatically turn on again when the room got cold, which it did during the day. Once the temperature of the room reached a certain temperature, the heater would shut down. The kids just forgot to turn them off, because they didn’t ‘hear’ them running.
Our energy consultant asked us if we had portable heaters and asked us why we thought they were a better idea than turning up the heat. Of course, we thought it was going to be a cheaper way to bring heat to those cold rooms. He asked us if we knew how much they actually cost us to operate. We didn’t really have a clue. Here’s the reality of how much these things cost to run: At $.17 a KWH a 1500 watt portable heater running three hours a day costs around $23.00 a month to operate. Take that times two and we were looking at $46.00 a month, just to ‘take the chill’ off. Amazing what escapes us. That’s if they only ran the three hours. I could just see the heaters kicking-on-and-off-again throughout the day…with no one home. Add this additional amount to what we paid for the heaters and we felt like idiots.
O.K… so what were we to do? The rooms were still going to be cold if we didn’t do something.
Our issue was not wanting to increase our heating bill by turning up the furnace, but we didn’t want the additional $46.00 or more added to our heating bill, either. He told us that the ductwork in our house, because of the size, didn’t have the capacity to bring the needed heat to those out-lying rooms. If we turned up the heat, the rooms in the center of the house got warmer-too warm for us-even though the cold rooms did warm-up. Besides that, the additional heat seemed to want to kill these great fern plants that we have on the second story landing.
Our guy suggested something that did, in fact, work for us. In order to compensate for the inconsistent heat flow we could spend more money for a higher output furnace (which we weren’t going to do), or we could do the following (which we did):
• Select the temperature range on the thermostat that brought enough heat into the cooler rooms in order for them to be comfortable.
• In the rooms in the center of the house, close the heat registers so they would be less affected by the additional heat and subsequently, force more heat into the cooler rooms. We had to play with this a little in order to get the right balance, but it worked.
• Take the portable heaters out of the room and sell them on Craig’s list, which we did.
After a couple of months we noticed a couple of things:
• Our always-cold daughters stopped complaining about their rooms being cold.
• The overall house temperature seemed more balanced and comfortable.
• The increase in our heating bill increased only by around $20.00 a month-half of what we were unknowingly paying to heat those rooms.
• The ferns aren’t dying.
It’s amazing when one thinks about the concept of Hidden energy guzzlers. They really are hidden, and that’s what makes them so insidious when it comes to the impact that they have on our wallets. I have nothing against energy companies. I want to pay my fair share. Truth is, however, that I’d rather save what I can and spend it on something I enjoy. I figured that, with the amount of money we were going to save by being more energy efficient, I could eventually buy a new sea kayak. That didn’t go over all that well…