How to heat, cool the house--and not lose your shirt
You don't have to overdress to stay warm in the house and at the same time cut wintertime fuel costs. And you don't have to overspend on electricity in the summer to keep cool.Skip to next paragraph
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The price of fuel oil, natural gas, and electricity are almost keeping pace with the upward trend in gasoline prices. Thus, right now may be the time to take whatever steps are required to be ready for seasonal extremes.
The federal Conservation and Renewable Energy Inquiry and Referral Service (CREIRS) has some helpful suggestions for saving energy at home. While some projects may be a little expensive, in the long run spending some money now should save more money later.
Here are some ideas to consider:
* Plant trees and shrubs to form a windbreak and provide shade. They will have the additional benefit of beautifying the landscape. Windbreaks should generally be on the north side of the house.
American Association of Nurserymen (AAN) experiments show that a tall windbreak can reduce by as much as 25 percent the fuel cost of a house in the wide open, wind-wept states of the Great Plains, such as South Dakota. And in the Eastern states, where winds may not be as strong, evergreen trees strategically located around a house, especially on the north and west sides, can cut fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent, particularly if the bushes are as high as the house.
Evergreens that reach down to the ground and and are close to the outside walls of the house are the most efficient, because evergreenbranches retain their needles during the winter, creating an insulated space between the walls and plants.
For summer shade, plant trees to the east and west of the house--but not too close--so that the house receives as much shade as possible for as much of the day as possible.
Deciduous trees drop their leaves in the winter, allowing the sun's rays to warm the house.
During the summer months the AAN measured a difference of between 8 and 10 degrees F. on shaded and unshaded outdoor walls. Properly placed deciduous trees break up and reduce the direct rays of the sun in the summer, thus cutting air conditioning use in half.
* Install a vestibule with an inside and outside door, or use the garage entrance as an air lock, to keep from chilling the rest of the house each time someone opens the outside door.
Also, a service entrance or walkway through an attached garage may allow the garage to be used as an air lock. Keep the garage door closed and use this entrance during the winter.
* Use ducted exhaust fans infrequently in the winter because warm house air goes out the duct with the odors.
Save electric energy in the summer by using power fans efficiently and correctly, assuming you do not have air conditioning. A whole-house fan that draws air from the living areas of the house and exhausts hot air through and from the attic is a good idea. Make sure to close up the house when the outside temperature is high; then open the windows and turn on the fan in the evening when the temperature drops.
Use a fan in the attic during the daytime to exhaust superheated air in the attic.
* Install storm sash over any poorly fitting basement window. Because colder air falls, much cold air infiltrates through poorly fitting basement windows and cracks.
* Inspect the basement headers, the large boards at the ends of the floor joists on the outside walls, for insulation bats. A crack that is only one-sixteenth of an inch wide and runs 32 feet along the base of a wall, is the equivalent of a hole two inches square, warns CREIRS.