Throughout our country, many electric power companies recently raised their rates, and are expecting to soon hike them again. Suppliers of natural gas as well as other heating fuels are expected to do the same. In fact, some analysts claim consumers might have an astounding price increase of 71 percent for this coming winter’s heating bills.
So, what can a homeowner do?
While they certainly are not a cure-all for skyrocketing expenses, there are three simple and easy but effective things you can do that should help keep your home comfortable and your costs down.
Hands off the thermostat!
Whether you live in a Monolithic Dome or not, make up your mind to set your thermostat at a comfortable temperature and leave it there.
If you are in a Monolithic Dome, equip it with a digital thermostat, one that controls the temperature to one degree Fahrenheit. Then set it and forget it! Ask all other occupants to forget it as well.
Here’s the reason: In a Monolithic Dome, if you suddenly feel cold and turn the temperature up, it will warm you to the point of feeling too warm. So then what will you do? Of course, you will turn it down again. In other words, you will end up chasing the temperature. Not an economical practice – nor does it make your home comfortable.
The interior temperature of a Monolithic Dome stays the same for hours. When you make temperature changes, your furnace system tries its best to heed your wishes. But it will always overshoot the mark.
In a conventional home, when leaving the house for many hours or days, it is wise to reset the temperature to a higher-than-usual setting in the summer and a lower one in the winter. But don’t bother to do that in a Monolithic Dome.
Individuals have their own thermostats – ones that are not known for their accuracy. At exactly the same temperature, folks can feel too warm at one time and too cool at another. Solve that problem by adding or removing personal coverings. Put on a sweater or wrap yourself in an afghan if you’re too cool; do the opposite if you’re too warm.
Keeping the thermostat at one setting saves energy and money. I learned that a long time ago when I was building conventional, custom homes in Idaho.
So, when I built a new office in Idaho Falls, I equipped a central wall with a dummy thermostat for the secretaries to play with. I hid the real thermostat behind a picture on a hall wall, where the air and temperature could get to it, but the secretaries couldn’t.
Keep the furnace fan running!
Most modern homes have thermostats equipped with two settings for the furnace fan: Auto and On. Set yours to the On position and leave it there. That’s good advice for any house, any time, any where. The furnace fan burns very little electricity, but it keeps the air moving continually throughout the house.
If you have a multi-speed fan, set it at one of the slower speeds. If the fan’s too noisy, have the fan’s motor pulley replaced; that will slow it. A slow fan running all the time is much better than many fans running some of the time.
Regardless of the structure – dome or traditional, home or office – a continually running fan continually cleans the inside air. The fan moves more air through the filters. Obviously, you then might have to change the filters more often, but you will have a cleaner, healthier, less costly environment.
During hot weather, most air conditioners do not turn on as often with a furnace fan running. Then too, the furnace fan supplementing the air conditioning lessens the chance of mold and mildew.
Keeping the furnace fan running is another one of those lessons I learned during my Idaho, home-building days. A local Lennox Furnace dealer taught me that. But just the other day, one of my assistants told me that the Owners Manual that came with her recently purchased Carrier Furnace also suggests setting the furnace fan to run continually.
Keep the ceiling fans running!
Most people are comfortable in a five-degree temperature range when they cannot feel air blowing directly on them. That’s important. It means that a meeting room that starts out at 68 degrees can climb to 73 degrees without the occupants minding.
But here’s an even more important finding: When people can feel air blowing, their comfort range goes up an additional six degrees!
Obviously, ceiling fans have an important impact – bigger than I used to think. Under a running ceiling fan, many people can comfortably sleep through a summer night with their thermostat set at 80 degrees. So turn the ceiling fans on and allow them to run. They do not use a lot of power – only about as much as a 100-watt light bulb.
Bob Vila, TV’s home improvement guru, agrees with that advice. On his website, Villa says that running a ceiling fan in the summer can make you feel four degrees cooler, even without air conditioning. He also says that ceiling fans can save 10 to 15 percent on heating and up to 40 percent on cooling.
For optimum efficiency, run the ceiling fan counter-clockwise during the summer and clockwise during the winter. Ceiling fan blades should be between seven to nine feet above the floor and ten to twelve inches below the ceiling. And if you’re buying new ones, look for Energy Star ceiling fans; they circulate 15 percent more air.