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Winter Tips for Warmth and Savings

It's the time of year when homes have their highest energy demand of the year.  Heating accounts for 34% of all annual utility usage and is part of what makes an average home twice the emitter of carbon dioxide emissions as a vehicle. Here are some ways to reduce the demand for expensive space heating.

(1) Limit fireplaces. They look and intuitively seem warm, don't they? Wood burning fireplaces are only about 10% efficient and have huge combustion requirements (the amount of air needed). Although not seen with the naked eye, fireplaces use huge amounts of air you've paid to heat in the house to fuel their combustive process. As they draw in air for the fire (about 400 cubic feet per minute), 90% of that air goes up through the chimney. The air sucked into the combustion process then has to be replaced in your home. In other words, as more air is used by a fireplace, it creates a vacuum that has to be replaced. So you wind up paying extra as the amount of air needed to be drawn in and warmed in your overall spaces is increased. Gas logs are pretty much the same.

(2) Use electric heaters. This is more energy efficient than fireplaces, only costing about two cents per hour of operation for a 500 watt setting. You get the same sense of direct heating as with a fireplace but without creating the huge air requirements of a fireplace. If you turn your central system down a few degrees and supplement it with an electric heater, you'll save money. If your central system stays at the same temperature and you supplement it with an electric heater, you'll spend more money. Either option is more energy efficient than fireplaces. If using an electric heater, be sure to follow the safety precautions.

(3) Check the ducts. To ensure that as much warm air as possible is delivered through your central system, check the ductwork and wrap any leaks with duct mastic. Distribution losses (what's lost while air is transported from your furnace through ductwork to the vents) often amounts to 30% So, sealing ductwork could increase efficiency and the warm air you receive considerably ... keeping you warmer and making your furnace work less.

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