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Heating your house doesn't have to break the bank

POSTED: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Scotty Miles with A Advantage Tree Removals splits and stacks firewood Monday. Firewood is an inexpensive way to heat a home using a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

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As the mercury dips each winter, the cost of heating homes soars.

Following nights of near-freezing temperatures, the National Weather Service is calling for temperatures hovering between 38 degrees and 42 degrees today.

While it might be tempting to inch the thermostat up a costly few degrees, heating experts suggest insulating homes and limiting use of space heaters as ways to curb heating costs.

One of the more cost-effective ways to cut heating expenses is to add attic insulation, reports the Department of Energy. It’s also important to clean and dust baseboard heaters and radiators and keep filters changed on heat pumps. Clogged filters make the heating system work harder to produce a comfortable air temperature.
And window air conditioner units should be checked all around the top, bottom and sides of the unit to make sure no heat can escape from the house and no cold air can seep in. Homeowners can use air conditioner covers to seal the units and use caulk to seal openings for plumbing, duct or electrical wiring that penetrates through exterior walls and floors.

According to Jackson Electric Membership Corp., 68 degrees is an efficient thermostat setting for homes in winter. A home heating bill can increase 3 percent for every degree above the 68-degree setting.

Jackson EMC also recommends home-owners install a programmable thermostat so thermostats can be lowered while residents are away at work. Turning your thermostat down to 65 degrees for eight hours a day can save as much as 10 percent of a home’s heating costs.

Space heaters can be used to add heat to a small area or room, but Jackson EMC suggests that homeowners turn thermostats down and use space heaters for short periods of time only, or the heating bill will run high.

As for cozying up to a fire in the fireplace, Tony Cook, owner of A Advantage Tree Removals Unlimited that sells firewood out of Murrayville, said the old-fashioned wood heater gets him through the winters.

“I think a lot of people supplement their house with firewood to get fuel costs down. Burning a fire lets them turn their thermostat down a little lower,” he said.

But Jackson EMC heating tips reveal fires may be one of the most inefficient heating sources used in homes because roaring fires can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside. That warm air is replaced by cold air coming in, which a heating system must also heat.

If you rarely use the fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.

To make your fire more efficient, the utility recommends reducing heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox if available or opening the nearest window about 1 inch and closing the doors leading into the room. The utility also suggests installing tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.



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