Energy Efficiency in the Darker Months

Sunburst VeiledFor many Californians, saving power in the summer is second nature --- we open windows and turn on fans rather than using central air conditioning. We turn lights off when we leave a room. We wait until nightfall to do laundry and dishes. The summertime tips are many and frequently stated; come fall, however, the wisdom dries up. Other than expensive things like re-insulating your house and investing in double- or triple-glazed windows, how can we be more efficient in the winter?

1. Wear more clothing and turn down the thermostat. I know, I know...total no-brainers. But really, make sure you have a sweater on before you turn the heat above 68°.

2. Use radiant space heaters instead of a forced air heat pump (except when every room is being used). Radiant heaters warm the surface of your skin, not the air surrounding it --- psychologically, radiant heat makes you feel much warmer than a forced air system set at the same temperature. In addition, air is one of the worst thermal masses out there; using it to transfer heat from furnace to every room in the house is inherently wasteful.

3. Use your ceiling fan on very cold days. As counter-intuitive as it is, a fan on its lowest setting will circulate the hot air which gathers near the ceiling without creating so much flow as to make you cold from convective heat loss. Fans draw just a few Watts and will make much better use of your heating dollars (regardless of heater type).

4. Re-arrange your furniture so that chairs/sofas/beds are near interior walls. In addition to keeping infiltration (drafts) away from your skin, it will allow what sunlight there is to heat the surfaces inside your space.

5. Open blinds when the sun is out; close them on cold, dark days. As mentioned above, using your floor as a thermal storage unit is very efficient; make sure the sun hits the floor when it's out. Conversely, convective cooling can be significant when the differential between house and outside temperature is >10° --- creating an airspace between window and blind effectively creates one more layer of insulation.

6. Place area rugs on hard-finish floors near frequently-used chairs, sofas and tables. Keeping your feet warm will keep you psychologically toasty.

If you want to know more, find more tips here.

Posted on Blog Action Day 2007: 8l0gg1ng 4 t3h 3nv1r0nm3n7s
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