As much as you might enjoy the smell and comfort of your wood-burning fireplace, the sad truth is that most of the heat goes up the chimney. In addition, the fireplace will suck up some of the heat that your furnace has provided, making it run that much longer.
Ideally, one answer would be to install a gas-burning insert. Or, if your heart is set on wood, you can choose a wood-burning insert. Unfortunately, both of these cost quite a bit of money.
There are a few things you can do to make your current fireplace a little bit more efficient, although using it sparingly is still the best solution.
- Make sure you use seasoned wood. Green wood not only burns less efficiently, but it causes more creosote build-up in your chimney, and will often result in a smoky fire.
- Install good quality glass doors, and keep them closed when using the fireplace.
- Replace your current damper with a chimney cap or top sealing model if it is more than a few years old.
- Put a heavy metal sheet (fireback) behind the fire along the inside back wall of the fireplace. Cast iron is commonly used. This will cause some of the heat to be bounced back into the room instead of up your chimney.
- Buy some sort of fireplace plug that will block cold air from entering your home when the fireplace is not in use.
If your home has ceiling fans, it may not have occurred to you to use them during the winter months. However, when you consider that hot air rises, it makes sense. There’s a lot of wasted warm air sitting in the upper part of a room, particularly if you have high ceilings.
Fans are normally set to run counter clockwise to circulate cool air in the summer. For winter use, reverse that so it runs clockwise. Turn it on low speed so that it will do its job without creating a draft. With proper use, you may find that you are able to turn your thermostat down a couple of degrees.
A program which may be unfamiliar to many is the Weatherization Assistance Program or WAP. It is run by the U.S. Department of Energy which gives money to the states to distribute to local governments, community action agencies or nonprofits. They, in turn, use that money to assist low income homeowners and even renters in reducing their energy costs.
If you are approved, an inspector will come to your home and conduct an energy audit. This will involve checking for heat loss as well as safety features. If the audit shows that your home could benefit, a work crew will come to do such things as add insulation, plug leaks, improve dryer vents or install weatherstripping.
There is a limit to how much can be spent on each home, but everything that is done is free. This is a wonderful opportunity for low income families to reduce their heat bills and improve the safety of their residences. The application process is easy and quick.
To find out more and to learn how to apply check here: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/wap_apply.html. If you look on the right side of that page, you will see a box that gives you a link to the contact person for your state.
With winter approaching, it’s a good time to think about ways to lower your heating bills. Although some things cost quite a bit of money, others require very little outlay of cash.
- If you don’t have very good windows, and can’t afford to replace them, seal them on the inside or outside with plastic and tape.
- If you have a window air conditioning unit, either remove it for the winter, or seal it with plastic and tape. Covers can also be purchased for them, but they don’t always stay on in a strong wind.
- Check for any gaps around windows or along the foundation of your house, and seal with caulk.
- Use weatherstripping to fill the areas around doors and windows where cold air is entering.
- Limit use of your fireplace, and when not in use, close the damper. Wood fireplaces are cozy, but not very efficient.
- Close the doors to rooms that you don’t use, and close the vents on the registers.
- Move furniture away from registers so the air will circulate better.
- Lower the thermostat when you’re going to be gone for several hours.
- As noted in an earlier post, use a space heater to warm up the living room in the evening.
- Wear more clothes and wrap up in blankets at night.
- My feet always get cold, so I bought slippers with removable microwave packs to keep them warm.
These are some of the less expensive ways to save money on heating costs. When you have a little extra money, you might want to consider other measures such as:
- Buy a programmable thermostat so you don’t have to remember to turn the heat down at night or when you’re gone.
- Increase the amount of insulation in your house.
- Replace your old furnace with a more efficient one. Income tax credits are available until 12/31/10. Check here for information: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index
- Replace old windows and doors. The above credit applies to these too.
I live in an old drafty house in Michigan. I moved in last year before the winter started and suffered a $550 heating bill in January. Even though I turned down the heat when I was gone and while sleeping, the heating bill was still enormous!
This year I’m prepared.
- I plan on installing insulation in the attic (since heat rises, this is a huge source of heat loss).
- Inspect closely for windows that leak.
- Using space heaters in certain areas.
Space heaters are a great way to conserve energy when using a small space in a large house. Overall, space heaters are less efficient than using your home’s heating system, but it is much more efficient to heat 100 square feet in a 1400 square foot home than to heat the whole house.
When I sleep, I only need heat in my room. When I’m awake, I really only need heat in the living room. This way, I can keep the heat lower in areas that I’m not using and still be warm.
I use a space heater that looks like a radiator. It lets out consistent, quiet heat. Like this, http://www.amazon.com/DeLonghi-EW7707CB-Oil-Filled-ComforTemp-Technology/dp/B002PLQ4T8/ref=sr_1_18?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1286894855&sr=1-18