Home Heating Myths that Will Cost you Money This Winter

winter houseDo you want to save money on the cost of heating a home this winter? These common home heating myths can lead to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost energy expenses.

Myth #1: If I close the heat vent in a room I'm not using, I'll save money on heating the rest of my house.

FALSE: While this seems like a practical idea, closing the heating registers in unoccupied rooms actually makes the air flow in your central home heating system unbalanced. The system will work inefficiently, causing you to use the energy you're trying to save. Plus, since the system is working harder, it could lead to a breakdown.

On top of this, since warm air naturally flows into colder spaces, the unused room will still draw heat from the rest of the house. You'll end up turning up the thermostat in order to compensate for the heat loss. There go your savings!

Myth #2: Heating my basement will keep my first level warmer.

FALSE: The only thing heating your basement is going to accomplish is keeping your basement warm, which is great if you're going to be in the basement. Otherwise, most of that heat is wasted - only a small percentage will travel upstairs. You are, dollar for dollar, better off just heating the rooms, you're actually using.

Better energy savings will come from installing good quality insulation between the basement and first floor. You can also insulate your water heater and hot water pipes to prevent excess heat loss.

generic thermostatMyth #3: The higher I set the thermostat, the faster my house will heat up.

FALSE: A heater only has two settings, on or off. Cranking the thermostat won't make it heat faster - it will just make it work longer to reach the higher temperature. Say it will take 20 minutes to reach 72 degrees. If you set the thermostat to 74 degrees, it will still take 20 minutes to reach 72. And then the heater will keep running another 10 minutes to raise the temperature to 74.

The only way to change how fast a heater raises the temperature is to change the amount of energy it uses, therefore changing the amount of heat it produces, measured in BTUs. This variable heat function is available in many portable heaters that allow you to change the amount of electricity the heater uses - usually between 600 watts, 900 watts, and 1500 watts. Keep in mind that it uses the same amount of energy to raise the temperature one degree regardless of the watts used - 1500 watts will just get it done faster.

Myth #4: I need to heat my whole home to keep the pipes from freezing.

FALSE: While it is necessary to prevent pipes from freezing in especially cold weather, heating the whole house is a particularly inefficient way of doing so. A better, more cost-effective way of protecting your pipes is to install heat tape, which operates at just 3 watts per foot.

Of course, if you live in a location where pipes freezing is only an occasional possibility, the cheapest preventative is to turn off the water at the meter and open all the faucets on those nights when freezing is a risk.

Myth #5: It costs less to keep the heat running in my home even when I'm not there.dollarsign

FALSE: Though many people like to argue otherwise, it actually costs you more to keep your house warm all the time, even when you're sleeping or not there. The explanation is simple science: heat likes to move into colder areas, and the bigger the difference in temperatures the faster heat transfer. So the warmer your house is, the faster it loses heat. When the heater is operating, the house is always losing heat and the heater must work continually to keep it at the set temperature - "topping off" so to speak.

It's cheaper to reheat the house once you've returned home then it is to provide heat for an empty home. Even the U.S. Department of Energy agrees: setting your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours a day can save you 10% on your heating bills.

If you have trouble remembering to set your thermostat back when you leave (or you want to ensure that it's warmed up nicely by the time you get home) invest in a programmable thermostat.

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