Mindful Metropolis November 2010 : Page 17
run fans in reverse HOW: Find the switch on the fan’s wire housing and change direction to clock-wise. this pulls cool air up and circulates warmer air that’s pooled near the ceiling back around the room. run the fan at its lowest speed. WHY: reversing the direction cuts your heating costs as much as 10 percent. mind the furnace filter HOW: Keep the filter free of debris like dust, bacte-ria, mold, and pollen, all which clog and slow down the furnace. if you’ve got a throwaway fiberglass panel filter, remember to replace it monthly. but, since these only trap 10-40 percent of pollut-ants, consider switching to a permanent permatron dust-eater electrostatic Furnace Filter ($62), which traps 91 percent. Just slide it in where the old filter was, and rinse monthly. WHY: Keeping the furnace clean and properly adjusted reduces energy use, and saves up to 5 percent of household heating costs. decrease water heater temperature HOW: check the thermostat dial, often located near the bottom on the gas valve. the us department of energy (doe) recommends 120 degrees for optimum performance/efficiency. WHY: Lowering the tem-perature by 10 degrees saves about 13 percent on water heating costs. Heat rooms you use, when you use them HOW: if you’ve got a pro-grammable thermostat, remember to use it. if you don’t, it’s well worth fork-ing over a few bucks. a Honeywell basic program-mable thermostat is listed under $30 and they’re easy to install in half an hour with just a hammer, screwdriver, and drill. While programming the ther-mostat is key, forced air heat still means you’re losing heat in empty rooms. a promising new solution is the activent (theactivent.com, $75), a wireless thermostat and au-tomatic vent combo that can lower utility bills by 5 percent in each room where it’s used. it’s easy to install–just place inside the existing heating duct—and it will automati-cally open and close the vent as programmed. WHY: switching to a pro-grammable thermostat can save up to 20 percent on heating costs, says people’s Gas. and a household using four activents could save $370 a year. biG PiCTURE FiXEs in your home for the long haul and ready to make a heftier investment on future savings? Give some of these more intensive actions a go. Get a home energy audit HOW: a professional spends 3-4 hours investigating your home, inside and out, testing doors and ducts and using a thermal scan to find prob-lem areas. then they make specific recommendations to improve efficiency. WHY: ray Hurley, owner of eco energy audits (ecoener gyaudits.com) says most of his customers easily recoup the cost of the audit within the first year through sav-ings on energy bills, mak-ing for a solid return on the investment and a healthier home environment. add insulation to walls, ceilings, and attic HOW: use eco-friendly insulation like bonded Logic ultratouch recycled cotton insulation (prices vary) to unfinished attics and base-ments and crawl spaces. call in a pro or install your-self by fitting batts firmly into place between studs, cutting to fit around plumb-ing and electrical boxes. WHY: boosting insulation helps across the board, with average homes achieving $245 savings a year. MINDFULMETROPOLIS.COM 17 Get a status update on the heating system HOW: schedule a checkup with an Hvac technician to find out how your furnace or boiler is holding up. ask for an annual fuel utilization efficiency (aFue) rating, which indicates how much of the fuel that’s burned actually goes to heating your home. many gas-fired furnaces made before 1992 are only 55-78 percent ef-ficient. nowadays, you can find efficient new furnaces with an aFue of 97 per-cent. if your current aFue is extremely low, consider re-placing it. ask Green depot manager Joe silver to walk you through the ins and outs of radiant heating, convert-ing to geothermal, or simply moving to a high efficiency furnace. WHY: replacing an old furnace or heating system isn’t cheap, but tax breaks are available for choosing energy efficient options, and in the long term, the return on investment is worth it. consider: switching from aFue of 60 percent to one of 97 percent can cut your heating fuel bill by as much as 30 percent. and moving to radiant heat can be 30-50 percent less expensive to run than a forced air system.