Now that we’ve reached December, every heating system in New England has been tested, run, and is likely beginning to impact your wallet each month. One way to cut some of those heating costs down is to implement a “zone heating” system in your home. According to studies from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), we spend an average of 80% of our time in 20% of our homes. Unfortunately this means we’re wasting some energy on 80% of our home.
What is Zone Heating?
Zone heating refers to using heating mechanisms in a way that focuses the heat distribution and energy use to specific areas in your home. This can be accomplished through a number of different approaches, depending on the heating system within the home. Here are a few options you can use to save some money this winter:
Use Those Old Fireplaces!
In some New England homes, people find themselves with multiple fireplaces. Back before heating distribution systems existed, zone heating was as simple as lighting a fire in the particular room you were in. If you want to save energy, and you have a home with multiple fireplaces, open them up and take advantage of the tremendously cheap format of heating your home.
Central Air? Adjust Your Vents!
If you have a central, forced air system, closing the vents 75% will save a lot of money. Don’t close them all the way! Closing vents 100% could have a negative effect on the air quality in that room. Keep the air flowing to the room used most. Also, make sure the vent closest to your thermostat is open, or else the heating system will run without increasing the temperature on the thermostat.
Haven’t Saved Enough? Space Heaters!
This is the most commonly used format of zone heating. People use these in all forms of living and working spaces. There are enough options available that most spaces can be covered with a space heater. For safety purposes, stick with electric space heaters. If you go the route of using space heaters, try to use as few as possible. Don’t leave them on when you’re not in the room with them, and carry them with you if you plan to stay in the next room for awhile. If you have multiple family members in your home, and you don’t expect to be all in the same room all the time, it won’t hurt to pick up a heater or two extra.
A Big Investment Leads to Big Savings
Perhaps the least popular, but largest long-term effect is to install a heating system that is independently controlled across different rooms or zones in the home. Some hyper-efficient systems run on wall-mounted air vents, while others just place thermostats in different areas of the home. Regardless, these systems are by far the most expensive to install. If you’re looking to stay in a home for more than 10 years, this is a good option. If you’re unsure about how long you’ll be in one place, try one of the other options above.
Zone heating has a stronger effect as homes increase in size. Users in large homes have reported upwards of 20% saving on energy bills after implementing zone heating systems. Whether you decide to clean out the old fireplaces, or purchase a handful of electric space heaters, the initial investment will be made up after just a few billing cycles. Your local hardware stores will likely have the largest selection of options, including electric fireplaces, space heaters, etc.
image courtesy of Lars Ploughmann