As the days get shorter, more and more people are finally firing up their furnaces for the winter. The air outside is getting colder, so having a nice warm home to relax in is important for us to stay comfortable for the next several months. Many homeowners unfortunately do not have a comfortable house. One room is too hot, another is too cold. Maybe some are just right. People often think that there is nothing one can do to fix these uncomfortable rooms, so they just deal with them. Or sometimes they will place space heaters throughout the house to “fine tune” the temperature in each room. This can help, but space heaters are a very expensive way to heat your home and can be unsightly.
Houses are complicated systems, each one unique in how it operates. However, when it comes to keeping a room comfortable, there are two basic principles to understand. Heat is introduced to a space and heat wants to escape that space to colder places. In most houses in the United States, we use forced air heating systems to add heat to a space. A gas furnace heats a heat exchanger very hot and air is blown across it, picking up this heat and transferring it throughout the house via ducting. While these systems have the advantage of being able to quickly heat the home, they are also prone to problems that can lead to cold rooms.
Ducts are the delivery pathway to bring the heat from the furnace to where we want it in the house. Sometimes, these ducts can become damaged or even disconnected. It is very common for ducts to become kinked or crushed from people stepping on them in attics. This can cause serious air flow problems through the ducting. Excessively long duct runs caused by lazy installers who don’t want to take the time to cut the ducting to the proper length can also cause restrictions in air flow, as the air has to travel a longer distance. Installing dampers where the ducts connect to the furnace can also help direct heat to where you want it. Dirty furnace filters are another often overlooked problem. As a filter gets clogged, it allows less and less air to flow through it, which means the furnace has a harder time pushing that air across the heat exchanger and through the ducts.
Once the heat arrives at its destination, the next challenge is keeping it from escaping to the great outdoors. Air leaks, lack of insulation in the ceiling, walls and floor, and large poorly insulated windows can all be causes of excessive heat loss. Sealing up air leaks around doors, windows, electrical outlets and baseboards can help keep that warm air from escaping. When most houses were originally built, they were under-insulated so adding insulation to the attic, floor and walls if possible can also help keep that heat in. When compared to walls, windows usually are very poorly insulated, so replacing old, inefficient windows with well insulated ones will further reduce heat loss. A cheaper solution to replacing windows is adding clear insulating film to the inside of the window. These films are applied with double sided tape and create an extra insulating layer of air between the window and the house, making the window more efficient for a tiny percentage of the cost to replace the window. Some window treatments can also help a lot at reducing heat loss. “Honeycomb” blinds are great at creating insulating air pockets that keep the heat in.
The truth is, most uncomfortable rooms can be fixed. What is the point of having a room in our homes that we can’t enjoy during certain months of the year? Don’t write off those uncomfortable rooms as unusable. An energy audit is a good place to start when figuring out how to fix these rooms. An APS participating contractor can perform a whole house comprehensive Home Energy Checkup (energy audit) for $99. These contractors are specially trained to look at the house as a system and make sure that everything is working together to give you the most comfortable, energy efficient home. Since comfort and energy efficiency go hand and hand, you can also expect significant energy savings while making your home more comfortable. FBN
By Eli Chamberlain
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