Feb/10

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Keeping Warmer for Cheaper

Challenge #2: Staying Warm for Winter.

“Give a kid a hammer and everything gets nailed down,” or “Give a politician a screwdriver and everything gets screwed up.” Such analogies could be applied to me with our new energy Thermal Leak Detector, Power Cost Monitor, and Shower Regulator, provided as part of the Green Family Challenge kit. With the cold snow blowing through the Windy City of Chicago, you bet I am eager to find ways to keep us warmer for cheaper. Not only is it the heart of a Midwest winter, we are also first-time homeowners, so these exercises and devices are great tools for us to find out what is working and what is not.

Shower Regulator
If cleanliness is next to godliness, then my wife Sharon is a goddess (as I so often tell her, *ahem*). She lathers, rinses, repeats, shaves, and maybe even does some meditation in the shower, I presume. I’ve deduced this from the lack of warm water available when I need to hose off the daily grime. But installing the shower regulator has turned the tables.

Now my goddess is hopping in and out of the shower before I’m done snoozing, since she was in the Navy for the early part of her career. I am now the water-hogging goblin as the Shower Regulator is beeping at me to move along with my day. The simple trick to keep the beeps to a minimum is simply to turn off the shower while you’re lathering up. This is easier said than done in Chicago, where a steamy hot dose of water is often needed for a moment to crack open my pores that have been frozen shut from walking the dogs in sub-freezing temperatures. But until the spring thaw comes, I will work to reduce my time under running water.

Power Cost Monitor
“What gets measured gets accomplished” is certainly true of any management principle, more so with money out of your own pocket.

I am actually surprised that we are not more curious how much things cost when we plug them in. A basic test of everything from our two desktop computers, old-school non-flat TV, microwave, toaster, portable heater, lamps, coffeemaker, and stereo all yielded obvious results – anything that generates heat racks up the dollars, cha-ching! I now understand fully why my dad always had us unplug everything when we went out of town when I was a kid (thanks, dad!).

We now unplug the toaster, can opener, and coffee grinder as a matter of routine. Because our TV is connected to our DVR, we cannot simply unplug and plug in on a regular basis.

Look around the room you’re in right now and ponder how many LED lights are blinking back at you. Anything you plug in impacts our total carbon footprint. But for the gadget geeks who like new toys, the Power Cost Monitor is one toy you will save money with every time you plug it in.

Thermal Leak Detector
“Who you gonna call?” Draftbusters! Holding the Thermal Leak Detector like a Ghostbuster, I slowly patrol the house to measure the temperature swing around door jams and windows. In temperate San Diego, the impact is less severe because the outside temperature is typically not much less than what it is indoors. In Chicago, we experience a 30- to 60-degree swing from indoor to outdoor temperatures.

The Heat is On
Currently our house is heated at its highest point to just 66 degrees, inducing everyone to keep a sweater on during the winter “sweater weather.” A programmed timer adjusts the temperature during the day and again at night down to 58 degrees when we sleep to reduce central heating costs and thus, our carbon footprint. Recently I purchased a portable heater which we keep near us as we watch movies or work in the office to avoid the temptation to nudge the thermostat higher.

The Doors
Along some of the doors to the outside, the Thermal Leak Detector, a.k.a. the Draftbuster, shows a drop to 52 degrees, as the outdoor temps are 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously I need to make a trip to Home Depot to examine options to reduce so much heat loss. Already in our basement before the holidays I had covered an entire wall with a thick tarp that has reduced the cold from creeping inside. But these new discoveries have alerted me to other places to target.

Pane in the Glass
We purchased our house from “house flippers” who installed quality windows so the temperature drop in all windows is only a 5-degree difference, something I rectify by closing our insulated curtains, much to the chagrin of my wife who loves her décor “just so.”

Lovely Bones
Despite our house being 70 years old, it is well constructed from the basement to the rafters. I was fairly happy that only a few doors need a visit from Draftbusters!

Snuggle up with someone you love and stay warm, my friends!

Alex Yates

Read a previous post from the Dewar-Yates family, 52 Weeks of Green.

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2 Comments for Keeping Warmer for Cheaper

deborahdarling | February 3, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Interesting post. I have always wondered whether space heaters really do save on power. Have you found any info on that?

deborahdarling | February 4, 2010 at 1:26 am

Interesting post. I have always wondered whether space heaters really do save on power. Have you found any info on that?

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