Giving the Furnace a Vacation

October 23, 2009


I’m continuing my series of ways, tips, and products to save money this heating season. Check the category “HVAC” or do a search for “heating” and “furnace” for more posts on this subject.

I have a great big old house, having more holes than Swiss cheese. Also, 90% of my home is uninsulated, and cannot be until I remove the bricks (called “noggin”) from between the studs (which means I have to gut every room and replace every wall). And to top it all off, half of the house is in the renovating process, so there are large gaps and holes in the walls. I have gone through the house and duct-taped heavy plastic sheeting over most of the renovation holes, but wowsa, this place gets cold. It was cold even before we started renovating. So our furnace works very hard, and it costs a fortune to run. I’ve been slowing gathering ways and alternative methods to help allay our reliance on that money pit that sits in our basement. A few things I have found that help:

1.) Seal off unused portions of the house with heavy drapes.
2.) Seal off doors and doorways with heavy drapes.
3.) Use space heaters in rooms where we spend most of our day.

I used to be adamant against electric space heaters, believing them to be very expensive. But even while electricity is more expensive, pound for pound, than natural gas (which our furnace uses as fuel), it is more economical to turn down the furnace and use a space heater in the areas we frequent. The problem lies with the larger rooms, such as the living room. Our small space heaters just don’t seem able to permeate the biting cold that hits us over the winter. We actually looked into getting a woodstove. However, woodstoves require constant care, constant cleaning, and providing for a constant supply of wood (which means constant labor supplying and carrying it). AND we’d have to build a type of outlet/chimney AND get a permit from the town to do all this. Wow. No thanks.

So we looked into fake fireplaces. We’re still looking into them, actually. (I’m very slow to make up my mind, these days, ugh). I have always liked the natural gas fireplaces, but this would require a plumber to come and set up a new supply run of pipes. We may do this someday, but not this year. I have been looking into electric fireplaces. I can set up a dedicated circuit for it easily enough, not requiring any hired help to do it. I’m just wondering how truly economical the electric fireplaces are compared to the natural gas ones. After all is said and done, which one is better? If any of you readers out there have an opinion or any experience, I’d surely appreciate a comment or review!

there’s a beautiful Bionaire Electric Fireplace and it comes with a remote control AND it has a safety shut-off AND a timer that you can preset (very nice!). It’s running for only $260 with free shipping– I think that’s a very reasonable price.

So this is my next experiment into the HVAC world of economy. I think a “fake” fireplace would serve us well and relieve us from heating the entire house all the time. Please– if you have any experience with such a unit, let me know!

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