Archive for October, 2010

Closing Vents in Unused Rooms

should I close vents in unused roomsClosing vents in unused rooms is a great way to save money heating or cooling your home. Closing the vents off and also the cold air return vents is a great way to save energy and only heat those areas in your home that need to be heated. If you close the cold air vent return, make sure you have a hot air vent return close to the ceiling before closing the cold air vent. Older homes may not have a hot and a cold air vent return. If you are not using them, why heat them or cool those rooms? Remove all of your plants and anything that might be damaged by excessive heat or cold and save yourself some money.

This is a great way to save money, however there is a smart way to shut the vents off.  We would appreciate your comments as well, since we are always looking for ways to save money.

There are a couple of things to watch however and take into consideration, especially in winter when it is below freezing.

Closing Vents in Unused Rooms 

Heating Rooms With Water Pipes

Any pipes with water in them will freeze and a leaking pipe can cause a lot of damage. If there are pipes in the room such as a bathroom, you pretty much have to heat that room to avoid any possibility of a frozen water pipe. Take this suggestion very seriously, because water can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Cooling Rooms

On the other hand if you are trying to save money by cutting down on the air conditioning, you can pretty much shut off any vents you want to avoid cooling more area and save on the cost of cooling. Always make sure that there is a clear area for air to flow in rooms you want to have cooled. There must be a vent delivering air to the room and a vent to return the air to the furnace for central air conditioned homes. If you do not complete this circuit, the air conditioning will not work properly and may damage your air conditioning unit and cost even more.

Location of Your Thermostat

In order to effectively save money you must take into account the location of your thermostat. If it is in a room that you do not use and want to shut off from either heating or cooling you are out of luck. The thermostat will control the temperature in the room that it is in and this impacts the rest of the house. Shutting off the vents in this room is only going to cause the furnace to run longer in a heating situation and the same with cooling since there is no air circulation in the room. So leave the vents open in this room were your thermostat is located including cold air return vents and hot air return vents.

Cold Air Return Vents

This is another issue to take into account. Most homes will have a cold air return vent located in all of the major areas of the home. For example, we have two downstairs, one in the family room and another in the living room which is the 2nd part of the house. In addition there are two more upstairs, one in the hallway and the other in the master bedroom. These vents must be left open for air to circulate properly.

Hot Air Return Vents.

These vents are located in the same location as the cold air return vents, however they are located at the ceiling level instead of the floor level. In the winter time cold air settles to the floor and is drawn into the cold air returns located at the floor.  In the summer hot air floats to the ceiling and this hot air is drawn into the hot air returns along the ceiling. These vents should also be left open during the cooling season, however you can close them during the winter time. Similarly the cold air returns can be closed during the summer time and must be open during the winter.

Vents in your Basement

If you do not use your basement, you probably should shut the vents off in the summer time to avoid cooling this area as well.  Be careful in the winter, since there are lots of water pipes in this area of the home and they must nor freeze in the winter time.

As with all cost savings suggestions there is often a smart way to save money and another approach which could even cost you more. If you have any doubts leave the vents open,or get a professional opinion.

Readers are encouraged to leave their comments and suggestions as well to help everyone save money. Spam comments will be deleted.


Get Ready, Cut Your Winter Utility Bills

Get Ready, Cut Your Winter Utility BillsCanadians living in Ontario, and probably other provinces as well, are experiencing almost 20% increases in their hydro rates this fall! What a shock we will all get this winter when the full impact of these increases are going to be felt! If you ran your air conditioner this summer, you already received one shock, you do not need another. It is time to think about how we can reduce our utility bills , including  both electricity and heating costs.

This post was originally written at the beginning of October. If you have not thought about taking some steps to prepare your home for the winter season, now is the time to do so. Also in the spring some of these same steps apply if you are concerned about high air conditioning costs associated with summer time heat waves. Even in mid March in southern California, temperatures reach into the 90’s . Many people start turning on their air conditioning one day and then their heating systems the next day when a cold front blows through.

Winter Utility Bills

Here is a quick list of energy saving steps you can take to control your utility costs during the winter:

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat
  • Lower the temperature
  • Add storm windows
  • Add plastic coverings over your windows
  • Invest in a heat detector
  • Add insulation to your attic
  • Caulk all of your windows and doors
  • Add weather stripping around doors and windows
  • Take advantage of lower electricity rates at night
  • Close off rooms, be careful of frozen water pipes
  • Keep your furnace clean with an annual maintenance checkup
  • Replace the filter

More Suggestions

  • Upgrade to an energy star furnace and convert to a DC motor
  • Switch to cold water clothes washing
  • Only wash when you have a full load
  • Keep cold air return vents clean and unobstructed by furniture
  • Check basement windows to make sure the are good seals around the windows
  • Add insulation to basement walls
  • Open drapes on sunny days
  • Close drapes at night to hold the heat in
  • Plug gaps around pipes that go through walls
  • Install low flow shower heads
  • Always fill your dishwasher to run at a full load
  • Program your dishwasher to run at night when rates are low
  • Program your clothes  dryer to run at night as well
  • Clean the filter prior to every use
  • Turn your heat off in the garage
  • Close the damper on wood fire places
  • Convert a wood fireplace to gas
  • Fans will push heated air from the fireplace to the rest of the room
  • Switch to high energy water heaters
  • Cook with a microwave oven, electric frying pans, and toaster ovens
  • Use a slow cooker to cook your food
  • Use photo cell timers or even better motion sensor timers to turn lights on
  • Invest in high efficiency appliances
  • Run your winter car heater during lower rate time frames
  • Convert your lights to low energy fluorescent bulbs
  • Use timers and dimmer to reduce energy
  • Freezers can be large users of energy, keep them full or downsize
  • Replace large volume toilets with more efficient devices

Winter Utility Bills – Increases

In the US, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that home heating oil, natural gas, and electricity will cost 2% to 11% more this winter than last. Getting your home prepped for the season is crucial. Canadian homeowners are being hit with a 20 % increase this fall.

Many new devices  link to the Internet that let you adjust the temperature remotely on your thermostat if your are going to be late getting home.

Say you’re stuck late at work. Go online with your iPhone or smart phone and tell the system to stay at 60° F  of 18C for a few hours longer, thus saving even more. Use your iPad, iPhone or iPod to reset your temperature of your home, start your meal cooking etc.

Many people do not pay attention to their energy costs. However with gas prices going up, hydro rates increasing and heating oil increasing, it is time for all of us to take note. Money you save on energy can be used for something else. On a $2000 annual bill for electricity, saving 10% means you have $200 to spend on something else. If you follow the list we mentioned above, you can easily save 10% on your annual energy costs!

Turn down the Thermostat

Turning down the thermostat saves heating fuel usage and also electricity because your furnace is not running as often. You save twice in this example! The same goes for plugging gaps around windows and doors.

One of the big complaints around our family is the drafts that we feel during the winter. This seems to occur especially just before the furnace comes on. Cooler air is sinking to the lowest point and if you are in the middle of one of these places, you are going to feel cold. Consider running you fan on low to force a continuous circulation of air that stays at a constant temperature.

Another consideration is to invest in a heating blanket for your bed or for even lounging around the house watching TV. Some people would never consider this approach. However you can leave the rest of the home cool and still be toasty warm under the blanket.

Hopefully this post will help you save some money as we try to do on every post on this site. Let us know of your personal ideas about reducing your energy costs for this winter and next summer as well. Note we will delete spam comments.

For more energy saving ideas, click here.

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