Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's the Temperature?

New York Times
There is an interesting article in today's New York Times: "Soaking Up the Sun to Squeeze Bills to Zero." There's a new building in Boulder, Colorado, and the goal is to have the building be energy-neutral -- that is, draw nothing from the power grid.

Natural lighting. Using the heat from computer servers. Concrete basement heat sink.

Our current house has an electric heat pump, not a device I would choose to install this far north. The alternative in this immediate area is propane furnaces, unless of course a person chooses something like outdoor wood furnaces, geo-thermal heat pumps, or wood pellet stoves.

An electric heat pump is not efficient, especially if you're the sort of family that normally sets the thermostat in the mid-seventies during the winter. Our first winter trained us to keep the heat pump central heating at sixty-nine degrees, and then where we must keep warm, to use quartz electric heaters.

One place I like the temperature in the upper seventies is the little room where I normally write and read. That means a space heater. And in doing that, I've learned that one particular element we get from the "save energy" experts is true. Running a ceiling fan in the winter will save energy.

I know that because I have a tiny digital thermometer resting on a bookcase. The other day the wind was blowing, it was cloudy and cold outside, and I felt chilled in my room. Then I noticed the ceiling fan wasn't turning. I wonder how much difference it does make, I thought.

I turned the fan on, and over a period of two hours the room (perhaps 12 feet by 10 feet) grew six degrees warmer.

Now we're leaving fans on twenty-four hours a day.

And changing out the rest of the bulbs to the CFI-type.

And adding $2,000 worth of insulation.
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