Inexpensive Home Building

Cut through the jargon and nonsense of home building and house construction by starting from zero dollars and trying to figure best-value bang-for-your-buck when choosing construction methods or construction materials. My research might answer some of your questions and at other times perhaps you have the knowledge or experience to post the answers to my questions and thereby help others too. The goal is an affordable and sustainable home for all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lower High Home Heating Costs, How To Cope with Rising Fuel Prices (#2 Fuel Oil, etc.)

Some people muse idly about the coming winter's fuel costs as if it were a storm over which they have no control. However, you do control your heat costs. Moreover, if everyone did these smart actions, lower demand would put downward pressure on fuel prices.
  • Insulate: What would you think if someone left his/her front door wide open all winter and then complained about his/her heating costs? Lax insulation is like leaving your front door open in winter. First, inspect your current insulation. You can upgrade from minimum to average or from average to super-insulated. The roof is the most important because heat rises. Control air infiltration/leaks with caulk, etc. When it comes to heat retention, windows are only the next best thing to a hole in the wall, so use the best combination of storm windows, shutters, plastic films, thermal drapes, etc.
  • Use Free Heat: Manage your windows to use free solar heat gain (insolation) through the glazed surfaces (eg, glass). Make a solar space to trap solar-heated air against your building (eg, cover the interior of a screen porch in black, fill it with thermal masses (water jugs, lawn mowers), and cover the exterior screens with clear plastic). Manage your yard to landscape for best solar gain on the whole house in winter. Basically, do the opposite of summer home-cooling techniques. Basements are free passive geothermal heat sources, when even their typical geothermal-heat 40-50F degrees are better than zero-degree (0F) outside air temperature (check radon gas if necessary). Earth-sheltered homes maximize free, passive, geothermal heat.
  • Reduce Usage/Lower Demand: Conservation (not burning fuel) is the cheapest and easiest method to keep heating costs low. Insulation helps after you already have heated a space, but consider all the heating and fuel-burning that you do not need to do in the first place. Size/service/clean your furnace to peak efficiency, which is like raising the MPG on your car (otherwise, you are burning gallons without any heat benefit, simply burning money). Get a programmable thermostat that lowers heat while you are at work or sleeping under blankets. Lower your "standard" temperature a few degrees and wear a sweater (yes, the cliche actually works extremely well). Make "winter rooms," the old-fashioned method to keep the key part of the house at standard temperature (keep water-pipes above freezing or shut-off/drain the pipes from, say, an upstairs bathroom) and close-off unnecessary square footage (adjust heat registers/vents, close/add doors between rooms, etc.), such as the "exercise room" that is more of a junk room anyway. Winter rooms simulate the efficiency of studios, tiny homes, or other low-cost, efficient, simple-living lifestyles.
Let me know if I forgot anything.

Good luck.