Winter costs us money to heat our house. Over the last 14 years and at 3 different houses, we have heated our home using electric space heaters, a central electric heat pump, a whole house propane furnace, a wood fireplace, a whole house oil furnace and a fireplace propane gas log. The cost for these heat sources has varied widely. So has the hassle each entails. And here is what I have learned works best for us, in a 2-person house.
Regardless of the temperature you want to maintain in your house, I hope that you can save yourself a goodly amount of money by applying some of these non-rocket-science ideas.
The first thing I have learned is not to heat the whole house all the time. I am talking about a 3-bedroom-plus-extra-rooms house where only 2 people live. Most of the time we are in the same room; at worst, we are in 2 separate rooms. Why be heating the rest of the house? We do not.
So I therefore learned early on that whole-house central heating systems are not for me, regardless of what fuel they burn. No electric heat pump, no oil furnace, no propane furnace. Zone heating is the way to go for me. In my last house, that meant space heaters available for use in each room. In my present house, it means the individually controlled baseboard heaters found in each room.
We still need a background heat source, though, for the main core of the house (living room, kitchen, dining room). For this purpose, I found the choice of electricity, propane or wood as a fuel source to matter quite a bit in terms of cost.
Least expensive, of course, is wood; but I have found the required constant tending of a wood fire (and mess) to be unacceptable to me. Electricity as a heat source is flat-out wasteful: the power company is burning a fuel to generate heat that is used to produce electricity, which then arrives at one’s house so that it can be converted back to heat to warm the place up. Wasteful, wasteful! So I cut out the middleman by burning a fuel — propane — to directly heat the core of my house without any energy loss from conversion or transmission from outside (i.e. electricity) or transfer from inside the house (all types of central heating).
That means that we had a gas log installed in our fireplace and had it connected to the exterior propane tanks already there to fuel my back-up generator. The gas log cost $200 to buy and $200 to install. And it is AMAZING how much warmer the house core feels with the gas log set on “low” compared to what it felt like when we were using the central heat pump.
In fact, it is remarkable how much and for how long stored heat continues to radiate from the gas log fireplace bricks. Thanks to that residual heat radiation, we’ve found that it works very well for us to keep the gas log on until the thermostat in our central living room reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit, then turn if off until that thermostat’s reading has dipped down to 63, then turn the gas log back on again, and “rinse and repeat.” (Remember too, that sweaters are your friends.)
Finally, when it is time to go to bed, we turn off the gas log and keep the bedroom warm with one of those baseboard heaters I mentioned earlier. And we sleep great, nicely snuggled under blankets. It all gives me a contented feeling. As does the money we save by heating our house this way.
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image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net