Along with freezing weather, winter often brings special challenges for the household thermostat and heater. These timely tips will help you sidestep some of the most common heating mistakes.
How a Thermostat Works
For many months of the year, you don’t touch your thermostat for heating purposes. But then winter arrives, in-home temperatures chill, and the first thing you think of is your heater.
When you are in a very small, enclosed space such as a vehicle, it’s easy to assume that the heat dial works almost instantly, like the average car accelerator. Push a button, turn it on high, and PRESTO! Heat floods the space and you feel oh-so-warm oh-so-quickly.
According to the Telegraph, up to 35 percent of homeowners admit to taking the same approach when heating their home. Just set the thermostat up higher so the space will heat faster.
But there’s a problem with this approach: Your thermostat can’t adjust how fast it heats a space, regardless of the size of the space. It can only ensure that, in its slow and steady way, it eventually hits the mark in terms of your original temperature request.
As soon as you adjust the thermostat setting, your thermostat must
- Sense the current ambient air temperature
- Calculate what needs to change to meet your new air temperature request
Then it tells the furnace to:
- Get to work warming up the air
- Send the warmed air to every part of your space as evenly as possible
Whether you set your thermostat to the precise temperature you desire or five degrees higher, your air will still be warmed at the same speed.
But when you set it for a higher heat level than is actually comfortable, by the time it hits the mark, you will be roasting and you will run to turn it right back down again, losing money as well as comfort in the process.
4 Common Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make With Heaters
These four common heating mistakes are well-intentioned, but they will end up costing you money and putting more stress on your already hard-working heating system.
Mistake 1: Letting your house get too cold at night
Temperature extremes are not your thermostat’s friend. Yes, you can potentially save some pennies by turning your thermostat way down at night while everyone is asleep.
But then what happens when you wake up? It’s freezing! So you crank the thermostat and your furnace starts working away—way harder than is ideal—trying to warm your space back up again.
What to do instead: Aim for 1 or 2 degrees lower at night. This will still help you save money, plus it won’t cost you later in wear-and-tear heater repairs caused by overwork.
You can also program your thermostat to start heating to your preferred daytime temperature about a half-hour before you have to get up.
Mistake 2: Asking your heater to do more than it can
When the outside temperature reaches extreme lows, this can place undue stress on your heating system. This is because, in most cases, certain types of heating systems are designed to heat efficiently only when the outdoor air stays above zero degrees.
Some newer high-efficiency heating systems do a better job of this, but in general, if you find you keep adjusting your thermostat to reach higher temperatures and nothing actually changes, this may either indicate a repair is needed or it may simply mean your heating system is already doing all it can to keep you warm in extremely cold weather.
Mistake 3: Leaving the heat on all the time
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat and you have an old-school heating system that won’t take an after-market add-on, you may have no choice but to keep the heat on continually or risk coming home to a freezing house.
But if you have a programmable thermostat or a system that can take one, it will cost you more to leave the heater running continuously than to shut it off and turn it on strategically. In fact, a programmable thermostat’s job is to turn your heating system on or off as needed to maintain temperature consistency according to your needs.
It can take some trial and error to figure out a programming schedule that is comfortable and cost-efficient, but once you do, the periods when your heater is not running will give it some much-needed R&R, and when it does run, you can know it is helping to control your utility costs by maintaining temperature consistency.
Mistake 4: Not sealing air leaks and unused spaces during heater season
When temperatures plunge, it is time to get serious about keeping the warm air in and the cold air out.
Sealing up air leaks (close and lock all windows and doors, weatherstrip and patch as needed) can ensure warm air isn’t sneaking out into the cold.
And sealing off unused spaces (closing air vents, adjusting thermostats for zoning) can ensure that warm air is used exclusively to heat your actual living spaces.
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