Common Heating Myths Debunked

If you’ve followed the other posts in this blog then you’ve gained a slew of simple money saving tips. We give you the opposite in this post by debunking some of the misinformation out there. There are plenty of sources that suggest actions which are at best a waste of your time, and perhaps even costing you money. Don’t be misinformed by misinformed people. Know the truth behind some of the most common myths about staying warm on the cheap.

Myths from Around the House

Fireplaces Efficiency – Striking a fire in the fireplace is a markedly inefficient way to heat your home. First, firewood is expensive relative to the amount of heat it puts out. But what many don’t consider is the ‘vacuum effect’ an indoor fire creates. In simple terms: fire needs oxygen. The only oxygen available is the air inside your home; the air you have paid to heat and keep warm. The fire literally sucks in that warm air and shoots it up the chimney.

Of course, there are other reasons to have a fire in your fireplace. The smell, the sound, and the feel of coziness are all valid. Just know the actual heat it supplies isn’t what you might think and it is certainly not cost effective.

Closing the Vents – Something about human nature tells us that closing a vent saves energy. This is not the case with modern forced air HVAC systems. In fact, it is actually counterproductive. Forced air systems are designed so that the pressure load is balanced evenly. Blocking or closing a vent will throw off how the system inhales and exhales air. When this balance is disrupted it causes your furnace to work much harder than necessary. This uses more energy and can even cause the unit to breakdown. The most energy efficient practice is to leave vents open and allow heat to distribute evenly throughout your home.

Duct Tape – Despite its name and trusted reputation, duct tape is actually a very poor solution for sealing duct work. Duct tape performs especially poor in the presence of dirt and dust. Your air ducts are probably the dustiest place in your entire house. Therefore, the result is a rather speedy loss of adhesive. Within a year the tape will begin to fall off and allow air to escape into unwanted places. There are several other adhesive tapes available that do a much better job on air ducts.

Replace your Windows – The fact that installing new energy efficient windows will likely reduce your heating bill is no lie. The fallacy sits in how much it will go down compared to the cost of install. The breakeven point on new windows is extremely long due to the high upfront cost. Of all efforts you can make to reduce your heating bill, new windows is perhaps the lowest return you’ll get on your investment.

That’s not to say you should never get new windows for other reasons, like cosmetic or resale. If you do, it is almost always worth investing in good ones. The marginal cost of getting high-efficiency and/or triple pane windows is typically worth it for the added savings.

Thermostat Myths

Set it and Forget it – We preach programmable thermostats as the single highest return on investment when it comes to your heating bill. We stand by that, yet the notion of achieving maximum benefit by simply setting a schedule and never adjusting the dial is a myth that needs debunking.

When you initially program your thermostat it was for a “one size fits all” schedule, or in other words a best representation of your regular routine. However, we know that on any given day life can deviate drastically from the norm. Make it a habit to pivot off your programmed schedule and adjust the temperature setting manually. For example, if you are heading to bed early then swing by the thermostat and drop the temp to your nighttime setting. It may not seem like much, but if you are diligent about adjusting your setting manually the savings will add up considerably.

Additionally, the schedule you set for yourself years ago may not accurately reflect your lifestyle today. A good rule of thumb is to revisit your programmed schedule at the beginning of each heating season. Then try to fine tune it monthly if you find your schedule has fluctuated.

The exception to our advice against ‘set it and forget it’ is if you’ve picked up one of the smart thermostats available on the market today. We recommend the ecobee3 to those interested in home automation at its finest. This amazing device learns your behaviors, knows the outdoor temperature, and continually reprograms to optimize delivery of heat to your preferences and routine.

Crank it up – It works in your car, but not in your house. Cranking the heat beyond the desired temperature will not heat your house any faster. Furnaces only operate “on” or “off”, and there is no in-between. Therefore, the best solution after walking into a cold house is to set the dial to the desired temp and stay bundled up until that temperature is reached. Cranking the heat will only cause you to overheat your home – wasting energy and money.

Leave it up – False logic might suggest that it’s cheaper to keep your home at a constant temperature rather than allowing it to cool when not occupied and reheating it upon reentry. This is simply not the case. The more off-time you give your furnace the more money you’ll save.

Don’t be fooled by what you hear, or buy in too much to what merely seems logical. Take note of these common misconceptions and make sure you are practicing reliable strategies to reduce energy consumption. By doing so you’ll effectively lower heating bills and limit your footprint on the environment.