Ultimate Heat Efficient Home Guide: Technology and decor

Get heat efficient with technology and decor

What you put in your home can help keep the cold out

(Getty Images/Tetra Images)

(Getty Images/Tetra Images)

When you think of home automation most people salivate over the idea of heated driveways (no shovelling!), and wireless speakers synced to bluetooth stereos that play at the push of a button (or better yet, through voice command). Whether you’re an early adopter or a techno-peasant, you can’t deny the exponential growth in the home-automation market over the last decade.

According to ABI Research, a U.S.-based technology analysis firm, the home automation industry will grow 11.5% between 2012 and 2018—becoming a USD$14.1-billion industry worldwide.

Initially the advances in this area of home automation came from security companies, but in recent years massive telecom and cable companies have jumped on board. “It’s not a very new market,” explained Adarsh Krishnan, an ABI Research senior analyst, in an interview with Forbes.

As a result, home-automation is becoming more and more affordable (unlike heated driveways). Even better: Home-automation can help create a heat efficient home, which will save you money (and resources).

So, in our third installment of the Ultimate Heat Efficient Home guide, we introduce technology and home decor options that will help you lower your heating bill and increase the heat efficiency of your home.

Step 1: Pre-programming the temperature

The ultimate in control is a WiFi enabled, GPS recognizing, digital thermostat. Imagine increasing the temperature in your home, while still driving home from work. Or what about a thermostat that learns your weekly routines and increases the heat about an hour before you wake up—and you don’t have to worry about setting a timer. This is what the Nest—now owned by Google Inc.—and Lyric, a Honeywell WiFi thermostat promise. At just over CDN$300, both products are Andriod and iPhone compatible, and both allow you to reduce your energy bill and increase your heat efficiency by programming optimal temperature times. (The Lyric is also rumoured to be moving towards Zoned Heating technology, something the Nest can’t do, yet.)

But even if you don’t want to fork out the money for the latest thermostat gadget, you can still benefit from manipulating your thermostat. The U.S.-based Department of Energy says that home owners can shave 3% off your energy bill for every degree you lower your thermostat—so a drop from 72 degrees Farenheit (22.2 degrees Celsius) to 68 degrees Farenheit (20 degrees Celsius) can save you 12% off your energy bill.

The easiest way to do this is to install a pre-programmable thermostat, but you can get the same results by diligently adjusting the temperature on your thermostat—dropping it when you’re not in the house, or when you go to bed, and increasing it in the morning and evening when the house is bustling with family and activity. According to This Old House expert, John Wagner, you can save as much as 20% off of your heating/cooling bill by using a pre-programmable thermostat and setting the following temperatures at the following times:

6am to 9am = 68 degrees Farenheit / 20 degrees Celsius
9am to 5:30pm = 60 degrees Farenheit / 15.6 degrees Celsius
5:30pm to 11pm = 68 degrees Farenheit / 20 degrees Celsius
11pm to 6am = 60 degrees Farenheit / 15.6 degrees Celsius

6am to 9am = 75 degrees Farenheit / 23.9 degrees Celsius
9am to 5:30pm = 80 degrees Farenheit / 26.7 degrees Celsius
5:30pm to 11pm = 75 degrees Farenheit / 23.9 degrees Celsius
11pm to 6am = 80 degrees Farenheit / 26.7 degrees Celsius

Step 2: Zoned heating (space heaters, system, close vents)

Go one step further and you can get zoned heating in your home. Using multiple thermostats wired to a control panel, the thermostats constantly read the temperature of their zone and then open and close dampers within the ductwork according to your pre-programmed temperature settings for each zone. It’s a great system for older homes that have inconsistent room temperatures, and it’s great for people who want more control over what areas of the house are constantly heated, and what areas are not, explains Karim Nice, a mechanical engineer from Detroit, who’s small consulting firm specializes in the installation of these systems.

Installation costs start at $8,000—and don’t include cost of a compatible furnace or ductwork, although many high efficiency furnaces are compatible—but the system allows you to select what rooms you want to heat, and when. Because you’re only heating rooms you use (such as heating the main floor of a home in the evening, and the second floor at night) you can further reduce your heating bill and, at the same time, increase heat efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the use of zoned heating can save home owners as much as 30% on their heating bill.

But for those not willing to shell-out for the high-tech system, you can mimic a zoned heating system with the consistent use of room vents and door sweeps/door snakes. For instance, if you have a guest room, simply close the vent in the room during inactive use. Just doing this will help a little bit, but if the air temperature in the room drops, the cold air could get sucked out to the rest of the house (remember that stack effect?). To prevent cold air from escaping install a door sweep or if you don’t want a permanent sweep, consider using a door snake (remember what your grandma used? Well big box retailers now sell generic versions).

Step 3: Let the sunshine in! Decor options that help

Direct sunlight is the easiest way to heat your home—and it’s free. That’s because once the sun’s UV light hits an object it turns into infrared radiation (IR)—a form of radiant heat. Since IR doesn’t pass through glass as readily as UV, sunlight that enters your home gets trapped in the room in the form of heat. To capture this heat just open the curtains during the day. At night, keep more of this heat in the room by closing your curtains or blinds.

Of course, some window treatments are better than others at preventing heat loss. Heavy, dark curtains (or curtains with a back light blocker) are best—just make sure the curtains touch the ground and walls next to the window for maximum heat retention. According to the 2009 English Heritage study, closing heavy curtains reduced heat loss by 41%. Opt for honeycomb (otherwise known as cellulose) insulating shades and reduce your heat loss by 51%. Or use well-fitted interior wooden shutters and you can reduce heat loss by 58%

Want to read the first installment in the Ultimate Heat Efficient Home guide? Go here.

Want to read the second installment in the Ultimate Heat Efficient Home guide? Go here.

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