Zone your home for energy savings

Zone your home for energy savings
An inefficient heat pump or furnace can cost you a lot of money during cold
weather, especially if you use it to heat rooms that you don’t always use. Zoneheating is one way to save energy and money by heating just the areas you
need. It works especially well during spring and fall when your central heating
system provides more heat than you need.
This zone-heating strategy is only effective if you understand the strategy and
are willing to manage your heating system. The trick is to provide a small radiant
or baseboard electric heater in a “warm room” like a living room or kitchen. This
allows you to reduce the use of your central heating system.
When only a few family members are home, use zone heat in the rooms you use
the most, while setting your central thermostat down to a lower and more
economical temperature. Zone heating is best provided by permanently installed
hard-wired electric heaters, though a portable heater is acceptable if it is used
properly and has built-in safety features. Bathrooms can be equipped with a
small radiant heater or heat lamp to provide comfort there.
Beware of cheaper and older portable electric room heaters, which are often not
safe because of their red hot elements and limited safety features. If you do use
portable heaters, follow these safety guidelines.
-- Use new room heaters with a tip-over switch to avoid fires. -- Don’t use
extension cords with portable heaters. -- Make sure that you have a properly
functioning smoke detector.
A final improvement is to install a programmable clock thermostat to control your
central heating system. You can set this to provide a comfortable temperature
throughout the house when everyone is home. This thermostat setting varies
according to the energy-efficiency of the house, but it shouldn’t be above 70°F. A
programmable thermostat can then set the temperature back to a minimum of
50°F to 60°F at night or when most of the family is away at school and work. You
can then leave your central system set to this lower level while you take
advantage of zone heat provided in your warm rooms.