Hiram College

In Ohio, the icy temperatures and relentless winds are upon us and, for some, it’s time to crank up the thermostat .  For those lacking an Ohioan’s grit (like me!), it might be tempting to dial it up to 90, put on a swimsuit and shades, and bask in the glorious warmth of central heating.

Before you start to slather on sunblock, consider that, according to the U.S Department of Energy, over 50% of the average household’s energy usage is allotted to heating and cooling. Take a look at the graphic below – most energy used for heating comes from non-renewable sources like natural gas and oil as well as electricity (only a small portion of which comes from renewable sources).  This is not good news in terms of carbon footprints.

At my house, each of us prefers different temperatures, as is typical in many households. Our initial solution: CRANK the central heating unit (fueled with natural gas).  Those who prefer a colder climate simply crack open their windows.  Obviously, this is NOT an efficient way to heat a home because the heating unit is struggling against the cold air from the open windows to keep the house at a constant temperature.

After we saw our first bill ($107.84 for gas that first cold month!…which translates into 12 ½ large Gionino’s pizzas or 202 cans of PBR, depending on your priorities), we decided to make a few changes.  First the thermostat was lowered from 74OF to 66OF. To create more comfortable conditions for the warmth-loving housemates, we purchased two small energy-efficient space heaters to heat their rooms.  The advantages include the ability to heat up a room quickly, turn the unit off when the room isn’t occupied, and move the heater to accompany the user.  While they still use electricity, portable space heaters allow us to DRASTICALLY reduce the burden on the central heating unit.

Central heating systems have fundamentally changed our expectations and habits.  Today, most of us expect to be able to walk around the house in a T-shirt and shorts and remain comfortable.  There’s something to be said for adding an additional layer of clothing and sleeping under an extra wool blanket to click the heat down a few more notches.

And, as always, there is a cash incentive to reducing your impact on the environment.  For each degree you turn down the thermostat, you can save around 1% off your heating bill. There are many ways to do this too; you don’t necessarily need to follow our methods.

Options for heating include alternatives like wood burning stoves, pellet stoves, geothermal energy, and many others.  In fact, the TREE House will be undergoing a heating/cooling renovation, so check back soon to see the changes we make that you may be able to apply in your home.