Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Save Our Environment and Save Money!

My last blog told the story about how people from around the world united to raise their voice about concerns for climate change. I firmly believe that actions like this are a great benefit because there are many people who still have no idea that our existence is in peril and actions like this help to educate more and more people.

Although raising awareness is important, it is even more important for each of us to find ways of actually solving these problems and that is the focus of this story.

Last month, I had several meetings with furnace installers as I was going to be replacing the thirty year old furnace in my home. Our furnace wasn’t going to last for more than another season or two and right now the Canadian Federal and Provincial governments have programs that help homeowners upgrade the efficiency of their homes with tax credits as well as substantial rebates.

The first installer that came by filled me with lots of information and we chatted at great lengths about things that people can do to save energy and money. This story is me passing along his knowledge to you. This information is relevant to ANY homeowner who has a furnace that is fifteen years old or older – which is about 85% of all the homes (with furnaces) on this planet.

We went to the basement and he pointed at this box. He said, “This is your furnace’s blower.” The switch was then on the right side of the box and he said, “Right now your blower switch is in the automatic position. This means that your blower is on only when your furnace is being used to heat your home.” He pushed the switch to the left side of the box and then said, “Now, your blower is in the ‘on’ position, or what some people call the ‘summer’ setting. Never change this switch from this position and you’ll save $250 - $300.00 dollars a year on heating costs.”

So… there ya go! If everyone owning a furnace that is over fifteen years old simply spends two seconds of their life to switch the position of their furnace’s blower to the ‘on’ position then – on a global scale – we could save billions of dollars of fuel and hydro costs. I need to think about this massive thought for a minute before I continue. Hmmmm… two seconds of our lives = a higher quality of life for all living creatures… AMAZING!!!!

For those who are satisfied with this information I would suggest that you stop reading now! The rest of this story gets a little technical as I explain how this actually works…

(Since it would be boring to have photos of my furnace, etc. accompanying this story I thought that I’d add some delightful ‘peace-art’ that the students from my bus have been handing in lately.)

So… getting technical…

Have you ever noticed that it gets a little chilly a few minutes before your furnace turns on and that it gets a little too hot just after your furnace has shut off? This is because there is an 8 degree difference (throughout your house) from your floor to your ceiling at almost any given time. If you’ve set your furnace to 68-70 degrees then your furnace actually raises the temperature of your home to about 73 degrees before it shuts off. Over the next 25 minutes this temperature slowly drops until your furnace turns on again.

The hot air enters a room through ducts found on the floor or on the lower part of a wall. This hot air rises and stays – for the most part – at ceiling level. This air slowly seeps through cracks in the walls or windows and eventually cools.

When you turn your furnace’s blower to ‘on’ the difference in temperature – from floor to ceiling – will only be 2 degrees instead of 8. When your furnace turns on, the same hot air will enter a room, but it will not stay at ceiling level. This is because this air is being sucked from the ceiling back down to the floor so that it can enter your ‘air return’ ducts, to be sent back to your furnace to be re-blown throughout the house again.

Because your air is being circulated throughout the house continuously, there is never a ‘layer’ of hot air at the ceiling or a layer of cool air at floor level. It is now being circulated in such a way as to create a uniform temperature throughout your house.

With your blower in the ‘automatic’ position the air in your house gets circulated about 1 ½ times every time your furnace is on. When in the ‘on’ position, your blower will circulate all the air in your home about 5-6 times each hour. This continuous circulation also helps to pull more dust and other dirty particles out of your air as it travels through the furnace’s filters.

Because the air in your house is now more evenly heated you will notice immediately that your furnaces just doesn’t come on as often, any more. When your furnace is not heating air you are saving money and energy.

This is just one reason!

To continue… Now, let’s say that your blower uses about 600 units of energy (hydro) to run after it has initially been turned on. When your blower is on ‘automatic’ it will switch on 3-5 times an hour – every time your furnace comes on. Each time your blower is activated it uses 10 times more energy during its ‘start-up’ period.

If your blower is on 24 hours a day it runs at a constant of 600 units of energy per hour. If your blower is on automatic it uses 6000 units of energy up to 5 times (totaling 30000 units of energy) each and every hour on top of the standard 600 units of energy used.

Now… think about this… When your furnace is on ‘automatic’ as most furnaces are (that’s what I’m trying to change right now!) you can hear your furnace click ‘on’ when it’s time to heat your house. Have you ever noticed that you hear the furnace click ‘on’ and then several minutes pass by until the blower turns on (using 6000 units of energy)?

This is because your furnace is building up heat before the blower begins to push this hot air through your house. All of this heat is sitting in your furnace waiting until a certain temperature is reached before your blower turns on. While this time is passing a huge percentage of this heat is simply floating up your chimney and filling the atmosphere with warmth… a HUGE waste!!!!

If your blower is ‘on’ then any amount of heat that is generated by your furnace begins to immediately circulate through your house.

When your furnace is on ‘automatic’ most of the air in your house and ducts is (what I call) ‘dead’ air, because it’s just kinda floating around very slowly, or even just hanging around the ceiling, slowly seeping out of windows, etc. When the furnace heats up and turns the blower on, all of this new hot air must fight against a household of dead air. The blower has to push all this hot air into this dead air to keep it moving. All of this resistance in air qualities means that you are wasting energy as the hot air needs more energy to move it through your house.

So… that’s how you will save money and energy by keeping your blower in the ‘on’ position throughout the winter.

In the summer you will not be using your furnace to heat your house, so many people simply turn it off. Even in the summer you should continue to set your blower in the ‘on’ position as you will improve the quality of the air in your home and save more money.

Most furnaces are in the basement, where it does stay quite a bit cooler than the rest of the house. By switching your blower to ‘on’ all of this cool basement air circulates through the rest of your home, cooling it by several degrees. If you have an air conditioning unit on your upper floors you will find that you will not have to use them as often, as your house will now be a little cooler. This saves energy and money.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes your basement smells and even feels a little musty during the summer? This is because this cool basement air is stagnating. By continuously circulating all the air in your house, this problem should disappear.

With your furnace system turned off during the summer months, molds, dusts, bacteria, mites, etc. have a happy home in your duct system, while you get sick. By switching your blower to ‘on’ these problems will cease to occur, because the air is being continuously circulated and these air particles will get trapped in your furnace’s filter. If your air is always moving then these air particles will never get a chance to collect and grow into bigger problems.

After we switched our blower to the ‘on’ position, we noticed a positive difference, right away.

When I get up at 5:00am in the morning I usually turn the temperature up to 67 degrees. When I leave to go to work I turn the temperature back down to 62. When Joanne gets out of bed at 6:30am she turns the temperature back up to 67 until she leaves the house for the day.

Before we had made this ‘blower’ change, Jo’ would get up and notice that the temperature had dropped all the way back down to 62 degrees in the hour since I had left the house. After we made this change Joanne immediately noticed that when she got up that the temperature had only dropped slightly from 67 to 65 or 64 degrees. When she turns the heat up again the furnace only needs to add 2 degrees of warmth to the house instead of 5 degrees.

We’ve noticed that the air feels so much better now, too! We used to notice that one room would be warmer than another, but now our entire house sits at a more even temperature.

I’ve shared this story with a few of my friends and even my parents and everyone who has tried this idea has told me that my furnace installer was correct and that they are now more comfortable in their home than ever before.

My furnace installer told me that this information came from the Canadian government. About ten years ago a massive study was conducted in thousands of homes across Canada – from British Columbia all the way to Nova Scotia – and all the studies found that by leaving your furnaces blower in the ‘on’ position all year long the average household will save between $250-$300.00 in oil, natural gas and hydro electricity.

Now… please try this suggestion and when you’ve learned to love saving money and the environment then I hope you’ll tell a friend or a thousand – LOL!!!!

The reason why this works on furnace systems that are over fifteen years old and not the newer furnaces is simple… the newer furnaces are designed to do this already. Some new furnaces – like the one that I purchased – also have systems that compress the exhaust gases into reusable fuel thus saving even more energy and money!

Just imagine how much money and energy there is to be saved if everyone did this action that takes just two seconds of your life to enact.

Have a happy time greening our planet!!!!


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