OK, so I've been focusing on getting gas mileage up on my car. Today I open the gas bill, and much to my disbelief it's $360! I think I need to shift some thinking over to the home-side.
Our house is new, and we bought it with the HVAC system already installed. It's a Heat-Pump system with a natural-gas backup, which kicks-in when it's below 40-degrees out. I checked the yellow "EnergyGuide" sticker for the gas burner and the arrow is almost to the end of "least efficient" models. Here in Kansas City, it's below 40 for most at least 4-5 months. The energy saving thermostat is engaged to drop the temp when we're not around or at night -- it then anticipates the increase and steps up the temp gradually.
When I'm home, I let the sunlight in, which helps a lot, but for some strange reason, the lower-level is always warmer than the upstairs (the house is a traditional 2-story of about 2500 square feet). To equalize the temp. difference between floors (and to filter allergens), one month I ran the blower constantly, but ended up with a high electric bill.
So, I've got a brand new inefficient furnace (hot water tank seems to be pretty efficient -- gas also). What to do?
ouch. I remember last year after moving in here that I was shocked when the gas bill was $100/mo. The first thing I did was buy a digital thermostat which has programmable time functions. I programmed it like this:
My wife says it's too cold, and she's probably right, but the first month our gas bill went from $100+ to $60. The thermostat was $30 at lowes, so it was a good investment.
People often warm their homes too warm. I think 65 degrees is fine and I just wear a sweater.
I also plastic the basement windows during the winter. there was a VERY noticable difference when I did it in my office. I'd say 5-10 degree difference, no joke.
Other than that I'd say to look into a better furance come spring time. A furnance might cost you $500+, but it pays for itself in 2 months. If at all possible I'd also recommend getting a wood burning stove. We can't have one here due to more strict pollution standards during the winter time, but I wish we could have either a wood burning stove or a fire place.
If you want I can help you brainstorm on a few ideas that might help. A friend of mine is an architect and he is researching ways to build more efficient homes as we speak.
You can improve the efficiency of your old furnace by reducing the duration of the heat cycle.
A thermostat with adjustable heat cyle length can also do this.
I havn't listened to Clark Howard in years. Maybe I should again.
As an Atlanta resident, I can't escape him. His voice sure can get annoying, but he offers great advice! I'm thinking of opening a new savings account following his recommendation for a place offering 4.25% APY with no strings!
I'll be building a home myself over the next few years (starting in a year when I graduate college, or maybe the year after) and want to design it as energy efficient as possible. I'll be including a wood burning stove (it'll be out in the country on my parents-in-law's land) which I've read it way more efficient than a fireplace. I'll put in an electric heater system for backup but my parents-in-law's house gets pretty warm just off their stove.
As for the inefficient furnace, could you buy some high temperature insulation and wrap it up good, or does it work like a wood burning stove and radiate heat?
Scouring the country for an excellent condition Civic VX
My furnace is forced-air, but I could probably insulate the outlet ductwork near the source.
As far as your house building project, my folks in Ohio have a wood stove that heats up the house quite well out in the country. When they bought it, the house had zoned electric baseboard heat, but was too costly to operate. They now have a back-up, high-efficiency propane furnace to compliment the wood stove. It all depends on the electricity vs. fossil-fuel debate for warmth. Have you considered geo-thermal? I hear that works great for both heating and cooling.