Make Your “Full House” Energy Efficient this Winter
(guest post by Erin Mezle)
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly turned the “new normal” household into hubs for all family life moving the workplace, grade school, college, extracurricular activities, meals, gyms, hobbies, all under one roof. And, this seismic shift will not change soon. In fact, 82 percent of company leaders surveyed by research firm Gartner say their organizations plan to permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time even post-pandemic. When it comes to back-to-school, a recent NPR/Ipsos poll found two-thirds of respondents thought schools in their area should be primarily remote, including 62 percent of parents of children under 18.
Although this new “Full House” dynamic could forge family bonds, it will also cause energy use and utility bills to skyrocket with all home technologies, appliances and systems running overtime at unprecedented levels – making optimal, energy-efficient home climate control a critical part of both keeping everyone comfortable AND minimizing utility bills due to significantly more time spent at home.
The good news is that families can successfully prevent a utility bill blitz this winter by following a few simple steps. With home heating and cooling accounting for nearly half of home energy use, small steps can go a long way.
· Ease Into Electric: According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, electric systems are a solution to decarbonize home climate control. Among the most energy-efficient heating and cooling products, electricity-powered ductless mini-split systems, offered by companies including Fujitsu General America, can save as much as 25 percent on your energy bill. Mini-splits use thin copper tubing to pump refrigerant from an outdoor compressor directly into an indoor air-handling unit, where the air is quietly distributed to the interior space.
· Get “Smart" About Climate Control: When it comes to smart home temperature control, there are Smart HVAC Systems and Smart Thermostats. Smart HVAC systems have built-in Internet capability and can be controlled directly without additional equipment. Smart Home Thermostats create “smart” systems by enabling remote temperature control via a mobile or Internet-connected device or voice-operated home automation system.
· Voice Your Preference: Take control of your comfort. Most HVAC manufacturers offer apps that enable systems to be controlled from anywhere using a mobile device. Voice-control capability uses digital assistants, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, to verbally dictate home temperatures. Easily controlling the temperature more closely, allows homeowners to be more comfortable and improve energy savings.
· Find Your Efficient Comfort Zone: Many of us live in homes designed for bigger families, but have yet to downsize. If you find yourself using a fraction of your home on a regular basis, consider upgrading to a zoned ducted, or ductless system. That will allow you to save energy heating and cooling spaces where you and your family don’t spend a lot of time. This will multiply savings as you’re not only needing less cooling but you also gain from a more efficient system in the spaces you do still use.
Try Low-tech Fixes: Simple changes can have a big impact.
o Capture the Sun: Even if you don’t have solar panels, you can still take advantage of the sun’s energy to heat your home. Open your south-facing curtains at sunrise to make best use of “passive solar gain.” This works particularly well if your home has stone or concrete floors, as they have a large thermal mass, meaning they soak up a lot of heat and release it slowly. Remember to close your curtains as soon as the sun dips to trap all that free heat.
o Use Waste Heat: Some equipment in your home generates “waste heat” during normal operation. For example, your computer's CPU belts out waste heat that’s conducted to a heat sink and then dispersed with the aid of cooling fins and a fan. Position your workstation where you can best use that thermal energy to help warm your room, for a free heating system.
o Force Down Warm Air: Denser, cooler air stays closer to the ground, and warmer air rises. So, force it downwards with a low-speed fan. Reverse the fan's setting so it sends the warm air upwards, as this will distribute it back down the walls to mix with the rest of the air in the room, gradually raising the ambient temperature.
o Lock it In: Insulate and fill the gaps. Warmed air leaking out around poorly sealed window frames, power sockets, recessed light fittings, and other gaps is a big source of heat loss in homes. Use caulk, foam strips or expanding foam to seal up unwanted holes in your home. Add extra insulation to your home cheaply by layering up mineral wool in your attic. Thick curtains help to insulate glass at windows. If your windows are single-glazed, consider sticking transparent polythene film to your internal window frames to act as super-low-budget “double-glazing.”
Achieving a sense of peaceful co-existence in your increasingly crowded, multi-functional home does not need to make your family members hot under the collar. If a new system is right for you, many Fujitsu systems with the Energy Star rating are more than twice as efficient as the minimum standard set by the government. To learn more or find a contractor near you, call 888-888-3424 or visit www.constantcomfort.com.
Erin Mezle is the Vice President of Marketing for Fujitsu General America, a national manufacturer of heating and cooling systems with distributors in local communities across the country and a 20-year industry veteran.