Passive Solar Heating

When my wife and I purchased our home last year we ran into a neat feature I had never seen before: passive solar heating. Most of the articles you’ll find online use the same term for the planning, design and building of homes and buildings with an eye towards using thermal mass, windows, and sun orientation/angles to try and make use of the sun’s heat to ┬ápassively heat during the colder months and block the sun off during summer months. This is a nice concept, but doesn’t really help people who already have homes built or aren’t planning to do a huge makeover on the south-facing side of their homes. Ours is an actual system added to the home. From what we can tell it appears that the system was installed in the 1980’s when the original owner added an expansion to the second floor (more than a decade after the house was built). Continue reading

Practical Savings: Programmable Thermostats

Want another simple way to cut your expenses? This one is super simple – get a programmable thermostat… And use it!

Before my wife and were married and living together she lived in a 1200 sq. ft. town home built in the 1980’s with a programmable thermostat and updated gas furnace. I lived in a 1600 sq. ft. duplex built in 1905 with no insulation in the walls and an old manual thermostat. Not only that, but I worked remotely from my apartment and she commuted. And yet our heating bills were the same!

The difference was that I adjusted my thermostat by hand down at night and up in the morning. She left her thermostat on manual and kept it in the 70’s day and night. Oh yeah, and her thermostat was busted: it’d keep causing the furnace to shut on and off in very short cycles.

So, while you may already have a programmable thermostat you should make sure you’re using it properly and also that it isn’t malfunctioning.

Continue reading