Advice re decreasing heating bill
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  1. #1
    Registered User Shoshana's Avatar
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    Default Advice re decreasing heating bill

    My house is a 1930 two-story, 1700 SF, brick, arts & crafts style bungalow. I live in the upper midwest and we have long, cold winters.

    The family: Me and my 5-yr-old dd and two dogs

    Gas heating: $113 per month, budget plan, heat set between 60 and 64. Floor registers that neither open nor close completely. Furnace is 5-yr-old and has been serviced regularly, tho' not this year.

    Here's the layout:

    Basement, unfinished brick, clothes that are hung to dry will eventually dry without freezing

    First floor: Large open kitchen with a full bedroom and 1/2 bath off the kitchen, large open living room and dining room. In between the kitchen and living area is a small foyer with a door that leads to a stairway to the second story.

    Second floor: Stairway opens to an open area. Three bedrooms and a full bath are on either side of the stairway.

    How can I "close off" the upstairs so that I don't pay for heating it? The three bedroom closets upstairs are large walk-ins and they get REALLY cold even when the rooms are heated. I can handle a cold closet for long enough to get my clothes out. Even when I've tried to close the registers to the extra bedrooms, the upstairs still feels warm. I know I can't shut it off completely because we do need the upstairs bathroom -- at least twice per week (we sometimes shower at the Y.)

    It seems like I could save a significant amount of money if I figure out a way to more completely close off the upstairs.

    Do you all have any ideas?

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Shoshana; 10-23-2008 at 12:17 PM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Greebo's Avatar
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    How much insulation is in your attic or attic crawl space?

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    Registered User nvmommyx6's Avatar
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    We have a manufactured home, so there is simply a crawl space underneath it....I vent the dryer in there during winter to keep it warmer (the whole heat rises thing!!) Then after installing the wood stove last season, we have the floor vents that wont close too....I filled them with padding from an old pillow and duck taped both sides of them! This way any cold air from the crawl space does not come through!
    You could do the same for the vents you do not want to use I would think!

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  5. #4
    Registered User Shoshana's Avatar
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    I don't know... Surely not much, judging by the state of the walk-in closets. The closets are at the outside edges of the house. The attic is unfinished, really a crawl-space. There appears to be lots of blown in insulation, but I have no idea if it's adequate...

    I do notice that the upstairs is significantly warmer than the downstairs, even when a couple of the bedroom registers are closed. But heat rises, so I'm not sure if that's relevant...

    In the summer, if I let the house get too hot (e.g., inside temp up to 85), it takes forever to cool it with central air. If I manage to keep it cool inside by closing shades and using fans, it does stay cool. A contractor told me that this type of brick house is known to hold it's heat... I don't know if that's helpful...
    Last edited by Shoshana; 10-23-2008 at 12:56 PM.

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    Is there any way you could hang a heavy curtain at the top of the stairs into the upstairs area? It would prevent some of the heat from flowing up into that area. You could even install a tie back if you needed too. Other ideas would be putting some kind of door at the top of the stairs.

  7. #6
    Registered User Squirt's Avatar
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    I think it might be better to hang the curtain at the bottom of the stairs so the air doesn't go up the stairway and create a chimney effect, regardless of the curtain. I would think you'd lose less warm air that way.

    Since you don't use the upstairs bedrooms, how about covering the registers with tinfoil so the warm air doesn't come through? It won't look fancy, but if you don't go in those rooms, it won't matter.

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    Registered User Rippin508's Avatar
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    Do you have zones set up in your home?

  9. #8
    Registered User Greebo's Avatar
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    It sounds like you don't have sufficient air return from the upstairs to the furnace, so the hot air is drifting up there and not getting recirculated thru the house. In the summer this means a hot upstairs and in the winter, a cold downstairs.

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    Registered User Shoshana's Avatar
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    No, there are no zones -- just one thermostat in the downstairs bedroom.

    Okay, Greebo. That sounds exactly right. So now what? What does this mean?

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    Registered User Greebo's Avatar
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    The fix is not cheap. Your house would need ductwork redone. You'd need a large air return installed upstairs which would pull air from upstairs all the way down to the furnace.

    A curtain at the top of the steps is your first cheapest stop-gap.

    That and do a draft test. Close up the house, turn off all fans, etc, and walk thru the house with a stick of incense burning. Watch the smoke to determine where there are drafts. Check around windows, doors, etc. You may be able to help seal up those drafts by pulling the trim (GENTLY) from around the windows and injecting spray foam.

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    Registered User Shoshana's Avatar
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    #$#!$ Dang it!

    It won't be possible to put a curtain at the top of the steps. The stairway ends in the center of an open foyer area -- There are two rooms on either side of the stairwell. There would be nothing to attach the curtain to --. I could fashion a curtain to block the door at the base of the steps, and cover the vents with foil. Would that help?

    The windows are all new, wood replacement and high quality so there are no drafts there. I'll do the incense check, tho' -- it'll be an experience!

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    Registered User Greebo's Avatar
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    Maybe so - but unless they actually opened the walls to replace the windows, maybe not.

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    Registered User Rippin508's Avatar
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    Some other ideas to try to reduce your heating bills would be to find out how good of insulation is in your walls and put a water heater blanket on your water heater.
    Last edited by Rippin508; 10-24-2008 at 08:50 AM.

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    Registered User Rippin508's Avatar
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    Also, you could put that plastic window insulation on your windows.

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    Registered User joyofsix's Avatar
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    Ways I have hung curtains in crappy er, atmospheric old farm houses....Ok, not pretty but push pins/thumb tacks along the ceiling. I literally pinned one to the ceiling. If the span is shorter FI got those hangers for shower curtains that screw onto the wall and a large wooden dowel rod. Velcro? Don't know if it would be too heavy for that. I used quilts and comforters I got cheap from Goodwill. I would probably hang quilts at the closets and windows too. It's not perfect but will work stop gap, says the woman who lived that way for seven years.

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