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Licence to Kill
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Discussion Starter #1
Does it cost more to heat/cool a house that is minimally furnished (one bedroom is completely empty) vs one that is furnished at a more "normal" level?

TIA
 

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Well, if you have a completely empty room you ought to be able to seal it off and avoid heating/cooling the extra square feet, so I'd expect a little savings.
 

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Licence to Kill
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Discussion Starter #3
How do you seal off a room? Also, does that effect the structure? (Heat/cold/humidity). Thanks!
 

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It's more efficient to heat or cool something that's full of stuff. For example, it's more efficient to cool a fridge that's full vs. one that's almost empty. The stuff that's in it, once it's cool, helps keep the temperature up. It's the same with heat. It's easier to keep a house warm than to try to heat it up if it's completely cold. It's easier to heat or cool something with mass than to heat or cool air because mass will retain the cold or heat better than air.

All that said, I wouldn't buy a bunch of stuff to save money on heating and cooling costs.

You can close off rooms by closing the doors and duct vent covers, if you have forced air. For heat, if you have radiators with water in them, you can't close those off because they'll break if they freeze. If you close doors, lay a towel or rug up against the space under the door to stop drafts.

Cold can cause damage to buildings, but I don't know if that applies to buildings that are partially heated.

I added a shade cloth to our front windows the past two summers. This normally covers all four windows, but sometimes I partially open it. Breezes come through it and we can see out of it from inside. On a hot day here, it keeps the living room about twenty degrees cooler than without it.


It also helps an air conditioner's efficiency is it's shaded. I couldn't get our window AC in my office to stop running constantly till I added a section of shade cloth over it. We've had the same experience with both our AC and our gas absorption fridge in our camper, when the sun is on that side of the trailer and the AC and fridge can't stay cold enough. Adding shade solved those problems, too.
 

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Licence to Kill
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Discussion Starter #5
Yeah, I was wondering if it was similar to a fridge/freezer. I'm a minimalist and am finding myself not really filling even half the house.

But, it's about the same $ in mortgage and utilities as it would be for me to rent an apartment and pay those utilities. (Yes, maintenance is more, but I also get a garage this way and build equity).

I have central air with the vents on the ceiling. Is there a "best way" to close those off?

My A/C unit is outside (it sits on a little pad next to the house and is shaped like a cube). Is there anything I can do to help with that?

Thanks so much! I'll look into that shade cloth...do you mind sharing where you picked yours up? :)
 

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They make magnetic vent covers, they just stick on. But you can use anything. One of the vents in our basement room has newspaper over the inside of it. (Use a screwdriver to remove them) Another one has a towel stuffed inside it. Someone at the hardware store should be able to help you find the magnetic ones.

Thermal shades are great for covering the windows. They come in room darkening or room lightening. In the summer it keeps the sun and heat out, and in winter it helps keep the cold out. I got mine at Sears, but other places probably sell them too. Room darkening shades are great for bedrooms, too. Can help keep the sun out all day and keep it cooler for sleeping.

As has been mentioned, put a towel along the bottom of the door.

If you own the AC unit then have it serviced and cleaned annually to make sure it is running efficiently.
 
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Depending on how many vents you close, you may use more energy or even damage the HVAC unit. Read up on it before you start closing vents.

From the first 3 results when searching for closing vents to save energy:

https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/76258/Can-You-Save-Money-by-Closing-HVAC-Vents-in-Unused-Rooms
Can Closing Vents Help You Save Energy? Energy Efficiency Myths for March 2017
https://www.saveonenergy.com/energy-saving-tips/should-you-close-vents-in-unused-rooms/

Having full rooms will be more energy efficient, provided you aren't changing temperatures often. A full room will have all of its contents at roughly the same temp. If you try to heat the room up, you'll also have to heat up everything in the room. If you try to cool the room, you also have to cool everything in the room. If you only try to maintain a temperature, the items in the room will help more than having an empty room.

Start with heat loss/gain for the house itself. Drafts, poor insulation, sun blasting on windows, electrical boxes on exterior walls, etc.
 

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My mom has always closed all her bedroom doors and vents in the winter to avoid heating them during the day. In the summer, we sleep with most of the windows open during the night and close the whole house up during the day if it's going to be hot. All blinds and drapes shut. I really like natural light but because I'm either at work or if I'm home I'm usually outside most of the day so the closed up house doesn't bother me. It keeps our house much cooler, DH always asks if the air conditioning is on when he gets home.

I do use the air occasionally when it gets very hot and the nights don't even cool off the house much but then I generally only put it on 79-80 degrees. I do enjoy the warm weather though!
 

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I made my shade cloths.

Closing too many vents can mess up a system. I don't know the specifics of that but it does impact efficiency if they're the wrong ones or too many of them. It's been trial and error with us.

Some people like to let the temp of their house drop overnight and then heat it up again in the morning. We tried that with the result our furnace would have to run non-stop for several hours every morning and sometimes shut itself down before the house was up to the right temp due to overheating. We concluded we weren't saving any money overworking the furnace on a daily basis. It's much easier to maintain heat than keep changing it.

I don't know if it would make much difference to have more stuff in rooms or not. I think adding insulation to windows in unused rooms, in the form of shades or even rigid foam insulation panels cut to size, would help more.

There's a product called Reflectix that works great to keep heat down. It's bubble wrap sandwiched between two sheets of shiny Mylar. We use a chunk of it in our bathroom window, where the east sun pours in and turns the whole room into a heat sink in the summer. We also use big chunks of it in the two bubbles on the roof of our camper, which also act like solar collectors making it harder to cool the inside of the camper.

You can imagine how much heat two bubbles that size can let in on a sunny site on a summer day. Here's a shot of one of the Reflectix pieces installed in the rear bubble.

It's stiff but flexible and can be cut with regular scissors, so it's easy to work with. The piece in the bathroom window just sits on the sill and gets tucked into the track at the top of the sliding window, so it doesn't require any installation or hardware. When I installed it in the bubbles, I just sized it so it curves to fit the bubbles and it's self-supporting and requires nothing to make it stay in place. It just pulls out when we don't want it in there, and I often open up a corner just by pulling it down so I can look at the sky. It's stiff enough the rest of the piece holds the whole thing in place even with part of it opened up. We also have blinds on the bubbles, but the Reflectix is what actually keeps the camper cool. Reflectix is sold at home improvement stores and is manufactured to insulate around HVAC ductwork to help reduce loss of heat or cool air.
 

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I have central heat and air. I bought a learning thermostat and it is wonderful. It works with the Amazon Echo and also my iPhone. It learns your patterns but I can override the temperature from iPhone or by voice. I have a 2,000 sf condo with tons of windows and my average electric bill is $80 a month. My neighbor put in new windows, same size condo, and her bill runs around $45 a month.

I would caution anyone from covering vents completely. Closing them allows some airflow.

I live in Florida and my bill goes way down in the Winter so I'm looking forward to seeing how the learning thermostat works in the Summer, when my bill is always higher.
 

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Licence to Kill
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Discussion Starter #11
So, not going to cover vents...it does sound like it can really mess up your system.

I bought a big piece of polystyrene (insulation) and cut it to cover most of the all glass patio doors. (That stuff is a pain to cut). I move it when the sun comes in and put it back when it gets dark. Seems to be keeping some of the cold out. (Will reverse this process in the summer to keep A/C bill down).

I'm wondering if those honeycomb blinds really work to help with heat bills? They're kind of pricey to get.

Thanks all for the responses! :)
 

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Licence to Kill
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Discussion Starter #12
I made my shade cloths.

Closing too many vents can mess up a system. I don't know the specifics of that but it does impact efficiency if they're the wrong ones or too many of them. It's been trial and error with us.

Some people like to let the temp of their house drop overnight and then heat it up again in the morning. We tried that with the result our furnace would have to run non-stop for several hours every morning and sometimes shut itself down before the house was up to the right temp due to overheating. We concluded we weren't saving any money overworking the furnace on a daily basis. It's much easier to maintain heat than keep changing it.

I don't know if it would make much difference to have more stuff in rooms or not. I think adding insulation to windows in unused rooms, in the form of shades or even rigid foam insulation panels cut to size, would help more.

There's a product called Reflectix that works great to keep heat down. It's bubble wrap sandwiched between two sheets of shiny Mylar. We use a chunk of it in our bathroom window, where the east sun pours in and turns the whole room into a heat sink in the summer. We also use big chunks of it in the two bubbles on the roof of our camper, which also act like solar collectors making it harder to cool the inside of the camper.

You can imagine how much heat two bubbles that size can let in on a sunny site on a summer day. Here's a shot of one of the Reflectix pieces installed in the rear bubble.

It's stiff but flexible and can be cut with regular scissors, so it's easy to work with. The piece in the bathroom window just sits on the sill and gets tucked into the track at the top of the sliding window, so it doesn't require any installation or hardware. When I installed it in the bubbles, I just sized it so it curves to fit the bubbles and it's self-supporting and requires nothing to make it stay in place. It just pulls out when we don't want it in there, and I often open up a corner just by pulling it down so I can look at the sky. It's stiff enough the rest of the piece holds the whole thing in place even with part of it opened up. We also have blinds on the bubbles, but the Reflectix is what actually keeps the camper cool. Reflectix is sold at home improvement stores and is manufactured to insulate around HVAC ductwork to help reduce loss of heat or cool air.
The Reflectix sounds fantastic! Thank you for the pictures! That helps to understand how you're using it! :D
 

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Use a straight edge and score polystyrene with a utility knife, then snap away from the cut and it will snap right off fairly cleanly along the scored line. :)

We have two vents in our bedroom and cover one of them. It's been that way for about twenty years with no issues. We also have one in the LR that the factory screwed up on and it's always been plugged, so we have two vents in our four-bedroom house that are completely closed off. We haven't had problems with the furnace because of it. We've had situations where we've blocked off vents and not had the right circulation, but it hasn't caused any damage, just made certain areas hotter or cooler than we wanted. Next time you have anyone there to service your furnace, ask the tech for advice about closing vents.
 
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