Save the Most in the Winter

I remember in college of a seasonal competition among my roommates & housemates. Who’s gonna cave first? Who’s gonna get so cold they can’t take it anymore? Who’s willing to fight off the others and finally turn on the heat–and I don’t just mean pump a little heat into the room–I mean, who’s making impactful decisions that are going to affect the utility bills?

Well, I think the bravest made it as long as Halloween–I certainly did not. The halls smell of baseboard and space heaters– that new heater smell we all grow to love. It’s a warm and cozy kind of day with bone-chilling influence on you monthly bills.

Winter doesn’t have to pinch your wallet as hard as you would think, it just takes proper practice and application. Whether you have baseboard heaters or a gas furnace, you too can keep a smile on your face despite the freezing weather.

Baseboard heaters provide heat to a unit by heating an element within the device and radiating heat into the unit. Compared to a furnace–which heats air in a chamber and blows heated air into your unit–a baseboard heater will not blow hot air, only radiate heat into your unit. Both techniques are successful in heating units to comfortable temperatures, and both can increase your monthly utility bill drastically if misused.

It is noteworthy to mention, if you have baseboard heaters in your unit, make sure the load transfer switch is in the heat position.

Your load transfer switch may not look identical to this depiction; however, each switch will have a similar appearance. Some will have a blue button, a black button, and a red button, instead of a switch. In this case, the blue button provides electricity to the outlet (this outlet often used for plugging in an air conditioning unit), the black button is a neutral button and will provide electricity to neither the heater nor the outlet, and the red button will provide electricity to the heater only. Your baseboard heater will not work properly if you do not have your load transfer switch in the right position.

The best advice for keeping your heat bill low is to attempt maintaining a constant temperature. If you have baseboard heaters, try keeping your temperature knob in the low position as long as possible initially. This will not provide immediate heat, but within an hour, the low setting will provide a moderate amount of heat to your unit. If the low setting is not providing enough heat to your unit, then turn your temperature knob to the medium setting. Keeping your baseboard heaters on high at all times will cause the devices to cycle on and off their highest setting, and this in turn will increase your heat bill.

In a similar fashion, units heated by furnace or any centralized heat with a thermostat should be set to a low to moderate temperature (69 – 72 degrees fahrenheit). This will accomplish the same maximum savings as mentioned above. If you set your thermostat to a high temperature, your furnace will constantly attempt to maintain that temperature, and in turn will use more power and cost you more. It is quite possible that you may find your unit too hot at some point, and you will lower the temperature it is set; and then the unit some time later may become too cold for comfort. This is why it is most cost effective to set your initial temperature to a low to moderate setting, and then adjust to your own comfort level.

It is best to allow the air in your unit to become heated and allow your heater to gradually maintain that temperature. The insulation in your unit will do more than you think. You will use less power and save more money! Stay warm out there, but don’t allow your unit to get too warm! There may be a high cost associated with providing summer heat in your unit during the winter.