As I said earlier, I am working through each “Task of the Month” suggestion proposed by Earth Care Indiana and was happy to discover that we’ve already done the March task. Sort of.
March task: Install and Use a Programmable Thermostat
This was a task we managed to do four years ago when we were still renting, as it is minimally intrusive (although you do have to do a little wiring to get it set up). We brought the thermostat to our house when we moved but upgraded soon after to a version that tracks the number of hours that the furnace or air conditioner runs. It’s a nice feature when you’re trying to get a feel for how often the furnace or A/C kicks on in the night. (Yes, we have our thermostat set to “Auto” so that the whole house fan only runs when the house is being actively heated or cooled, which is more energy efficient than setting it to “On” and letting the fan run constantly.)
However, we haven’t used the programming feature on our thermostat very much for the last two years because we keep it set at 60 degrees during the winter and 78 during the summer. Will works from home so it doesn’t make sense for us to use an “away” setting during the day. We could probably let the house get a little colder overnight during the winter but 60 seems cold enough. In the summer, it is a question of how much heat/humidity we can stand and our tolerance actually goes down at night when we are trying to sleep so there’s not much wiggle room there.
We did add a ceiling fan in our bedroom last fall, which we’re looking forward to using this season. Last year we got by with an assortment of box and pedestal fans. Fans do use a little energy but a lot less than our A/C and they have an amazing impact when blowing directly on us.
Earth Care suggests (for their “advanced” step) to experiment with greater setback – e.g., push your comfort zone by setting the temperature a little cooler than you normally would in the winter and warmer than you normally would in the summer. I feel like we have done a good job with this and am holding off on trying anything more extreme for the moment. I think our next step will be to improve the curtains, shades, and vegetative shading on our house to minimize heat gain through our lovely south-facing windows during the hot, sunny summer months.
Our house is actually quite well designed with respect to the sun. We have lots of windows on the south side but with an overhang to keep out the sun during the peak months of summer (except for our bedroom window, for some reason). We have almost no windows on the north side, which minimizes heat loss from cold wind in the winter. Additionally, we have windows that open on all sides of the house so it’s easy to get good cross-ventilation on pleasant days. All we need to do is add some evergreen plants on the north side of the house for insulation and some deciduous vines for shade on the south side. I’m thinking arctic kiwi and passionfruit on the south side and native honeysuckle on the northside. Stay tuned for more details…