Sunday, March 8, 2009

Partial Home Heating

I tried another experiment in home heating in February, this time fully heating just one room in my house while providing partial heat to the rest of the house. It was less of a compromise than I expected, and it cut my heating bill by a lot.

I imagined I might start to feel cooped up in my office, but that rarely happened — no more often, I think, than any other time. Actually, as I was in the middle of a tape archive project, I was going to be in the office most of the day anyway. I had to plan my showers an hour in advance so I could heat up the bathroom, but in practice, I can usually predict my showers more than a day in advance, so that wasn’t a problem.

I paid about $4 a day for heat, the least I have ever paid in a winter month, and while saving $8 a day might not sound like a big deal, it’s enough money to notice the difference at the end of the month.

I’ve been experimenting with home heating approaches because of the possibility that heating oil could someday cost $6 a gallon. That looked like a possibility for this winter just 7 months ago, which tells you how quickly it could happen. That’s a price at which home heating would become unaffordable for a great many people. Fully heating my house at that price would cost me more than $30 a day in winter — getting away to somewhere tropical might actually cost less than staying home.

But people can spend less by switching to electric heat and leaving some rooms only partially heated. It’s an especially useful strategy for a house that, much of the time, has only one or two people in it — but these days, a lot of houses are used that way.