There are few things cozier than a warm fireplace. As the crackling flames cast a gentle glow across the living room, it’s the perfect time to relax on the couch with a warm book. Even better, using your fireplace can actually reduce your energy bills…right?
Hold on—that scene may not be as comfy or efficient as you imagine. Fires need oxygen, and often its appetite is filled by using your indoor heated air and sending it up the chimney.
This is just one of the many heating myths that can leave you—and your wallet—out in the cold. We break down fact vs. fiction to help you prepare for the winter.
1. Fireplace fallacy
As mentioned earlier, fireplaces use oxygen, which often involves gnawing away at your paid-for heated air. This doesn’t even account for the cost of firewood, which, if you’re an urban dweller, may be fairly expensive. Fireplaces in general are a very inefficient way of heating a room (which is one reason why castles were notoriously cold)
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to give up the wonderful atmosphere of a crackling fire. If you really want to keep the ambiance, heat only the room that has the fireplace, turn down the heat and close off the other rooms.
2. Geothermal HVAC systems waste lots of water
In fact, geothermal systems can actually save millions of gallons of water. Why? Because they don’t consume water at all.
Geothermal heating uses water circulating through aquifers to draw heat from the earth. Then, the water is returned to that same aquifer and the process starts again. (If you want more detailed information about geothermal heating, we have the 4-1-1 for you.)
Granted, in the past there may have been geothermal systems that dumped the water after it passed over the heating exchanger, but those are a relic and are rarely—if ever—used today.
3. Geothermal systems take up a lot of real estate…
…you need extensive yard space in order to accommodate the piping.
Granted, a lot of this depends upon your site and the size of your property. But often, these loops can be buried vertically, meaning geothermal system may need even less space.
4. A bigger system is better
Not always. The key to an efficient and effective heating system is to get the right size. If it’s too big, your energy costs will increase and the initial costs are higher. Oversized systems also have a “domino” effect—they require larger fans and, as a result, can cause more wear and tear on the system because it needs to be adjusted more frequently.
Think of it this way: a system that is too big is like a sports car in stop-and-go traffic.
5. A window to savings?
Commercials say that saving money is as simple as two words: window replacements. This is only partially true. Yes, energy efficient windows will save money, but because they are incredibly expensive—sometimes costing thousands of dollars—it will be decades before the cost savings will enable you to “break even.”
Your best bet? Make sure you’ve sealed any drafts around the windows you already have. A professional energy audit and information from a professional, local HVAC technician can help you.
These aren’t the only heating myths out there. The bottom line is you have to be diligent and keep a close eye on your energy bill. Your local heating and air conditioning company often features regular preventative maintenance programs so you can nip any problems in the bud. You don’t want to have heating problems in the middle of winter!
Betcha didn’t know that!
Karp, Gregory. “Common Heating Myths.” The Chicago Tribune. Online.
National Geographic. “10 Myths About Geothermal Heating and Cooling.” Online.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse (EREC), “Right-size Heating and Cooling Equipment.”