Smart Choices for Winter Heating
By Connie Chabot, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Stelpro Design Inc.
One of the great advantages of heating a home in winter with electric heaters is that it allows the homeowners to be in control of not only comfort level but also their electricity bill, contrary to those in homes equipped with central systems.
Homes with central systems typically have one thermostat, and the behavior of the heating system depends solely on this one control and its location in the home. In most instances, this forces you to live with the same temperature in every room of the house. In other instances, in houses that are not perfectly symmetrical, you may get the desired temperature in some rooms but not in others, depending on where the thermostat is situated in the home. In both instances, comfort and the ability to save are totally compromised.
If you want to be comfortable and save money, electric heating is the only way to go. The reality is that we do not live in every room of the house in every moment of the day, so electric heating provides the flexibility to take this into account.
When each room is equipped with its own thermostat, the homeowner has total control over the temperature:
- You want 72 degrees in the living room but not in the bedrooms? No problem.
- You want some of your heaters to work less at night, while you are sleeping, because you like to sleep in a cooler room and not waste electricity? Done.
- You want all of your heaters to work less while you are at work all day so as not to waste electricity? Easy fix.
Electric heating solutions are versatile. There are choices of units available on the market based on what type of heat delivery you are looking for:
- You don’t want cold air coming in when someone opens the front door? Put in a forced air heater and you are good to go!
- You want a warm, cozy floor-heating system under your kitchen tiles? No problem.
- You want silent, fluid heat distribution in the bedroom? A convector is the solution.
- You want a bit of floor warming as well as a boost of temporary heat after the shower? Who wouldn’t?
You get the idea? You decide.
The key driver of the two objectives here—comfort and efficiency—is the thermostat. The thermostat is the brain of all of these heating methods, and in this day and age, the “brain” must be electronic in order to maximize the benefits of an electric heating system. Thanks to their precision factor, electronic thermostats detect the slightest change in room temperature and react accordingly. If you are still using a mechanical thermostat, chances are you are controlling it like an on-off switch and never satisfied with the result.
A mechanical thermostat will turn your heater off and on, but it will not perform anywhere close to as well as an electronic thermostat. A mechanical thermostat is unreactive, so it will often cause your heaters to operate either too much or too little. Comfort is compromised, and this will happen at full utility price! An electronic thermostat covers the comfort factor, and when it is used to their full potential, substantial cost-savings can be achieved in the amount of electricity consumed.
By using electronic thermostats in your home, you are making your home “smarter” and essentially ready for the next technological revolution.
The smart home is being controlled by thermostats light years beyond the mechanical model. In winter climates where homes are heated primarily with electric heating systems, nearly 50 percent of the total electricity consumed in the home is for heating purposes alone; in this case, smart thermostats are a must. If it’s nice to have control, for example, over your lighting and stereo system through your handheld phone or tablet, then controlling your thermostats in the same way is almost a no-brainer, as it is a highly effective way of ensuring electrical cost-savings and maximum comfort.
By simply incorporating new habits when it comes to controlling your heaters, especially during the residential rush hours—weekday mornings and evenings, when peak rates are often being charged—we are able to measure just how efficient we can be when it comes to the energy we consume. For example, you can demonstrate efficiency by lowering temperatures in unoccupied rooms or by decreasing overall room temperatures during the day while at work, with the ability to boost them back up just before arriving home, and doing the same thing at night when going to bed and before getting up the next morning. Studies show that these conscientious efforts can pay back to the tune of 30 percent on the cost of consumption (with day and night setbacks of 8° F).
Regardless of the costs of electricity in your area, you should never rule out electric heat as a versatile and smart solution for your winter home.
This is the second of three installments in the Smart Choices for Winter Heating series. Originally published in the January 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.