Living Less Unsustainably: Heating

Sep 21, 2020

KLCC's Master Recycler John Fischer says zonal heating is more efficient than central heat.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

As the heating season approaches it's a good time to review the second law of thermodynamics, and possibly contradict your mother. We'll start with the hard one- telling mom she is wrong.

It is more efficient to let your house cool down at night, or when you are gone, and reheat it when you want a warm house than it is to keep it warm all the time.  

If your mom is a physicist, she's probably been telling you this for years. The greater the heat difference between two places, the faster energy flows from warm to cold. My wife and I enjoy the alive feeling you get from seeing your breath when you first get out of bed. If you don't want to feel the chill in the morning, get a programmable thermostat. Set it to warm the house 20 minutes before you are going to throw off the covers. And set it to let the house cool off until just before you get home from work.

Zonal heating is more efficient than central heat. If you're going to be in the bathroom and the kitchen before work, warm those rooms- only. There's no point in warming the bedroom or living room you aren't using. 

Heat pumps are more efficient than ever, and the ductless units can be a perfect way to focus the heat on the areas you use most.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

Heating technology is helping in our fight against climate change too. Heat pumps are more efficient than ever, and the ductless units can be a perfect way to focus the heat on the areas you use most. While state tax credits ended a few years ago, Energy Trust of Oregon, and some local utilities are still making efficient heat the least expensive choice by providing financial help.

Simple things can make a big difference too. A hat on my increasingly bald head even indoors makes it feel warmer.  Sweaters aren't just cool- they're warm too. And just explain to the boss, or spouse that growing a beard is your way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Copyright 2020, KLCC