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7 ADOPT ALTERNATIVE HEATING/COOLING STRATEGIES

This action focuses on adopting various alternative strategies for heating and cooling your indoor environment which will allow you to change your thermostat range.

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WHY?

Space heating and cooling account for the largest portion of all energy use in homes across the United States. A total of 40% of all energy is dedicated to indoor temperature control, 24% dedicated to heating and 16% to cooling. Because this is an average percentage for the entire nation, many climates such as Minnesota have far greater heating percentages and climates such as Phoenix, AZ have much larger cooling percentages. Unfortunetly, although, space heating and cooling are the largest energy use in our homes, we are also dependant upon these systems to create inhabitable environments indoors.

This is a tough dilemma, and calls for a very different kind of action than is requested in many other categories where simple lifestyle habits can go a long way to changing consumption of resources. This action calls for participants to re-evaluate their comfort zones.

Everyone has different tolerances for temperature. Our threshold for comfort has been increasingly minimized as access to cheap and abundant fossil fuel energy allowed us to create indoor environments with fine-tuned temperature controls. Because of this, we are often out of touch with the temperature outdoors, moving from one climate controlled environment to another throughout our day. In extreme examples, such as moving from an air-conditioned office in Phoenix, AZ in August at 65 degrees to a car parked in the sun at 120 degrees the difference can be enough to put our bodies into shock. Humans have always found ways to moderate the temperature in our environments to our comfort. This action focuses on how to utilize more passive, energy-reducing strategies and test our comfort levels.


how to do this action:

During this action, participants will be testing out their threshold of comfort and adopting different strategies for cooling and heating which allow them to change the settings on their thermostat, while keeping track of this experience with an indoor thermometer. The following strategies outline some possible options for reducing energy for space heating and cooling. Choose any combination or variety of the following depending on your local climate and time of year.

HEATING: PORTABLE HEATERS

It is possible to save energy on heating with portable heaters but a careful analysis is necessary to evaluate whether this is a feasible option. Energy prices and your bill are good indicators of how much energy you can or will save. The Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Home Energy Saver has put together a chart at this link. Follow the process found on that page to evaluate if portable heaters may be a method to save energy.

It is possible to save energy on heating with portable heaters but a careful analysis is necessary to evaluate whether this is a feasible option. Energy prices and your bill is a good indicator of how much energy you can or will save. The Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Home Energy Saver has put together a chart at this link. Follow the process found on that page to evaluate whether portable heaters may be a method to save energy.

Or, experiment with portable space heaters on your own, keeping track of how often they were on, how much your thermostat was decreased and overall energy savings or increase.

HEATING AND COOLING: PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

If possible, participants can be adjusting a programmable thermostat which moderates temperature for times when the home is unoccupied or residents are asleep. Using a programmable thermostat correctly can save 5-30% on air conditioning or heating energy (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Home Energy Saver).

Programming a thermostat (whether automatically or manually) saves money by turning the air conditioner to a higher setting (or heater to a lower setting) when no one is present in the house, or in the evenings when it is cooler. You can achieve the same savings without the programmable thermostat, but you would have to remember to change the thermostat every day when you leave the house, and turn it down every night when you go to bed. In addition, if the occupant is using the thermostat to regulate the heater, the occupant would wake to a cold house. The programmable thermostat does all of the remembering for you once it is set. A sample of a heating schedule you might program into a thermostat is:

TIME HEATING TEMP.
Wake Up 6:00am-9:00am 68°F
Leave 9:00am-5:30pm 60°F
Evenings 5:30am-11:00pm 68°F
Sleep 11:00pm-6:00am 60°F

This way the house is always comfortable and the occupant can save money on heating. A similar schedule can be made for air conditioning:

TIME COOLING TEMP.
Wake Up 6:00am-9:00am 75°F
Leave 9:00am-5:30pm 80°F
Evenings 5:30am-11:00pm 75°F
Sleep 11:00pm-6:00am 78°F or off
COOLING: FANS and NATURAL VENTILATION

The basic notion using fans and natural ventilation is that moving air (from ceiling fans, portable fans and open windows) makes you feel cooler, so you can turn up the air conditioner thermostat or turn it off altogether. The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) found that if the air conditioning thermostat is set 2°F higher when using ceiling fans, the savings will be 14%. (With a higher thermostat setting, savings are higher.) If the thermostat setting is not changed, electricity consumption will actually increase by 15%. Unfortunately, FSEC’s survey of actual behavior showed no measurable savings from cooling fans because most people did not adjust their thermostats.

Bottom line: Fans can save energy if the air conditioning thermostat setting is increased and if the fans are turned off when no one is home. (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Home Energy Saver).

Florida Solar Energy Center study on energy savings from ceiling fans can be found here.

Finding a way to properly naturally ventilate your house with open windows can also increase the airflow in your home, so that even on a very hot day, moving air through a space creates a cooling effect. As anyone living in a studio apartment knows, air flow cannot occur with only one open window. This is because the air coming into a space must equal the air moving out of a space (creating a pressure even if there is no wind). Experiment with how to create pressurized air flow in your house by opening different windows ideally on opposite ends of the house. The more direct the path of air flow, the better. However, with the right set of circumstances, air flow can occur around corners, and through the house in a surprising way. Here are some rules of thumb:

  • (1) Have at least two windows open at the same time.
  • (2) Air flows from warm to cold. Opening a window on both a shaded end of the house (or apartment) and on the sunny end will create a pressurized air flow of warmer air moving to the cooler end of the house.

Whole-house fans are a potential substitute for air conditioning, since they move large amounts of air through the house and require open windows. Savings from using a whole-house fan can be large (it uses 20% or less of the energy of a central air conditioner on a per-hour basis, although they usually need to be used for fewer hours). Also a whole-house fan provides good comfort levels when it's not too humid or too hot outside (night time). Studies by the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) show that ceiling fans can save energy if the occupants turn up the A/C thermostat. Unfortunately, most people don't adjust the thermostat. Often people leave them on even when no one is home, which can result in negative savings.

Research from FSEC indicates that whole-house fan savings are quite variable, ranging from about 10% to 65%. This range is due to the effect of climate; a milder climate will see savings toward the upper end of that range.

TEST YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Last but not least is to test your personal temperature comfort zone. Are you a person who prefers to be warmer or cooler than a typical office thermostat is set at? If you prefer warmer environments test your comfort by turning your thermostat up in the summer until you are no longer comfortable. If you prefer cooler environments and it is a cooler season, turn your thermostat down until you are no longer comfortable. Our bodies have an ability to acclimate which we have lost some touch with. This may be the most simple experiment to see what temperatures we have a threshold of comfort while saving energy. /p>

what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How much total energy (as documented on your electric bill) can be saved by using various strategies to change the range of tempertures within your living space?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of using various strategies to change your indoor temperature affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (E7_BASELINE) to record the outdoor day-time high and night-time low as well as high and low indoor temperatures. List your current strategies for space heating/cooling each day.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria using the spreadsheet (E7_BASELINE) as it relates to your current space heating and cooling strategies:/p>

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Use the corresponding spreadsheet (E7_QUANTITATIVE) to record the outdoor day-time high and night-time low as well as high and low indoor temperatures for each day during the implementation phase. List the various strategies you experimented with for space heating/cooling each day.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria each week of the project on the spreadsheet (E7_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. What strategies did you choose to experiment with and how did each of them go? Which strategies involved the most lifestyle change? Which involved the least? At which temperatures were each of these strategies most effective or ineffective? How did this action affect your awareness of natural seasonal temperatures? Do you see your energy consumption changing? How has it affected your physical comfort?


resources

Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Home Energy Saver
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

E7_Adopt Alternative Heating+Cooling Strategies Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

E7_BASELINE
E7_QUANTITATIVE
E7_QUALITATIVE