I’d Like to Catch Spring Fever . . . If Only The Weather Would Cooperate
Ah, springtime in Colorado. As I type, I can see a sheet of snow falling outside my window–it’s the first snow of April! It’s magical. And it might be my last chance to wear my footed jammies and drink hot cocoa for a few months.
Ironically, the snow puts me in the mood to talk about summertime energy efficiency myths and ways to stay cool without cranking your AC to “arctic.”
First, a myth from avid Myths Debunked fan, David:
Dear Mythbuster Woman – I attended a “free dinner” with a sales pitch a while ago. They were selling a thin, reflective aluminum blanket to put over your attic insulation. The theory was it reflected heat away in the summer and back into the house in the winter. Sounded like nonsense to me. Any comments?
Mythbuster Woman did some research on these blankets, called radiant barriers, and she is decidedly unimpressed.
First, radiant barriers are essentially reflective materials that work to block heat gain in the attic in order to create cooler temperatures in your home in the summer. The most balanced report I found came from the U.S. Department of Energy, which states that some studies show that radiant barriers can lower cooling costs between 5%–10% when used in a warm, sunny climate.
While 5%–10% is significant, sealing gaps and holes in your house (including the attic) and adding more insulation to your attic, walls and basement would cost the same or less. Plus, they keep the warm air in during the winter, and helps to save energy throughout your home.
As far as “reflecting heat . . . back into the house in the winter,” the only folks I found making this claim are the ones selling radiant barriers. If anyone has verifiable, third-party information to the contrary, let me know.
Myth: A ceiling fan will help cool a room.
Answer? False. Fans cool people, not rooms. If a ceiling fan runs in an empty room, no one will feel its benefits. A fan circulates the air creating a breeze that moves across the skin. The breeze makes us feel cooler at the same room temperature – which means you can set your thermostat higher. When you leave the room, turn off the ceiling fan, or put it on a timer.
However, during the winter months, reversing your fan’s direction will help circulate warmer air that has naturally risen to the ceiling back to the floor, helping to reduce heating costs by up to as much as 10 percent.
Myth: You should leave your pilot light burning during the summer to keep moisture from accumulating in, and rusting, your heat exchanger.
Answer? False! According to Bruce Boerner, Xcel Energy efficiency engineer extraordinaire, there is no reason to leave your furnace’s pilot light on over the summer. The heat exchanger is not susceptible to moisture from a basement with normal environmental conditions. Heat exchangers corrode when moisture from the flue gases – which are slightly acidic -condense on the heat transfer surface (not from moisture in the air). Plus turning off the pilot light extends the life expectancy of the thermocouple or the thermopile.
If you have a newer furnace with electronic ignition, you probably don’t have a pilot light, which means there’s no standing pilot.
Thanks for checking in! Join me next time when I’ll answer your questions and bust some myths.
In the meantime, don’t forget to keep your comments coming, and I’ll continue to dedicate myself to debunking energy hoaxes, thwarting scams and educating energy users everywhere. (Cue patriotic music)