Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 145 - Try a Little Damper, Mate

Closing the Dampers in Rarely-Used Rooms

We've been experiencing some kooky weather patterns here in the Richmond area recently. Last Wednesday it snowed and yesterday it reached 78 degrees. I'm alternating between long johns and tank tops while I wonder if winter is ever truly going to arrive. I am assuming that it will hit soon and so I have been preparing for it by studying our heating system, insulation and general air-tightness, looking for inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.

One improvement I have made recently was to close several dampers in the house, in an effort to even out the heat distribution. We all learned in middle school science class that heat rises, so it's no surprise to find that, in the winter, our upstairs gets significantly warmer than our downstairs. Unfortunately, we do not have a dual thermostat system, so the furnace stays on until the downstairs thermostat reads 55 degrees - while the upstairs rapidly approaches the melting point of tungsten.

Last weekend I went through the upstairs and closed two vents in the master bedroom and one vent in the master closet. I prefer to sleep in a pretty cold room, loaded up with lots of blankets anyhow. I did leave the vent in the master bath open, just to take the chill out the air during the post-shower dampness, but I'm thinking I'll try closing it, since the heat from the shower really ought to be capable of warming up the not-so-palacious 5'x5' room.

I also closed the vent in my sewing room since 1. It's my slow season and I'm only sewing about twice a week now and 2. The combination of the lights, the machines and me moving around up there always makes the room feel too hot anyhow.

I ended up closing the damper in the kids' bath because they are now only getting a bath two nights a week and I just climb up on the vanity and open it up for bath time, then close it when they're done.

Ethan's room got dampered halfway down, as he is a lot like Mommy in that he sweats like a pig at night. Daphne, however, got to keep her damper open all the way, because it doesn't seem to work very well anyhow (I checked the duct and it looks fine) and any heat that gets through is welcomed.

The guest room already had its vent closed, but I double-checked it anyhow, because I'm OCD like that.

The final step of this process is to instill in hubby and the kids the concept of closing their room doors when they leave. This will take much longer than it took to close the damn dampers, but will help to ensure the warm air from downstairs doesn't just waft up to those rooms.


By closing the upstairs dampers, I will be concentrating the furnace's efforts on the area that needs it most: the downstairs. After all, this is where we spend the majority of our waking time. Once we're upstairs and in bed, it doesn't much matter how cold it gets.

I don't know if I can quantify this, but I will definitely be tracking my gas bill to see if all my little changes add up to big savings compared to last year. I will let you know how the numbers shake out.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

Ugh. We have cathedral ceilings in the master bedroom, so I did have to drag the 12' ladder up from the garage to close our dampers. Also, it is kind of a pain to have to open and close the kids' bath damper twice a week -- especially with my knees hurting -- but I think it's worth the time.


gregra&gar said...

If heat rises, what good are vents and dampers so high that you need a twelve foot ladder to get to them?
Sounds like a pretty dumb design to me.

Green Bean said...

Interesting idea. I hadn't thought of that but I'm going to try it. We clearly need insulation as our bedrooms hover around 53-55 degrees even though the thermostate is set to 65. Maybe closing some dampers in unused rooms would help. I'll give it a go.

As to the vents in a 12 foot ceiling, we have it to. It is the lamest design ever. Our vents in all of our rooms are closest to the exits (the least used parts of the room). My parents' house has the vents in the floor and I tell you, it really does make a big difference in keeping the house warm - and they have single paned windows too!