Global Warming – Cause Found!

Open_Damper

Global Warming Cause Found!

Yes, It would seem like it!  Here at a home in a West Island community !

I was there doing a home inspection for the potential buyers. While there, my clients asked me if I could find out why the heating bills were so high for this property.

And I did.   There were three major contributors: (1) The fire place. (2) The ceiling lights and (3) The thermostat setting.

(1)  The photo shows the least of them.  For those who don’t know, this is the fireplace damper. It’s in the open position (partly open).  This is how you’d expect to find it the morning after you had a fire the evening before. Then you close it until the next time you use the fireplace.

The problem here is that the current owners have been there for 9 years and never used the fireplace. That means there has been a steady heat loss literally up the chimney for nine winters. I had been thinking about why an unused chimney was in such good condition. Now I knew. A warm chimney is a stable chimney.

(2)  This is a large and generously proportioned house. The entry hall, living room and stairway areas have a high two story ceiling that is continuous along the second story hallway and balcony/mezzanine space. (And lovely bright two story windows.)

The large ceiling common to all these spaces had 16 pot lights. The big ones that were standard 25 years ago. They are safely housed in metal cases as per fire and electrical codes of the time, but they allow air to pass freely through them to the attic. Effectively bypassing all the attic insulation meant to keep the heat in.

(3)   If that wasn’t enough heat loss, then there is the cost. The heating here is not bi-energy but it is a dual mode electric system. It has a heat pump that transfers heat from the exterior in milder temperatures and when it gets down around -10 to -12 degrees C the system switches over to a  back-up electric furnace. This is because there is not enough heat in the outside air to extract any appreciable amount.

This furnace is a resistance heater (works like stove elements only bigger and hotter). In terms of power consumption resistance heating is the MOST inefficient way to use electricity. So it uses a LOT of power and therefore costs A LOT.

Once the high demand is met the system is set up to go back to the heat pump mode automatically. HOWEVER there is a thermostat control setting called “Emergency heat” that you would switch on if you returned home to a cold house after being away or woke up to a particularly cold morning. This switches all all the functions to the electric furnace  and bypasses all the other controls. It is meant to be manually switched back to automatic when the setting temperature has been reached. But the owners left it there as they found it more comfortable.

That means the controls kept the furnace doing all the work and left the efficient economical heat pump idle. There is the big dollar cost right there, but then add the fact that the home lost heat comparitively rapidly because the 16 pot lights and the open chimney act as vents.

This one house, by its self, obviously isn’t the cause of global warming, but it contributes to the total effect. Every heating system operating inefficiently is a contributor, part of the problem. So it’s worth correcting, and it will save you money.

If you or someone you know has high home operating expenses, it’s time to have it inspected for cause. Most times it’s more than one factor, so a systematic overview of the house as a system is required.

Robert Butler – Home Inspection.