Since the heating of our earth is caused mostly by our use of fossil fuels, and winter is prime time for using fossil fuels to keep our homes warm, this column will be about the most obvious way to reduce the heating demand in our homes — lower the normal temperature of your thermostat.

I need to say upfront that I am not trying to start family thermostat setting wars, nor will I offer conflict resolution services if disagreements arise between family members.

The Department of Energy recommends 68 degrees as your normal temperature, and to set the thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees at night, and also during the day if your house is unoccupied.

You should save at least 2% for each degree you lower your normal temperature, and then around 10% for setting the thermostat down at night and when you are absent during the day.

Keep your feet warm and put on a sweatshirt or sweater if needed.

Using a programmable thermostat can make it possible to warm your house before you rise, or before you get home from work/school.

Those of us who are senior citizens probably remember during the “gas crisis” of the 1970s when everyone was asked to set their thermostats at 65 degrees, and the national speed limit was changed to 55 mph.

Would we do that again? That’s three degrees lower than the DOE recommendation, and would probably save at least another 6% on your gas usage if you do so.

I must say that setting the thermostat up and down as recommended above applies only to heating systems that use natural gas/propane furnaces.

If you have a heat pump that warms your home by extracting heat from the outside air (seems magical, doesn’t it), I would set the thermostat down from 1 to 3 degrees at night, maybe not at all if the outside temperature is below freezing.

You will need to do some experimenting with your particular equipment.

If the heat pump can’t maintain your home’s temperature, then it will switch to “emergency heating,” which is probably best described as “heating your home with a toaster” — your electric meter will be spinning.

In my last home, which only had a heat pump, I used a small electric heater to keep the heat high enough so the emergency heat would seldom come on, which saved a lot of kilowatts.

Have fun experimenting.

Next month’s column will be about reducing fuel usage by insulating and sealing air leaks in your home.

In the meantime, if it snows, check out the roofs in your neighborhood to see which one’s snow melts first.

I hope it’s not yours.

Phil Miller of Warrensburg is a member of Johnson County Citizens for Environmental Action. He can be reached at (660) 747-2996.

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