The energy section of The State of the Environment Report has a very useful list of green initiatives for homeowners. These include installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, plugging the leaks, setting back thermostats and installing low-flow showerheads.
I want to add one more --- dividing your heating and cooling system into zones. Especially if you live in a large home adding zones for heating and cooling will save energy and money. The concept is simple: You create separate zones for heating and cooling so that you are only making the spaces you occupy comfortable. Adding zones initially or after the fact is more costly than caulking or changing light bulbs but it can pay substantial dividends.
We added zones to our home and the building where my business is located. I want to focus on is what we did in our residence because it was a relatively economical solution. We added thermostatic radiator valves in the rooms that we did not need to use on a daily basis. I first came across these when I lived in New York where they were in common use in large buildings with rooms that had wide ranging heating requirements.
Thermostatic valves replace the knob valves on radiators and can be adjusted from about 46 degrees to 74 degrees. We had a plumber do the work. The cost was about $300 per radiator, including the valves. We just had the valves installed prior to this heating season so we only have a few months’ gas bills to compare our consumption to previous winters. So far, it looks like we cut our gas consumption by about 20%. We estimate that the energy saving investment will pay for itself in three to five years. In the meantime, we’re consuming less natural gas and reducing our carbon footprint if ever so slightly.
One caution is that these valves only function as cut back heating elements. Your central thermostat will continue to control your central boiler. The valves cannot “call” for more heat than your central thermostat.
Two manufacturers of thermostatic radiator valves are Dan Foss and Honeywell.
For more information on thermostatic radiator valves:
Thermostatic radiator valves explained
Dan Foss valves