to keep my heat from wandering

by Ron Rothenberg, 4 Buyers Real Estate

Though I’m being pleasantly lulled by the warm weather, convinced that Spring is just around the corner, I concede that winter will soon be here. With winter comes high heating bills, which I’m thoroughly opposed to. Winter is bad enough without having to pay for the privilege of feeling too chilly.

Most winters I would seal up the windows, weatherstrip the doors, turn down the clock thermostat, don many layers of clothing and pray for warm weather, yet the heating bills were still annoyingly large.

But this winter is different. This winter I’m making it personal.

Last Spring, I replaced my 82 year-old boiler and 25 year-old oil burner with a new energy-efficient gas boiler. That made a big difference, but I could still feel the dials on the gas meter whooshing every time the heat came on.

So, I also insulated all the heating and hot water pipes in my basement. I never realized I had so many pipes. Several hundreds of dollars worth of insulation later, the hot water enters the radiators at almost the same temperature as it leaves the boiler, where it used to lose 8-10 degrees transiting those many pipes going across the cold basement.

Now, I can hear the dials on the gas meter grinding just a bit slower. As a bonus, the heat and hot water comes up much faster, too.

The biggest fuel-wasters in any old house are the leaks. When I moved in, everything leaked and a winter’s day in the living room was like a chilly, breezy Spring day outside. After 25 years, I’ve made some progress in the battle against leaks – blown-in wall insulation, a few new windows and the extremely generous use of caulk to plug those darn leaks has rewarded me with an indoor environment that’s more like . . . an indoor environment.

In the good old days, 2010 and earlier, I would go to war on some breezy day in Autumn with a caulking gun in one hand, and a match or cigarette lighter in the other. I’d watch the flame flicker to find out where a leak was and then I would plug it. I’d walk around the house doing this until the flame no longer flickered or I got too bored.

That method was crude, but it worked, and I hardly ever set anything on fire. But this is the 21st century, and progress marches on.

I’ve got a new high-technology tool in my anti-draft armamentarium – An electronic thermal leak detector that uses an infrared thermometer and colored lights to show me exactly where my heat is exiting the building. . . . .

More about that gadget in my next installment.