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My Heat Can’t Handle the Cold

Things I am Leaning as a Homeowner – Why My Heat Can’t Keep Up

It's Kind of Cold Out - Have You Noticed?

It’s Kind of Cold Out – Have You Noticed?

I own my first home. Since my home is old (1931) and some of the past owners have done some odd things with it, I get a bit nervous when something might be going wrong. In this case, my house is cold.

I keep my house between 69 and 72 degrees. Last night, I noticed my  temperature stayed around 66. My initial thought was, it is really cold out and the system just can’t keep up. But still, I couldn’t help but be nervous. What if my heater is breaking, I thought? So I touched the baseboards and sure enough, they were warm.

Today, my house was 62 degrees. Interestingly, it doesn’t feel that cold, but that is what the thermostat reads. I was still inclined to think that the unusual cold we are having is the problem as opposed to my heater, but again, nervous new homeowner, so I looked up the issue. And yes, my heater just can’t keep up.

Thinking that other folks might be worried as well, I figured I would write a blog post about this problem.

Why Can’t the Heat Keep Up?

I read this extremely helpful article from “Ask the Builder” on Heating Systems. The asker wanted to know why her house was stuck at 67 degrees. In response, Tim Carter explains that when a heating system is put in, the installer calculates what the house will need during the average season in your geographic area.  In my geographic area, near Philadelphia, it rarely gets as cold as it was yesterday and today. As a result, my heating system is not built to handle this kind of temperature.

Should I Install a Bigger Heating System?

Now, you might wonder whether it would do me well to put in a larger system, and the answer, according to Mr. Carter, is no. For the most part, my system is just fine. I haven’t had this issue on any other days this winter, and we have had some cold days. If I install a system that is larger than I need, I will spend a lot of money for that system, and also, according to Mr. Cater, “… in mild weather, it will run you out of the house as it sends vast amounts of heat into the house in a short amount of time. If your home is forced-air heat, understand that perfectly balanced systems have the air floating out of the ducts in lower velocity. This prevents whistling noises at the registers. You want gentle amounts of air flowing from the ducts that keep you warm without noise.”

I am relieved to know that my system is working properly. I happen to have an electric heater that I sometimes used in the town home I lived in previously (it had terrible insulation) so I simply brought that heater upstairs to help out my heating system. Very quickly, the temperature returned to 69 degrees.

Check your Insulation and Escape Points

Another thing I need to do is have my house checked for places where hot (or cold air) might leak out. I moved in here in mid January, so there wasn’t much opportunity to have work done.  One issue I know I would like to resolve is that my basement is not heated and there is no door between my basement and the main house. I’d like to get the basement heated, because it is finished and a very nice space. But I also think I will install a door, so when I don’t want to heat (or air condition) the basement, I won’t need to do so.  I think that will help as well.

Don’t Panic

So, if your heat isn’t keeping up, don’t panic. Consider using a secondary heat source to help you through this very cold time. But if you do, make sure you use it safely. Secondary heat sources are excellent sources of  fires…and not the good kind, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning. Please make sure you keep a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

 

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