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Crawl space may reveal heat solution

QuestionIn August 2004, my family and I moved into a 1996 Palm Harbor Home (model PH20-1133). We have electric appliances, a ceiling fan, an electric heater (Intetherm by Nordyne), and metal skirting around the base of the home that is sometimes 3 feet high. Our electric bills have been huge this winter, but sometimes the house felt cold and other times it was hot. Is there a company that can do a diagnostic of our home and tell us how we can save money in cold weather?

AnswerThanks for sharing your home's model number as it helped me determine that you have cathedral ceilings. Because heat rises, high ceilings sometimes may make it difficult to achieve comfortable room temperatures.

I recommend that you first crawl under the home to verify that the floor insulation was reinstalled after the home's two sections were put together. The insulation is rolled back during transit and then reinstalled; it's possible that the insulation wasn't put back.

While you're there, check the heating system's flexible ductwork. Perhaps it was damaged during transit. Turn on the furnace and check the ductwork for leaks.

Inside, check the ceiling fan. The fan or its blades may be too small, the blades may not be the proper pitch, or the switch is in the wrong position.

A 10-by-10 room needs a 36-inch blade; 12-by-12, 42 inches; 15-by-15, 44 or 48 inches; 20-by-20, 52 or 54 inches; 22-by-22, 56 inches; and 25-by-25, 60 inches. A greater blade pitch will provide more air circulation. Ceiling fans in the bedrooms would be helpful but may be impossible to install because of the cathedral ceiling.

Sometimes running the furnace fan 24 hours a day evens out house temperatures.

If there is not a return-air grill in each bedroom, make sure the doors are undercut 3/4 to 1 inch above the carpet. If the ductwork is intact, this could help.

During the winter, set the ceiling fan to run clockwise. The updraft will recirculate any hot air trapped at the ceiling level for a more comfortable room temperature. This alone could reduce your heating bill by 10 percent.

The ceiling fan should be about 8 feet off the floor. With your cathedral ceiling, use an extra-long extension downrod to achieve this height, especially if the fan is centrally located.

Your heating system is designed especially for mobile and prefabricated homes. Have a heating contractor verify that the system runs correctly. Locate a heating contractor who knows the furnace brand and has experience with prefab homes. A heating contractor can do a room-by-room "heat load" calculation (heat loss and heat gain).

Copyright © 2005, 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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