Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can't Believe I Didn't Notice This Before!

If you've been reading this blog for a bit you know I've whined talked quite a bit about how high the gas bills were in winter and the electric bills in summer. The temperatures haven't quite been normal for Alabama so I've been looking for ways to reduce the costs --- adjusted the thermostat up or down as necessary, bundled up and added extra blankets in the winter, tank tops and shorts around the house in summer. I've started air drying all of the laundry and haven't turned on the dryer since early June. I'm microwave cooking more. All of this in an effort to reduce the cost of my electric bills!

Last year my landlord (my Dad) had gas logs installed in the fireplace. His main reason for doing so was so that if we did get a freakish ice storm that knocked out power for days (which doesn't happen often, but does happen about once every ten years), we would still have a heat source, and hopefully the pipes would be better protected from freezing. Makes sense. He selected the ventless logs and had someone come in to properly install them. We've only used the logs twice since installation --- once when I was testing them out to make sure I knew how to turn them on, and once when I had people over for a tree trimming get together -- for ambiance. I just haven't wanted to spend the gas costs for the ambiance on a regular basis.

Anyway, when the guy was installing them, he permanently adjusted the flue about a half inch open, and explained that while they are "ventless", code requires that for safety (aka avoiding carbon monoxide asphyxiation) there still has to be some venting. Not wanting to die from carbon monoxide, I was fine with this. He said the heat loss in winter and cooling loss in summer would be minimal. Okay, I'm fine with that and never gave it another thought.

So Sunday evening, I was dusting the mantel and realized that there was a huge pocket of heat right in front of the fireplace. I'm not certain why I didn't notice before, except that when we are in cleaning mode, Princess Penelope usually does the dusting and probably wouldn't notice or if she did, wouldn't think to mention it. Anyway, there was definitely heat coming in from the fire place. No wonder the AC never seems to shut off! Now obviously, the best solution would be to get permanently mounted glass fireplace doors to seal that opening, but that just isn't in my budget at this time. So, I looked around the house to see what I had that could cover that opening and at least reduce the amount of heat coming in and cool going out. And I found these large poster frames that I propped over the opening (I had bought these a couple of years ago and never used them, or took them back).

Look lovely, don't they? They don't "seal" the opening, but they do seem to reduce the amount of heat coming in. I made it a point yesterday to sit for a bit in front of the fireplace and to the sides of it and didn't notice that big ball of heat that I had Sunday night. And, although the temps hit 97 again yesterday, the AC actually shut off and cycled normally instead of just running and running and running. I figure I can live with it until we get a normal firescreen installed, and if I have people over, I can just move them so it doesn't look quite so tacky. While its not the perfect solution, it does seem to be at least an improvement!


  1. Can;t you shut the valve off to the gas? That's what I did with my fireplace?

  2. I'd have to have the line capped, which would then render the gas logs pointless. Local code requires venting if the line is active.