A Cost-Effective Heating Alternative

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This is the time of year when home improvement and hardware stores begin to advertise the season’s super-duper deals on the newest and most modern, thermostatically controlled, ultra energy-efficient, electric baseboard heaters.

There are two common types: 1) those with filaments (bars or coils), and 2) those with filaments and water filled housings (these are known as hydronic units). Both types are inexpensive and easy to install, but there’s a catch: electric baseboard heaters use electricity to create heat. Compared to gas-fired heaters, electric-resistant heating is simply not cost effective. There are exceptions. In a few parts of the country electricity is very inexpensive — like along the Columbia River in Washington state. And in some areas gas isn’t available. If your home is all-electric and gas or propane isn’t practical, at least be sure to look for electrical units with high efficiency ratings. Oh, and don’t forget to look for the UL approval sticker.

If you have an older home be careful, adding electric resistance heating could burden old electric circuitry. If electric heating is your choice, then be sure to install a dedicated circuit (wire and breaker) to handle the increased electrical load.

A small electric-resistance heater will use more power than a dozen average television sets.

Gas-fired heaters (furnaces) are more expensive to purchase and slightly more difficult to install than electric baseboard heaters, but in places where gas is available, the operating cost of a gas furnace will save big dollars month after month.

A gas-fired heater doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive — as it would be in the case of central heating or even a typical five-foot tall wall furnace. Small wall units that are intended to be used as “area heaters” that use less fuel.

Energy-efficient, gas-fired wall-mount heaters can be purchased that will easily heat an area of about 400 to 600 square feet. Best of all, they can be installed in a weekend.

The only requirement associated with these smaller units is that the unit be mounted on the inside of an exterior wall. This is because the exhaust for such a unit is designed to exhaust through the wall upon which it is mounted and directly to the outside. No fancy flues or ducting are needed here.

Installation is unbelievably easy:

• First, use the template that comes with the unit to cut a hole in the wallboard between two studs.

• Next, use the same template again to locate and cut a hole through the exterior wall-covering for the exhaust port. A pilot hole drilled from the inside makes alignment easy.

• Once the holes have been cut, it’s time to run the gas line. This is the hardest part of the job and you might want to hire a plumber to do it.

• When the gas line is complete the unit can be installed.

• Use four screws to mount the heating unit to the interior side of the wall.

• Next, use four more screws to mount the exhaust flange to the exterior surface (Remember to use lots of exterior caulk between the exhaust flange and the exterior wall surface before attaching the flange).

• NOTE: If both wall surfaces are carefully cut to the template dimensions, wall patching can be avoided. This is because both the heater and the exhaust flange are designed with flashing that will amply cover the required cut-out areas.

• Follow the instructions to ignite the unit, set the integral thermostat to the desired temperature and start saving money.

If you have an electric-resistance heating unit, store it for use in an emergency.

And that’s all there is to it!

For more home improvement tips visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59).

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