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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    In the Ohio/PA/WV valley, Northern WV panhandle.
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    Hey fellas, how is everyone today? I am hoping I could get some advice here and hoping I can be pointed in the right direction. I'm a novice, and really need to see what the problem is. I read through some threads today, but still can't make sense as to why my electric bills are so high.

    I am going to be as thorough as I can and include pics hoping that will help.

    Some background:

    - Live in the Ohio Valley, Northern WV panhandle area
    - 1 story brick home
    - 1200 square feet
    - hard wood flooring
    - insulation and windows are fine (according to the guy who installed my new furnace and heat pump anyway)
    - all electric home
    - I live alone - no other human beings in the house
    - One vent in each room, a couple of intakes throughout the house, but NO VENTS in the hallway or the dining room
    - I keep the temperature on 60. Yes, 60.


    Purchased my home in July of 2009. The HP and furnace were old, but the heating and cooling worked well. My first summer and winter were high, but nothing like the next 2 winters. In the summer of 2010 my central air quit working. All it blew was warm air. I went without any AC that year and just had to use a window unit and carry it from room to room with me (talk about a pain!) because I didn't have the $ to purchase a new HP.

    That winter with no HP I had just the electric furnace. The first month of winter the electric company decided to not read my meter for like 34 or 35 days. My first bill was $445. I had it on 64 that month and about soiled my pants when I got that bill. I instantly turned it down to 60 after that, and no matter how little I used electricity that winter, it was consistently $250 and up.

    Come spring 2011 I wasn't going through another summer of no central air so I dug as much as possible in trying to find a new heat pump. Had one service call and it was about the worst customer service I've ever had. They said it was $$$ for the call, but charges me $$$$ after all of the testing was done, and all he said was that the Hp was toast. It wouldn't be beneficial to replace the compressor (which was what went bad). I did a little more digging and found out that the payroll lady at the school I taught at is married to an HVAC guy (Jim) with 35 yrs experience. I called him, he came out for $$$ to look at it, then 2 more times for free. Heck, he even called me a couple of times with some other ideas on why my electric bill was so high. We found out that the heating element in my sink that gave me instant boiling water was broke and running 24/7. That reduced the bill about $40/month, but it was still high.

    A few weeks later Jim calls me back. He says he is looking for a HP for me and hoping we can save the furnace. He said I had a 3 ton HP and it was way too big for my duct work and that was the reason for the compressor breaking (something along those lines anyway). A few days later he calls me and said a salesman that's been wanting Jim to buy from him gave him a deal with prices he hasn't seen in 10 or 12 years. A new HP and furnace for half the price of what the HP I was getting quoted. Now, I knew his wife personally, and the guy came to my house several times for free and only charged me $$$ the first time he came, so I believed him that it was just a very good deal. (He was A+ with everything - a very honest guy.)

    Anyway, he replaced the HP and furnace just before a ridiculous heat wave came. I kept it cooled on 77 or so and was still getting bills that were high in my opinion. Anywhere from $100-$150 a month. Again, I live alone, and use little to no electricity. Before I bought my home I lived in an apartment and had it down to a science. Even had a $10.62 bill once, and I stayed there every night that month, and it was an actual reading. Come the fall the bills went back down because I wasn't using the AC or heat.

    Then winter came and it's been very, very mild. I just looked at this months bill and last month the avg temp was 10 degrees higher (32 degrees) than it was in 2011 (22 degrees), but yet I am still getting electric bills in the $200-$250 range. I wouldn't mind that if it were 68 degrees in my house and I had a family, but I got this sucker set at 60 degrees, and I am gone 12-18 hours a day. I just don't understand it! I'm so sick of these bills I could puke! I have done everything I can think of to reduce my electric bill: energy efficient bulbs, power strips for all vampire electronics that gets turned off at night, nothing but the fridge runs when I'm not there. I just don't get it.

    Here is my reading from last month's electric bill:

    7.4 center per kwh
    Total kwh used: 1688
    kwh per day: 58
    Avg temp: 32 degrees
    Total kwh for the previous 12 months: 15,200
    My bill was $200 with fees, and again I am keeping it at 60 or lower. I got fed up last night and tuned the heat down to 50, closed my bedroom door and used an electric space heater.

    Here are the readings for the last year:

    Feb 2012: 1688
    Jan 2012: 2251
    Dec 2011: 423
    Nov 2011: 316
    Oct 2011: 987
    Sep 2011: 1285
    Aug 2011: 76
    Jul 2011: 570
    Jun 2011: 401
    May 2011: 702
    Apr 2011: 2047
    Mar 2011: 2695
    Feb 2011: 3447

    I will post pics of my HP, Furnace, Thermostat, and space heater. If you guys can see anything that I should check or that seems funny, please let me know.

    I know that was long - thanks a lot for reading. I'll spare you of any more details and drag this out anymore.
    Last edited by jpsmith1cm; 02-15-2012 at 04:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    In the Ohio/PA/WV valley, Northern WV panhandle.
    Posts
    23
    I have no idea why these are sideways, they saved standing up.




    Furnace



    Furnace



    Heat Pump Literature



    Heat Pump



    Thermostat



    Space heater


    Is that space heater going to kill my bill is I have the furnace on 50?

    Also I forgot to mention I have a fire place, and wanted to look into an insert, but they were ridiculously high priced. Any advice there?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    If you look at your electrical circuit breaker board, you'll find a very large breaker at the top. Shift it to the "OFF" position and your electric bills should then be in the $10 to $15 range as you anticipate. Otherwise, you're going to have to pay for the privilege of purchasing electricity.

    Now that we've got that settled (at least I do) let's do something constructive. Locate your electric meter and observe that the horizontal disk is turning. Now go into your home and turn off the HP. Use the circuit breakers to the HP and separate breakers for the electric heaters. Now go outdoors and re-inspect the meter. Is the disk still spinning? Faster or slower than before? Repeat this inspection as you turn off each additional C/B in your house until you've got them all turned off. When they're all off, the disk should not be moving. Is it?

    Now you can begin turning on 1 c/b at a time and observing relative speed at which the disk spins. The faster it spins, the more you're paying. Many of our modern conveniences eat gargantuan amounts of electricity. For example, granddad's old refrigerator used a fraction of that consumed by your frost free refrigerator. T.V.s, cable boxes, computers, everything that runs on electricity and is either "instant on" or has little light to indicate power is a consumer of electricity. Even you cell phone charger when it's not charging has the light and is consuming electricity.

    Sure, the HP is a big user whenever it's running and the electric resistance heaters are even worse. There are ways to improve on that use but you've already spent the cheap way out and now you're getting that for which you paid. A good, competent (very difficult to find) company would have done a load analysis of your house before specifying a new HP. Then there would have been options offered for different efficiency products. Of course, the cost would have been much more than I'm sure you paid but in the end, you asked for it. Energy efficiency costs.

    So your only alternative at this point is to tighten up the house. Find all the leaks and seal them. Use foam, silicon sealer, plastic sheeting and other things. If you've got an attic access panel, use that access to get you into the attic, pull back the insulation in each bay and seal any leaks you can find (holes for pipes or electrical wires, recessed lights but be careful about those that can be in contact with insulation and those that cannot, voids where house angles occur, etc.) Once you've got all the attic leaks sealed, then insulate the daylights out of the attic. (Don't forget to seal the attic access panel too! If it's a pull-down, you can purchase a styro-foam cover at the big box store). Then when all that's done, start on the crawlspace or basement if you've got one. If you've got 2nd floor bedroom/bathroom windows, consider blocking them off in winter with insulation sheets, if you're not up there all day. And if you do all these things and pay attention to what's running and what isn't, you might get that bill down $100/month. But I'd guess the days of running a home with a HP for $10/month are probably behind you.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    In the Ohio/PA/WV valley, Northern WV panhandle.
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    First off, thanks for the reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by skippedover View Post
    If you look at your electrical circuit breaker board, you'll find a very large breaker at the top. Shift it to the "OFF" position and your electric bills should then be in the $10 to $15 range as you anticipate. Otherwise, you're going to have to pay for the privilege of purchasing electricity.
    Not sure why you're saying this? The only time I mentioned a $10 bill is when I lived in a small apartment alone. I don't expect that now.

    Now that we've got that settled (at least I do) let's do something constructive. Locate your electric meter and observe that the horizontal disk is turning. Now go into your home and turn off the HP. Use the circuit breakers to the HP and separate breakers for the electric heaters. Now go outdoors and re-inspect the meter. Is the disk still spinning? Faster or slower than before? Repeat this inspection as you turn off each additional C/B in your house until you've got them all turned off. When they're all off, the disk should not be moving. Is it?
    I checked that today as I was taking the pictures I posted. It is moving very slow. I had the heat still on 50, and the only things turned on were the fridge and the water heater.


    Sure, the HP is a big user whenever it's running and the electric resistance heaters are even worse. There are ways to improve on that use but you've already spent the cheap way out and now you're getting that for which you paid. A good, competent (very difficult to find) company would have done a load analysis of your house before specifying a new HP. Then there would have been options offered for different efficiency products. Of course, the cost would have been much more than I'm sure you paid but in the end, you asked for it. Energy efficiency costs.
    Just curious, did you read my whole post? The HP was toast. I had one that was 15-20 years old and the compressor was dead. My guy said it would have been like putting a new engine in a rusted out pinto. Why would I do that?


    So your only alternative at this point is to tighten up the house. Find all the leaks and seal them. Use foam, silicon sealer, plastic sheeting and other things. If you've got an attic access panel, use that access to get you into the attic, pull back the insulation in each bay and seal any leaks you can find (holes for pipes or electrical wires, recessed lights but be careful about those that can be in contact with insulation and those that cannot, voids where house angles occur, etc.) Once you've got all the attic leaks sealed, then insulate the daylights out of the attic. (Don't forget to seal the attic access panel too! If it's a pull-down, you can purchase a styro-foam cover at the big box store). Then when all that's done, start on the crawlspace or basement if you've got one. If you've got 2nd floor bedroom/bathroom windows, consider blocking them off in winter with insulation sheets, if you're not up there all day. And if you do all these things and pay attention to what's running and what isn't, you might get that bill down $100/month. But I'd guess the days of running a home with a HP for $10/month are probably behind you.
    $100 a month would be great. Don't know why you're talking about the $10/month thing again.

    I have a 1 story home, so the 2nd floor stuff you posted isn't going to help me.


    Could just insulating it make that much of a difference?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    In the Ohio/PA/WV valley, Northern WV panhandle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ilameer628 View Post
    While reading your initial post, especially the part where you give the exact kwh used, I was somewhat surprised you're using that much kwh.

    I also want to mention that I have never owned a HP so I don't have any experience with giving a rough estimate as to how much kwh it would use, but here's my suggestion.

    Whenever you try to buy a new appliance that uses electricity, there is always a yellow tag that states the estimated energy usage of the appliance in kwh. See if you can track down that info for your major appliances including the HP.

    I would also still do the circuit breaker routine mentioned above, with one difference. Don't turn off your main, turn off all the breakers one by one. After the various breakers are off (except the main), your meter should stop incrementing. If it still does, that means that something is using up some current and is not connected to a breaker, which is a very bad thing.

    You should probably call an electrician at that point. I hope this provides some sort of direction.

    yeah, that's what i'm saying, the kwh just seems way, way too high.

  6. #6
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    Jul 2004
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    Massachusetts
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    Quote Originally Posted by CallMeCoach View Post

    Just curious, did you read my whole post? The HP was toast. I had one that was 15-20 years old and the compressor was dead. My guy said it would have been like putting a new engine in a rusted out pinto. Why would I do that?

    If you interpreted my answer as indicating you should have repaired the old unit, your interpretation is incorrect. However, you'd got minimum efficiency equipment, which is for what you paid. Your equipment is delivering, if properly charged and in tip top shape otherwise, 13,000 Btu's for each kW of electricity purchased. The top performers of today are capable of upwards of 25,000 Btu's/kW or nearly double the efficiency you selected. THe cost of purchase would likely have been 3X what you paid but the efficiency over the next 15-years would have probably let you sleep better at night.


    $100 a month would be great. Don't know why you're talking about the $10/month thing again.

    You brought up the $10/month counselor, I just used it to rub it in.

    I have a 1 story home, so the 2nd floor stuff you posted isn't going to help me.

    If you have a roof over your head, you have air escaping through it! The same principle applies. Stack effect is the technical name, where warmer air rises up the finds it's way out of the home through cracks, crevices and other air leaks. When one molecule escapes, another comes in somewhere to take it's place and must be heated or cooled to keep indoor comfort. The exiting air is referred to as exfiltrating and the incoming air is call infiltrating. Unless you live in a plastic bubble, your house leaks. Stopping or slowing the leak rate can reap thousands of dollars in energy saved. The number of stories or height of your home has little to do with the leak rate.

    Could just insulating it make that much of a difference?
    Insulation by itself is a great filter! In other words, it does NOT stop air from moving. It slows heat of conduction, which is like a metal spoon inserted into hot water. Sooner or later, even the handle of the spoon gets hot from heat conducting up the metal. Insulation (like a stove mitt) keeps that heat from transferring to the air or your hand in my example. But insulation (referring the majority of types of insulation but dense foam is a different animal and much more than just insulation) meaning fiberglass batts and blown in cellulose is all but useless against convection heat. That's the heat that rises up with some force when warmed and continues to rise as long as it's warmer than the surrounding air. Thus it is, the convection heat issue must first be stopped or greatly reduced and when it is, then the batts or blown in bales of insulation are added and can do wonders.

    A properly sealed home will need smaller systems, which means less purchase cost and less operating cost. So yes, insulation when properly applied after sealing the envelope (living area) can make a very significant difference.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    In the Ohio/PA/WV valley, Northern WV panhandle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skippedover View Post
    Insulation by itself is a great filter! In other words, it does NOT stop air from moving. It slows heat of conduction, which is like a metal spoon inserted into hot water. Sooner or later, even the handle of the spoon gets hot from heat conducting up the metal. Insulation (like a stove mitt) keeps that heat from transferring to the air or your hand in my example. But insulation (referring the majority of types of insulation but dense foam is a different animal and much more than just insulation) meaning fiberglass batts and blown in cellulose is all but useless against convection heat. That's the heat that rises up with some force when warmed and continues to rise as long as it's warmer than the surrounding air. Thus it is, the convection heat issue must first be stopped or greatly reduced and when it is, then the batts or blown in bales of insulation are added and can do wonders.

    A properly sealed home will need smaller systems, which means less purchase cost and less operating cost. So yes, insulation when properly applied after sealing the envelope (living area) can make a very significant difference.


    Where did you see the 13,000 BTU's? The only thing I saw was the 24,000 btu's cooling.



    And counselor? lol, really?

  8. #8
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    I watch enough T.V. to know that some evidence isn't allowed to be introduced by one side of the issue but if the door is opened by the other side, then both sides from that point forward are allowed to use it. Thus, $10...couselor!

    The SEER rating of the system, 13 is the magic number. That rating number means essentially the number of Btu's your unit can achieve for each Watt of electricity purchased. Thus, in your case, 13 Btu/Watt x 1,000 = 13,000 Btu/kW. Some of the inverter HPs now on the market are sold as 24-SEER but independent testing is showing them to be putting out as much as 28-SEER under partial load conditions. I always expose my potential customers to all the efficiencies, bells and whistles at the time they are considering their purchase so that they can make the decision that makes the most sense for them. My opinion has little to no bearing on the issue. It's all about the customer. So when I see a 13-SEER system and read you initial post about the cost of getting a tech out, etc. it just seems to me that you asked for cheap and that's what you got. A single man who's making a few bucks on the side and he got you a system at some significantly below market price. And if that's your choice, that's fine with me but the operating costs are what they are unless you take steps to lessen them. Seal the envelope, then insulate it and when you get it so tight you need mechanical ventilation, you'll know you're at the lowest operating cost for that equipment.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  9. #9
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    ilameer628, this is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise here. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

    You can find the rules for posting and qualifications here.




    Further infractions may result in loss of posting privileges.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by skippedover View Post
    I watch enough T.V. to know that some evidence isn't allowed to be introduced by one side of the issue but if the door is opened by the other side, then both sides from that point forward are allowed to use it. Thus, $10...couselor!
    Lol, touché. I did bring it up. But come on, for an amateur, you have to admit that's pretty good.

    The SEER rating of the system, 13 is the magic number. That rating number means essentially the number of Btu's your unit can achieve for each Watt of electricity purchased. Thus, in your case, 13 Btu/Watt x 1,000 = 13,000 Btu/kW. Some of the inverter HPs now on the market are sold as 24-SEER but independent testing is showing them to be putting out as much as 28-SEER under partial load conditions. I always expose my potential customers to all the efficiencies, bells and whistles at the time they are considering their purchase so that they can make the decision that makes the most sense for them. My opinion has little to no bearing on the issue. It's all about the customer. So when I see a 13-SEER system and read you initial post about the cost of getting a tech out, etc. it just seems to me that you asked for cheap and that's what you got. A single man who's making a few bucks on the side and he got you a system at some significantly below market price. And if that's your choice, that's fine with me but the operating costs are what they are unless you take steps to lessen them. Seal the envelope, then insulate it and when you get it so tight you need mechanical ventilation, you'll know you're at the lowest operating cost for that equipment.

    Hey man, I knew it wasn't going to be very efficient, and I knew it wasn't going to give me cheap heat, but at the same time I thought it would give me a better price than the one that I replaced that was decades old. What it came down to was that I didn't have the $7,000-$10,000 it would have cost me to get the 24-28k HP with the bells and whistles like you show to your customers. And I thought a guy walking around my house, then telling me my HP was broke which I already knew, then charging me $150 or whatever was a waste of my time and money. I was just hoping I could get some advice on ways to save some $, and for you guys to take a look at it and see if you thought anything was off.


    Let me ask you a few more questions:

    1.) would the fact that I only have a few intakes throughout the house, and only 6 vents in the whole house have something to do with it? Would it make a difference if I got a couple of more vents put in?

    2.) I am pretty sure my attic is insulated well, snow never melts on the roof and there's a decent amount of insulation there. How hard is it to do what you suggest? Also, is what kind of insulation could I get for a brick home?

    3.) what do you think of the fireplace insert idea? Worth the $ and hassle?

    4.) I heard that if you block off rooms you're not using, it's bad for your duct work? Is that true? If not, should I just put a metal plate over the vents in the 2 bedrooms I don't use, and put insulation around the doors so no heat escapes through?
    Thanks, counselor!

  11. #11
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    Sorry mods, I just realized I put in some $$ where I shouldn't have. Won't happen again.

  12. #12
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    Then winter came and it's been very, very mild. I just looked at this months

    7.4 center per kwh
    Total kwh used: 1688
    kwh per day: 58
    Avg temp: 32 degrees
    Total kwh for the previous 12 months: 15,200
    My bill was $200 with fees, and again I am keeping it at 60 or lower. I got fed up last night and tuned the heat down to 50, closed my bedroom door and used an electric space heater.

    Here are the readings for the last year:

    Feb 2012: 1688
    Jan 2012: 2251
    Dec 2011: 423
    Nov 2011: 316
    Oct 2011: 987
    Sep 2011: 1285
    Aug 2011: 76
    Jul 2011: 570
    Jun 2011: 401
    May 2011: 702
    Apr 2011: 2047
    Mar 2011: 2695
    Feb 2011: 3447


    Itlooks to me that you are pay more like .12 KHW or you have $75 in fee's.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by CallMeCoach View Post
    Lol, touché. I did bring it up. But come on, for an amateur, you have to admit that's pretty good.

    Well, if you're truly a lawyer, then I'm the amateur at your party!




    Hey man, I knew it wasn't going to be very efficient, and I knew it wasn't going to give me cheap heat, but at the same time I thought it would give me a better price than the one that I replaced that was decades old. What it came down to was that I didn't have the $7,000-$10,000 it would have cost me to get the 24-28k HP with the bells and whistles like you show to your customers. And I thought a guy walking around my house, then telling me my HP was broke which I already knew, then charging me $150 or whatever was a waste of my time and money. I was just hoping I could get some advice on ways to save some $, and for you guys to take a look at it and see if you thought anything was off.

    Having a company come in to tell you something you fell you already knew was a choice you made. Why that choice? Only you can say but it would seem you were trying to get a second opinion on whether the unit could be restarted economically. For that you had to pay a fair cost. The company has to cover the costs of paying the tech, running the truck and they'd probably like to make a small profit to which they're entitled. That doesn't mean they're ripping you off but it does mean they're a company that is serious about the work they do. That could be exactly for what you were searching but ultimately chose to go a different route.


    Let me ask you a few more questions:

    1.) would the fact that I only have a few intakes throughout the house, and only 6 vents in the whole house have something to do with it? Would it make a difference if I got a couple of more vents put in?

    There are two ways to do an HVAC installation/equipment replacement. One is the right way and the other is the wrong way. The right way costs, the wrong way is less. The right way begins with a blower door test ideally but generally begins with a load analysis of the space to determine the Btu needs, followed by a duct analysis and then an analysis of the supply and return outlets in your home and finally the equipment selection for the products that will do the job with great comfort and at a investment you can afford. Whether the number of supplies or returns, their size and/or the duct feeding them are properly sized can only be determined as stated above. The wrong way is to look at what's there and replace it with something of the same capacity or more capacity if the price is right! Or less if the price is right. So that begs the question, was the job done right or wrong? If right, then the installing contractor can easily answer your question. If wrong, nobody really can without doing a full sizing analysis.

    2.) I am pretty sure my attic is insulated well, snow never melts on the roof and there's a decent amount of insulation there. How hard is it to do what you suggest? Also, is what kind of insulation could I get for a brick home?

    The work is tedious but not difficult. If you think your house is tight, look for a BPI or HERS certified company to do a blower door test and remove all doubt. No sense spending time and/or money chasing your tail. If it's a tight house, that's a red herring repair. But if it's less than tight, they'll give you ideas on where you can improve things.

    3.) what do you think of the fireplace insert idea? Worth the $ and hassle?

    That's a personal decision. I consider all solid fuel devices to be intermittent use at best (JMO) and so don't include them as reliable alternatives. Others may tender different opinions.

    4.) I heard that if you block off rooms you're not using, it's bad for your duct work? Is that true? If not, should I just put a metal plate over the vents in the 2 bedrooms I don't use, and put insulation around the doors so no heat escapes through?
    Thanks, counselor!
    It's not bad for the ducts but it is bad for the equipment. If properly designed and installed, all of the air from the blower needs to circulate through the ducts to keep the static pressure proper and the cost of operation at a minimum. Increasing static won't help you there. Likewise the interior walls of your home are likely not insulated to exterior wall standads and thus you will experience less savings than you might thing. Just because you can't see through the wall doesn't mean the heat can't go through and it will.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

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