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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Plenty of solar options for staying warm in winter

Kristin Arrigo

After the dawning of the New Year, doing nothing sometimes sounds like the best idea. It’s cold, and the enthusiasm of bringing in the new is paling next to the idea of solitude and comfort on the couch, in front of the television, warm and comfortable. The glory of doing nothing involves sitting, lying down and making very short visits to other rooms. There is almost an internal map pointing out that one room is the focus of today.

There’s no getting around the kitchen or the bathroom visit, but when you do venture off to another part of the house, it’s not for very long. When you are doing nothing, you aren’t generating much body heat. So even though you may be well-insulated with your various As Seen On TV products, the air is still a little chilly, and you may find yourself turning up the heat. Warmth (in January) may be a major part of a delightful, satisfying day of doing nothing, but there really is no need to heat the entire house when you’re chillin’ in just one room. Heating just one room will save you money and use less non-renewable resources.

If you don’t already have a stove in your favorite room, a space heater can be an economical, eco-friendly option. The designs of the space heater have come a long way since the model with the red lights behind the cage. That style helped gain the space heater’s reputation for most likely to produce a house fire. Now it’s easy to go solar when it comes to space heaters. Heat from the sun won’t burn down the house, either, and solar-powered space heaters require very little electricity, only enough for the fan to blow all the warm air to you.

Solar-powered space heater designs vary from a panel that sticks to your window to models that sit at the base of the window. There are Web sites available that show how to make your own, too. But then again, the ease of just sticking something to the window is more consistent with the less ambitious wintertime mood, and The Double Hung Window Solar Air Heater does just that. A company called U.S. Solar Heating sells The Double Hung Solar Air Heater. With the panel stuck right to the window, you will find yourself taking an occasional look out the window and gazing at the thermometer to see how things are warming up – indoors. But like all solar-powered space heaters, they require the window be south-facing.

There are eco-friendly improvements on the space heater in general, including controlling how much energy is used by the inclusion of a thermostat. There are also models with timers. If you are afraid of allergens being blown up and around by the fan, there are space heaters without fans available. If you are finding out that you like to be cozy in one room more often than you thought, consider the less portable, wall-mounted electric space heater. Enviro Heat offers this model. More good news about these space heaters; they are very inexpensive to run. You can save 35 percent to 50 percent on your heating bill by heating just one room. Just think, with all the timers and thermostat options, you won’t have to get up to turn the heater down when it’s too hot or worry about your space heater staying on when you fall asleep, cozy and warm, watching TV.

Kristin Arrigo is an environmental writer and can be reached at karrigo@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow her on Twitter @ArrigoKristin. Only Better runs the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.