Turning down heat saves dollars

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GOOD MORNING, SUN SPOTS: I have a question about heating my home that I hope you can answer. Would I save more oil by turning my thermostat down to 56 degrees at night and when I’m at work, then turn it up to 63 when I’m home? Or by leaving the thermostat at a setting of 63 round the clock?

I don’t want to ask my furnace guy, as he works for my oil company, and I wouldn’t trust the answer. Thanks for your help. — No Name via email

ANSWER: According to Efficiency Maine and online resources, as well as Mr. Sun Spots, you will always save by turning down your thermostat.

Some people take that to extremes, turning down their furnace to 40 degrees at night, which Sun Spots thinks is a bit much. When deciding how much you should turn down the heat, consider:

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Will a wide range of temperatures hurt objects in your home? Old-fashioned plaster does not do well in the cold or with dramatic changes in temperature.

The question of overnight temperatures bugged Mr. Sun Spots, who has his office in a separate building. In the depth of a Maine winter, letting the wood stove go out overnight meant the building was often quite cold (as low as 20 degrees) when he returned in the morning, but feeding the wood stove for the night clearly used more wood.

At first he felt guilty about the extra wood, but then decided that the temperature extremes were too hard on his computers and other equipment, so he decided to try to maintain a temperature of at least 50.

How much your home’s temperature varies will depend somewhat on the kind of system you have (as well as how well insulated it is). Radiatives (for example, wood stoves) heat objects and retain heat for a while; convectives (forced air furnaces) warm the air, providing warmth more quickly but more fleetingly.

Inefficiencies in your system are another factor. In one place the Spotses rented, a repairman provided the statistics on the amount of electricity the forced-air floor furnace used any time it kicked on, and it was astonishing. So turning down the heat in that home provided savings in both oil and electricity.

You might want to contact Efficiency Maine and see if they can help you find additional savings beyond turning down the thermostat. You can find them at www.efficiencymaine.org, 151 Capitol St., Suite 1, Augusta, ME 04330-6262, 866-376-2463.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I saw in the Nov. 22 column a letter from No Name who had tried to make jam with Splenda and failed. I make wonderful jams and spreads. My father and mother-in-law are both diabetic, so I also make no-sugar-added jams and jellies, and they love them.

I make no-sugar-added blueberry, strawberry and pear jam, and grape and apple jelly, using Splenda in all of them.

I have enclosed a no-sugar-added blueberry jam and a regular strawberry jam for you to try.

I sell my spreads online and at area holiday fairs. I also deliver for free to Lewiston-Auburn. I also make wine jelly and pickles and dilly beans. They make wonderful Christmas presents.— Carmen Hall, 207-330-0905, newenglandspreads.com

ANSWER: Sun Spots is sorry that it took her so long to follow up on this letter. She finally got the lovely gift basket that Carmen dropped off at the Sun Journal, and today she mailed the no-sugar-added blueberry jam and the order form Carmen sent to No Name.

Carmen also sent an example container of low- or no-sugar pectin. It is from Ball, and is in a green container, 4.7 ounces, and says it’s enough to make up to 22 pints.

Sun Spots kept the strawberry jam, which is her favorite, for herself!

DEAR SUN SPOTS: This is for the reader who asked about cooking bacon in the oven. I do this all the time, especially when I am making a lot (BLTs for the whole family, rather than just a couple of strips for myself).

I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with an edge with foil. This is not necessary, but it makes the clean-up easier. Arrange the bacon pieces on the baking sheet so that they don’t overlap.

Bake them for 5 to 8 minutes, then turn them over and cook another 5 minutes or so, until they are as done as you like. Depending on your oven, you might also want to rotate the baking sheet so that the bacon that used to be in back is in the front.

Love your column, it is the first thing I read in the paper each morning. — Chris, Monmouth

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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