The Old Farmer’s Almanac boasts a success rate of 80% on its yearly forecasts, and calls for the winter of 2014-15 to be colder and snowier than usual. Depending on your personal preference for cold and snowy weather, this could be good news or bad news. But however you might feel about sledding, skiing, and snowmen, chances are you’ll want your home to be warm and toasty.
In many households, once the temperature drops, the thermostat wars begin. Maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature depends on a number of factors, including the type of heating system you use as well as how well that system delivers warmth throughout your home.
Types of heating systems
One of the most common heating systems in use today is the forced-air furnace. A forced-air furnace system consists of a fan, filter, and ductwork for the supply and return of air warmed by the furnace unit. This system uses a fuel source such as electricity, natural gas, oil, or propane to produce heated air, which is then circulated through the ducts via the fan.
Another common heating system is the heat pump. The mechanics of warm air delivery with a heat pump are much the same as that of a forced-air furnace; a fan circulates warmed air throughout the space to be warmed. While both a furnace and a heat pump deliver warmed air via a fan, the resulting comfort levels between the two can vary greatly.
It’s all about thermal comfort
The basics of feeling warmer in the winter have everything to do with your perception of warmth. Known as thermal comfort, your perception of warmth relies on a combination of factors. Air temperature, relative humidity, air flow, human metabolic rate, and clothing insulation are all components of thermal comfort. Changes in these factors, such as fluctuations in humidity or changes in the human metabolic rate brought about by physical activity, affect the perception of thermal comfort. While the average core temperature for a human is right around 98 degrees, the comfort zone of skin temperature is around 91 degrees, and this can be affected by air temperature and relative humidity, along with air speed.
In the winter, setting your thermostat to warm your home between 68 and 72 degrees is comfortable for most people. The air produced by the heating system begins at a much warmer temperature at the source, and then cools as it is distributed through the structure. When the thermostat senses that the ambient room temperature has reached the threshold set, it sends a signal to the heating system to stop circulating air. Once the ambient room temperature drops below that threshold, the process begins again.
The secret to feeling warm
In order to feel warm, the temperature of the air coming from the registers should be warmer than skin temperature. If that air is cooler than skin temperature, you feel chilled, regardless of the temperature set on the thermostat. As the air exits the registers in a room, it cools as it moves about the space. You may have your thermostat set at 70 degrees, but the air coming from your registers is significantly warmer than that, which is why the family dog loves to lie in front of the register.
So how do you feel warmer this winter? The obvious answer is to make sure the air coming out of your registers is warmer than skin temperature. While furnaces using electricity, oil, and natural gas may indeed warm the air to your thermostat’s setting, the air coming from the registers can be lower than the temperature of your skin, which you perceive as being cooler. Furnaces using propane, however, deliver warmer air at the register, making you feel warmer the moment your furnace kicks on.
Don’t let a cold, snowy winter keep you from being comfortable indoors. Heating with propane warm your home efficiently, leading to fewer skirmishes in the thermostat wars.