Hot-Water Baseboard

Q: When the previous owner of my condo converted the place from electric heat to gas hot-water, he didnt put a baseboard in the bathroom. My budget this year doesnt cover putting baseboard heat in there, so Im wondering if a portable electric space heater or the bathroom ceiling heat lamp will use less electricity to make the room comfortable. A: Youre right to be thinking about getting a hot-water baseboard in there when your budget allows; the most expensive way to provide heat is with electricity. For now, though, consider the heat lamp your best option, for many reasons. First, it will cost less than the portable heater to run. For every 30 minutes the heat lamp is on per day, it will cost about 50 cents per month in electricity. A portable electric heater in the 500-1,000 watt range could cost between 95 cents (for the low setting) and $1.90 (high setting) per month for every 30 minutes of daily use. In addition, the heat lamp * if its on a timer * will be safer and cheaper, because nobody can forget to turn it off. The timer is essential, as the lamp can get very hot. The heat lamp also doesnt have other fire risks of a space heater, which can be knocked over, and can set fire to materials or surfaces that are too close to it * an important consideration in a small bathroom. Lastly is the comfort factor. A heat lamp warms objects, including you, while a portable electric heater warms air. So, of the two options, a heat lamp can be more comfortable for people stepping out of the shower. I hope youll be able to install the baseboard system soon. Until then, stay warm! Q: Every year, I put a hockey rink in the backyard. Now that my kids are old enough to be out there for hours at a time, Id like to save on the cost of lighting it. Im not counting on my kids remembering to shut off the lights, so are there energy-efficient flood lights that would work with a motion detector? A: Yes, many energy-efficient flood lights are designed for use outdoors year-round, even in the coldest locations. Numerous lighting store and hardware store owners in Vermont are knowledgeable about all this, so take advantage of their help. To find a store selling energy-efficient lights near you, visit the residential marketplace section of www.efficiencyvermont.com . As for using energy-efficient bulbs in motion detectors, sure, you could do that. The only downside is this: A motion detector is designed to shut off between three and ten minutes after each time it comes on. If your kids are standing still at that moment, the lights will go off until someone moves. Another option is to install a timer, to automatically turn off the lights after a specific time, such as an hour. The disadvantage of a timer is that, if it turns off the lights while the kids are still on the rink, theyd need to skate in the dark, to go to the timer and reset it, instead of simply waving an arm to engage a motion detector. Its your call as to whether or not a short shut-off time or the need for timer-resetting would pose a safety problem or if it would bother the skaters

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