By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Winter chill and rising energy costs have prompted some Havre area residents to find ways to cut heating costs. Area residents are turning both to old world and new age technologies.
Robert Flesche in Havre recently installed a wood stove in his house after using a natural gas furnace for years.
"Our budget billing was $121 and they owe us money now," he said.
Flesche sets his thermostat at 65 degrees and rarely hears his furnace come on. He uses ceiling fans to circulate the heat and new doors to keep it in.
He pays in time, stoking the fire several times a day, including at 1 a.m., and gathering or buying wood - but Flesche is happy with the solution.
Tom Welch, who lives south of town, prefers a combination of old and new technologies that don't have him climbing out of bed at night. He bought an efficient propane furnace and also uses a wood stove as well as some electrical heat, he said. Altogether he pays $500 a winter. The key, he said, is insulation.
Welch's advice: Insulate your electrical sockets, protect insulation so it won't get moist, and invest in good windows.
Welch uses cellulose for insulation in his attic, fiberglass and foam board in his walls, and sprayed insulation along window panes. He has ceiling fans to circulate the heat and his wood stove sits among three slabs of concrete that help radiate the heat.
Jim Rowlatt is installing a ground source heating system for his home. When it's complete, it will mean no natural gas bills, a nonpolluting heat source, even low electrical costs, he said.
Rowlatt, who recently retired from Hill County Electric Cooperative, once helped customers get the new technology. Now he's investing in his own unit.
With help, Rowlatt drilled nine, 180-foot-deep wells. Those were filled with pipes that carry an antifreeze solution into the earth. The liquid carries the earth's stored heat back up where it can be transferred to the house through a furnace that looks just like a natural gas furnace, but with two extra tubes. The new furnace will use forced air heat, blowing into his old ducts, he said.
In the summer, the same process cools a home, carrying heated liquid into the earth, and bringing it out cooled.
Installation requires the help of professionals, and a significant investment, Rowlatt said.
Hill County Electric has about 30 customers who use ground source heat, said Allan Ost, public relations officer for the co-op. The co-op plans to hold a workshop to teach others of the benefits, he said. Welch's advice: Insulate your electrical sockets, proThe cost for ground source heat is between $10,000 and $13,000, said Rowlatt. The added benefit: You can keep your home at 68 degrees year-round, he said.
The investment should be returned in lower costs over six years, he said. The state also offers a $1,500 tax incentive, and Hill County Electric does not charge for the first year of heating-related electricity costs.
Debbie Hedstrom installed a ground source unit in her home, which she said paid for itself in four years. Last year she paid $400 for electricity to heat a 3,000-square-foot home. She is installing a unit in her new home, now under construction.
Colleen Magera has followed common sense and moderate instructions, and is receiving the promised benefit. A new furnace 10 years ago cut her heating bills in half, she said. This year she had the furnace serviced and had insulation installed around door jams - both have helped. She pays around $150 a month to heat a medium-sized home, but expects that may go up this winter with rising costs, she said.
Gary Lippard uses a pellet stove and a natural gas furnace to supplement its heat. The combined cost, he said, is about $100 a month.
A pellet stove uses compressed wood byproduct, and is more efficient than a wood stove, he said. One ton of pellets sells for about $140 and Lippard uses three tons each year. The stove automatically feeds pellets into the fire, but new pellets need to be added once a day, he said.
To help insulate, Lippard uses weather seal over his windows. He said he recommends it for people with double-paned windows as well.
Lippard sets his ceiling fan on reverse to help the heat circulate into the corners. It's the opposite of what he's heard recommended, he said, but he noticed that the different setting helped.