Sunday, January 28, 2001

The Smithermans home

Liza Smitherman is only half-joking when she advises winter guests to wear long johns. Her historic, stately home isnıt very cozy. Mrs. Smitherman overrides the computer to keep the thermostat at 71 degrees even when no one is home.

        “Thatıs where we have to keep it to not freeze,” she says. The result: The Smithermansı $500 December energy bill was 66 percent higher than their $300 bill the month before.

The Smitherman family
        Decades ago, the house belonged to a family of great wealth. Obscure staircases lead to what must have been the servantsı quarters, Mrs. Smitherman, 35, says. The employees were summoned with bells located on each of the floors.

        Running through the house is a network of old heating ducts ‹ some still in use. The Smithermans, who own Jostin Concrete Construction Inc., invested in three new furnaces when they moved in six years ago. The contractor installed new metal but tried to use the old runs as much as possible. These ducts are too big for the new furnaces, so the forced air doesnıt flow through them efficiently, energy auditor Jim Snodgrass says.

[photo] The Smithermans home
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        In addition, the systemıs cold-air returns are in bad locations, probably because they couldnıt be placed in the brick walls.

        The Smithermans would be better off with a forced hot-water system, Mr. Snodgrass says. It evenly distributes heat and doesnıt require cold air returns.

        The family isnıt prepared to take on such a big project, so Mr. Snodgrass also suggests easier changes. Weather-stripping around the doors, for example, would save $64 a year and cost $15.

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- The Smithermans home