05/05/2016 | TECHNOLOGY
Avoiding unnecessary expenses at home
On how to make a more efficient use of natural gas to control domestic economy and avoid wasting a nonrenewable resource
Useful tips on how to make a more efficient use of energy. Home page and infographic by María Wright.

According to the Argentine Energy Balance 2014 provided by the Ministry of Energy and Mining, the gas distributed by network represents 39% of the whole energy consumed every year at a national level and 65% of the one that is used in dwellings. Considering that it is a fossil fuel as necessary as limited, it is important for users to avoid wasting it and cover greater expenses.

Luis Juanicó, CONICET independent researcher at the Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica (CNEA) [National Commission of Atomic Energy], provides some recommendations to make a more efficient use of gas in dwellings so as to reduce the consumption -and even improve it in some cases- without affecting the welfare of the inhabitants.

Heating

“Gas heaters are some of the most frequent alternatives Argentines use to heat the house when it is cold. The problem is that when these machines are old, it is not easy to turn them on and the lighter does not work properly, so people tend to leave the pilot light on all year. This implies an unnecessary expense, which is not small, because the pilot light consumes around 15 percent of the gas necessary to reach the maximum flame. The solution to the problem is to deal with it and fix the heaters or make the effort of turning it on once a year. Turning them off will help to avoid the overheating of the dwelling during summer and it will be more comfortable”, Juanicó states.

Many times the faults in the attachments in doors and windows allow cold draughts get in. “The immediate solution most users find is to increase the flame of the heater, but this measure does not overcome the discomfort the draught causes. It is necessary to have draught excluders in doors and windows”, the researcher affirms.

Another recommendation to keep the house warm is to pull up the blinds during the day, when the sun shines, and lower them at night. If there are no blinds, the researcher advises people to put double glazing window: “a simple glass without blinds makes hot leave so people tend to compensate it with the heater”, the researcher states.

In more general terms, for the ones who are about to build a house, Juanicó recommends investing in wall insulation. For the researcher, in the long term, it will be more convenient economically speaking and as regards welfare. “For mild climate, such as in Buenos Aires, the five centimeters’ layer of fiberglass or polystyrene or phenolic on the inside of the outer walls is enough. This is not only useful to avoid cooling the house in winter but also during overheating in summer”, the scientist comments. Another possibility is to paint the walls with insulation paint, which comes with glass microsphere.

Water heater

In this case, the responsible use is connected to the control of the temperature of the water that is stored inside the tank, which is in general between 100 and 120 litres.
“Probably, in a family house there is one moment during the day in which three or four people need to have a shower with little time difference between showers. In this case, the scientist’s recommendation is to regulate water temperature at 70 degrees – the maximum – so as to mix it with a larger quantity of cold water during the shower so as to maintain a suitable temperature. It is not necessary to maintain that temperature during the day because that makes the burner turn on and off several times, wasting gas. The solution is adjusting the temperature to 70 degrees fifteen minutes before the showers and then reducing it to the minimum when the showers are over”, the researcher states.

Anyway, that recommendation is valid for cold times because in summer it is enough to maintain the temperature at 40 degrees. In one-person households or in houses where their occupants are out all day, the scientist suggests the pilot light for the water heaters when there is nobody at home.

Shower

The researcher also recommends changing the size of the showerhead so as to reduce the consumption of gas and water.
“Most showerheads are very small, so it would be more convenient to buy a larger one. A small showerhead only gets wet part of the body, what makes it uncomfortable and inefficient. In order to compensate for that, people tend to open the tap more, what intensifies the water jet but does not manage to cover twice the area of the body. If the showerhead has a larger cone, it would be able to cover a wider space; therefore the shower will be more comfortable”, Juanicó explains.

Stove

As regards the stove, the scientist recommends the use of the oven and burners. “The oven is often next to the cupboard, so it loses heat through thermal contact. This makes us use gas to heat the oven, which gets cool for the communication with the wall. One solution would be to put a sheet of 5-cm thick glass wool between the stove and the cupboard to generate thermal insulation. This will also avoid the damage of the piece of furniture”, the scientist affirms.

With respect to the burners, in order to save gas and time, Juanicó thinks that the best option to cook with water is to use a pressure cooker. It heats water at higher temperature as it boils at 150 degrees instead of 100, reducing cooking time by a half, thus making a more efficient use of gas.

“Without a pressure cooker, the recommendation is to lower the knob to the minimum once the water has boiled because the temperature of the liquid is not going to increase more than 100 degrees, so it will not be possible to cook faster and the water will evaporate”, the researcher states.

By Miguel Faigón