Which is more costly, heating a cold house or cooling a warm house?

— Thomas, Ashland

 

The answer to your question depends on many variables, Thomas, but cooling a house is generally a bit cheaper than heating a house in Southern Oregon, according to Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt.

That's because you'll typically get some help from cooler night temperatures when cooling a house in the summer.

In winter, if you are trying to heat a cold house, you won't get much help from Mother Nature during the day or at night, Gauntt said.

For people who really want to save money on home energy bills, Gauntt and other energy experts advise keeping a house on a relatively even keel when it comes to temperature.

Pacific Power recommends setting the thermostat at 85 degrees if you go on vacation during the summer — rather than shutting off the air conditioner completely.

"If the house is left with no air conditioning, you could come back to a 100-degree house. It takes a lot less power to cool a house down from 85 degrees to your 75-degree comfort zone," Gauntt said.

Heating and cooling company representatives also note air conditioners circulate air and remove humidity. Shutting off the A/C while you're away can cause humidity to build up, potentially leading to mold growth, swollen doors, buckled wood flooring, cracked plaster and other problems.

Leaving a house unheated during cold weather can lead to disaster if pipes freeze, expand and rupture.

When it comes to the overall cost of heating or cooling a home, Gauntt said that varies considerably. If someone has a new, efficient air-conditioning system but an old, inefficient furnace, for example, heating costs could skyrocket. Heating and cooling costs also depend on weather.

If you want to compare extremes, looking at your heating bills from our recent icy winter and compare them to your cooling bills this summer, he advised.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.