LESLIE: Song in Alaska is on the line with some freezing pipes. Imagine that. It’s pretty cold in Alaska. Tell us what’s going on.
SONG: We had frozen pipes a couple weekends ago because of severe temperature drop.
SONG: And we had a gas fireplace. Since we use it excessively – so the boiler was not called for heat and there was no circulation through the pipes. At least that’s the plumber’s explanation. He recommended a zone exerciser.
So my question is: is the zone exerciser a good idea? Is it cost-effective, energy-efficient? If not, what are the alternatives?
TOM: So, you have a boiler; that means you have hot-water heat. And what you’re saying is that the boiler did not come on?
SONG: Yes, because the house was heated by the gas fireplace, so the thermostat …
TOM: Oh, I know what you’re saying. In other words, the gas fireplace tricked the thermostat into thinking there was more heat on in the house than there really was.
TOM: So the solution there is really to correct the position of the thermostat so it’s not impacted by the gas fireplace. Because you have to be very careful where you position a thermostat. If it can “see” – in other words, if it’s sort of within visual distance, typically, of a flame, that radiant heat reaches across the room and fakes the thermostat into thinking that it’s really hot in there and therefore, it doesn’t have to bring on the boiler.
TOM: And so it might be easier to move the thermostat than it is to do anything to the boiler and just – because that’s the way it should have been done to begin with.
SONG: Oh, OK. Just move thermostat to the coldest spot of the house?
TOM: Well, not to the coldest spot but just to a spot where it can’t “see,” so to speak, the fireplace that’s on all the time.
SONG: Oh, OK.
TOM: So in other words, if the fireplace and the thermostat are on opposite sides of the room, then the radiant heat gets to the thermostat and it won’t let the boiler come on. Because the thermostat is only going to come on when it senses coldness. And it’s just not cold enough because the thermostat is feeling the heat from the fireplace. So you want to keep your fireplaces and your thermostats completely separate.
So, sometimes people will put them on the back side of the wall, so it’s not actually facing the fireplace. It’s that kind of an improvement that you want to make, Song. You don’t want to relocate it in a major way; just relocate it so it’s not in visual contact with the fireplace. Does that make sense?
SONG: Yes, it is. It is. OK, I see. So, the thermostat to the place that will actually sense the cold temperature. Because I’m thinking if my whole house is heated with gas fireplace, so there is not a corner that a thermostat will say the temperature is low, calling for heat.
TOM: That’s right. It’s not going to call for heat. Now, I think what your plumber is suggesting is that you just turn the heat on in some other cycle that’s not controlled by the thermostat. That when he talks about an “exerciser,” he just means that every so many minutes, the boiler kicks on and runs heat through the pipes.
TOM: It just seems like a pretty inefficient way to do it if we could just balance out where that thermostat is.
SONG: Sounds good. I’ll probably just put the corners – coldest place of the house will be cold enough to call for heat.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck, Song. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
SONG: OK. Thank you so much.