What if your problem isn’t too little space, but too much? Maybe your children have grown up and left home, and you’re stuck heating and cooling far more house than you use. If selling and moving to a smaller home isn’t an option, there are several things you can do.

Cocooning

In the seasons with the highest heating and cooling costs, you could choose to inhabit a few essential rooms and close off the rest, shutting off or greatly reducing the supply of conditioned air to the uninhabited rooms. There will probably be some air leakage between the conditioned and unconditioned parts of the house, but you’ll probably use much less energy than you’d use to condition your whole house. Or maybe you just want to cocoon for a few months in one room, where you’ll spend most of your time during the day. The living room or family room might be a good choice. Particularly in winter, it’s less important to heat your bedroom or kitchen than it is to heat the spaces where you spend your daytime hours.

You might even choose to air seal your cocoon and beef up the insulation there, especially if you don’t have the budget to seal and insulate the whole house. Then not only will you be heating or cooling a smaller area, but you’ll be able to hold on to that conditioned air longer, saving money on your utility bills twice.

Subdividing Your Home

If you’re pretty sure you’ll never need all of your house again, and you don’t want to move, you may get a double benefit from dividing your house into two or more living units. Not only will you have less house to heat and cool, but you can collect rent on the new apartment. This could even be a good strategy if adult children or aging parents may live with you in the future, providing them with their own adjacent dwelling.

Check into the zoning and other codes in your area before you fall in love with this idea. And get a design professional’s input about the best way to divide the space and possibly reconfigure the HVAC system.

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