Eco-friendly Winter Tips

Programmable thermostatby Amy Davis

With the Farmer’s Almanac calling for colder than normal conditions in many parts of the country this winter, staying warm while conserving energy will prove especially challenging. Here are some easy ways to “go green” — and save some green — as you prepare for Old Man Winter’s arrival.

Douse the Drafts

 One of the most essential steps to staying warm and saving energy is to inspect your home for drafts. Even small cracks can result in huge energy waste. To check for leaks, hold a lit incense stick next to doorways and windows and watch the smoke, or walk around with a damp hand to feel for air flow. Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal leaks on doors, windows and exterior walls. Install electric outlet and switch sealers — foam pads that are placed behind faceplates — to prevent drafts from exterior walls. Also make sure ductwork is properly sealed.

Most heat loss occurs through windows, so hang curtains and drapes. During the day, make the most of natural sunlight by opening window treatments in rooms that receive direct sunlight. Close them at night to retain heat. Also consider installing double-paned windows, which are huge energy savers.

Turn Down the Thermostat

Set your thermostat to 65 degrees — or lower when you plan to be out for several hours. If your budget allows, purchase a programmable thermostat that automatically sets the temperature according to your schedule. You can program it so the heat comes on for a certain amount of time before you get up in the morning or arrive home in the evening. Save even more energy by timing the thermostat for your actual wake and arrival times.

If you’re too chilly, place an extra blanket on your bed and keep a heavy bathrobe nearby for when you first get up. Have a sweater, fleece jacket or warm shawl readily available when you first walk in the door. You may find that wearing that extra layer ensures you’re toasty enough to keep the thermostat several degrees cooler all evening. For most efficient energy use, remember to change furnace filters regularly, at least every three months.

Many people don’t know that ceiling fans can help heat houses. Setting them clockwise, at a slow speed, helps push down warmer air that pools at the ceiling and re-circulates it to the living area. If you don’t already own ceiling fans, consider installing some.

Lower the Water Temperature

One of the largest energy guzzlers is heating water. Turn down your water heater temperature to 120 degrees, which provides comfortable hot water for most people. Consider an insulating jacket to improve the efficiency of your water heater. Reduce heat loss by placing pipe insulation or taped strips of fiberglass insulation around your water pipes. You’ll also conserve water because you won’t wait as long for it to run hot.

Remember that clean-up of holiday meals and parties can use much more water than everyday activities. Running the tap continuously while washing dishes wastes water — for every minute the tap runs, it uses more than two gallons of water. Reduce water and energy use by scraping dirty dishes instead of rinsing them before putting them into the dishwasher. Also skip the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher. Open the door and air dry your dishes.

Do laundry in cold water whenever possible. About 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water.

Choose a Live Christmas Tree

While it may seem counterintuitive, most artificial trees aren’t eco-friendly. They’re generally made of non-biodegradable plastic and ultimately end up in landfills. And most are shipped from China, which adds a lot of fue to their carbon footprint.

Real trees produce oxygen as the grow and provide habitat for animals. The most eco-friendly tree is one from at a local farm — low fuel use for shipping — that plants another tree to sell in a few years. Look for an organic grower.

Plan ahead for tree disposal after your holiday festivities are over. See if your town collects and mulches trees or has a site where you can drop off the tree for recycling. If not, visit Earth 911 to find where you can “treecycle.”

anoyther option is to buy a living tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays (dg the hole in fall, though, before the ground freezes). Buy a species that’s hardy in your region and adapted to your soil.

Use Your Fireplace Wisely

If you own a fireplace, avoid artificial logs that contain paraffin, a petroleum-based byproduct with suspicious emissions quality. If you’re not using real wood, check out logs made of recycled material. For example, logs made of coffee grounds feature renewable, natural-based waxes. They release more heat and produce significantly less carbon monoxide and creosote than firewood.

One more tip: close the fireplace damper when you dont have a fire going to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney. Just be sure to open it when you use the fireplace.

Boil Water Efficiently

Curling up with a warm beverage is a great way to take the winter chill away, but think about how you boil the water. An electric kettle uses less energy than a range-top or a microwave oven. Choose a kettle with an automatic shut-off button and clean it regularly with boiling water and vinegar to remove mineral deposits that can reduce energy efficiency.

 Got an environmentally-friendly tip y0u’d like to share with the community? Write it in the Comments section below.


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