Let’s keep our homes warm, happy, clean and green this winter! The green revolution isn’t just about doing right by the planet. It’s also about doing right by our pocketbooks.
- Clean energy – A clean furnace is an efficient furnace. Check your filters, check your ducts, dust off radiators (dust insulates them and keeps heat in). Replacing a furnace filter is cheap, and dirty filters cut your efficiency and can cut your furnace’s lifespan. Get your furnace inspected and maintained – a badly tuned furnace wastes $30 a month on average, so this pays for itself very quickly. And make sure your vents aren’t blocked by furniture – that cuts efficiency, too.
- Heat Smart – First, drop the temp; each degree you cut clips 3 to 8 percent from your bill. Next, get wet – moist air holds heat better and FEELs warmer. You can add a humidifier to your furnace, buy a freestanding one, or just keep a kettle on the stove pumping out steam. You’ll feel the difference within minutes.
- Thermostat Timer – This is actually the only piece of high-tech on our list. Putting it in is an easy do-it-yourselfer; programming can be trickier, but once you get the hang of it you can save 10 percent or more. Many even now come pre-programmed to drop the temperature during down-times, like work hours during the day or when you’re all in bed at night, and then bring up the temp just before you come home or wake up, so you’re always comfy.
- Circulation – Heat rises. Use your ceiling fans to circulate air (or install them if you don’t them, and get the cooling benefit in summer as well). Cut back on using kitchen and bathroom ventilation fans for the season – they suck your valuable warm air right out of the house. Also, close off rooms that aren’t being used, and shut the heat vents in there.
- Insulate – Got insulation? Better check – bats can sag, leaving gaps, and animals can slip in, making holes. Now’s the time to make sure by taking a quick look. Also, make sure you’re covered all over – attics and crawl spaces might have been overlooked. Need insulation? This can be a big ticket item, but compared to the average $1900 cost of heating a home, it’s a no-brainer. And adding insulation doesn’t just save you money now – it adds to your home’s value. Along with replacing old drafty windows, and replacing an old, inefficient furnace, this is one investment that pays off both in the short term and the long term. Talk to your bank about an equity credit line…
- Mind the gaps! – I’m sure by now you know to caulk and weather-strip around doors and windows, and make sure to cover gaps between doors and thresholds. But there are a few places you might not have thought of, like electrical outlets. On outside walls, these can make a gap in your insulation blanket – you can buy small foam inserts that go under the switchplates. You should also check around pipes under sinks, and fill any gaps with foam. Of course, you should make a point of keeping all doors and windows closed – and close garage doors as quickly as possible. And close the chimney damper! That alone can hit you 10 percent. Putting a blanket over your fireplace screen when the fireplace isn’t in use can also help cut drafts.
- Use the sun! – You don’t have to have an expensive passive solar setup installed (although that would be great) – you’ve got windows, so let the sun in during the day. It’ll warm the interior, providing free watts of energy.
- Windows of opportunity – When the sun goes away at night (or on cloudy days) keep the blinds, shades and curtains closed to prevent heat from radiating out through the glass (you could lose 10 to 20 percent of your heat that way). Installing heavy drapes is good, but you can also install 2-mil plastic sheeting that ups the insulation factor hugely (put it up with blue painter’s tape, which leaves less residue). Replace those ancient windows if you can.
- Snug in your bed – A thick down comforter might cost a bit, but if you’re bundled up and cozy you can save a bundle by cutting the heat to 60 degrees while you snooze.
- Wood stove – Depending on where you live, installing a wood burning stove can save you quite a bit. Just make sure you run it efficiently (pointers here). And splitting wood warms you up like you wouldn’t believe.
One other important tip – get everyone in the family involved! Emphasize the planet-saving aspects, and the kids will be happy to join in. And that’s a lot easier than yelling at them 10 times a week to keep the darn door closed….
- (Flickr Creative Commons image by Zeusandhera)
- (Flicker Creative Commons image by westy559)
- (Ceiling Fan by NorthernFan.com)
- Ultratouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation
- (Flicker Creative Commons image by Phototrope)
- (Flickr commons photo by sweet mandy kay)
- Woodstove by Quadrafire