As temperatures continue to drop, electric bills usually go up during the chilly months. A few simple changes can help you go green (and save some green) this winter.
One small crack or crevasse can be a large drain on energy. Inspect your home for drafts by lighting an incense stick next to doorways and windows and watch the smoke, or walk around with a damp hand to feel for air flow. Use weather stripping or caulk 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. 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. Another option is to purchase a programmable thermostat that automatically sets the temperature according to your schedule. Save more energy by timing the thermostat for your actual wake and arrival times, instead of before your waking and arrival times. For most efficient energy use, remember to change furnace filters regularly, at least every three months. Use an extra blanket on your bed, or invest in a thick, winter comforter (eco-friendly, of course). Electric blankets can end up being very costly to operate during the winter months, so stick with layering to save money and energy. Ceiling fans can actually 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. Wash your clothes in cold water or at the coolest temperature possible. The kilowatt usage and cost per load for a hot-water wash are, respectively, 4.5 kWh and 68 cents, while a cold-water wash uses just 0.3 kWh and costs just 4 cents per load. This small modification could save you nearly $250 per year, while significantly decreasing unnecessary carbon emissions. Furthermore, when using a dishwasher, skip the heated dry cycle and let the dishes air dry. This goes for clothes as well; skip the electric dryer, or use it to fluff up clothes then air dry.
Choose a Live Christmas (or “Holiday”) Tree
While it may seem counterintuitive, most artificial trees (and garlands and wreaths) are made of non-biodegradable plastic and end up in landfills. Most are shipped from China, adding fuel to their carbon footprint. The most eco-friendly tree is one from at a local farm which uses less fuel for shipping, and many plant 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 “treecycling”. Another option is to buy a living tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays.
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, use logs made of recycled material. Close the fireplace damper when you don’t have a fire going to prevent warm air from escaping through the chimney. Just be sure to open it when you use the fireplace.
Solar Power through the Holidays
Use solar powered holiday lights on your home and trees. There are many options for eco-friendly, solar powered lights and decorations. Additionally, use a portable electronic solar charger, not only for cell phones, but for small holiday decorations like trains, holiday decorative houses, and the like. If you want to be the most eco-friendly house on the block, instead of putting up sleighs, reindeer, or lights on your roof, have a solar PV system installed. Many installers offer affordable financing or even a leasing option, which can significantly cut up-front costs. This system won’t just cut winter electrical usage and costs, but year round, for many years to come. If you’re looking for a gift for generations to enjoy, look into solar energy.
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