Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Staying warm this winter

One way to enjoy winter is to stay warm but keeping your home cozy can be expensive. Heating can account for up to half of your home energy bill and most of your home’s carbon footprint so for the sake of your wallet and the environment the more efficiently you can heat your home the better.

Start by doing everything you can to keep the heat in. I know it sounds obvious but there are many sneaky ways that heat can escape a home.

Air leaks can increase your heating bill by 10% a year so caulking & sealing every crack can keep your hard-earned heat from escaping. Caulk around window and door trim, caulk the top and bottom of your baseboards and quarter rounds and not just those on exterior walls. No crack is too small to be sealed. (Be sure to use indoor caulking.)

Insulate your light switches and outlets with special foam gaskets designed to fit neatly behind your light switch and outlet cover plates. Child-safety outlet plugs help too.

Check your weather stripping around windows and doors and replace any that isn’t doing its job. Use a feather to see if drafts are coming in (or heat is going out).

Install programmable electronic thermostats and set them at a constant heat for when you’re home. Set them a bit lower for when you’re sleeping or not home. You’ll save 5% on your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat below 70.

How you heat your home is of course something else to consider. High efficiency furnaces (90% efficient) are great but if you have an older model keep it well-maintained. Have your furnace cleaned annually and clean your furnace filters monthly during heating season.

If you heat with electric baseboard or an electric furnace, ensuring your home is nice and tight can have a huge environmental impact since in NB our power generating plants are big polluters.

If you have a fireplace, outfit it with an insert. This can become an eco-friendly source of heat but also make your fireplace airtight so heat doesn’t go up the chimney. From an air quality standpoint a natural gas or propane insert is preferred (they emit fewer VOCs and particulate matter). But those who burn wood will likely tell you that the quality of heat from a wood stove or wood insert is superior. If you do choose to burn wood follow these tips to ensure you’re burning as efficiently and cleanly as possible.

To improve combustion and decrease wood smoke, use an EPA-certified woodstove or insert. Well-seasoned wood burns more efficiently (and more cleanly) and hot fires burn more cleanly too so refuel often and don’t let your fire smolder. With a good hot fire the gases coming out of the chimney should be practically invisible. Don’t shut down the damper at night. Although this keeps the fire going through the night it also creates more emissions. Burn only wood in your woodstove or fireplace.

Heavy woolen socks will help you stay warm too.

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