As the temperature drops and the economy continues to falter, it’s a good time to think about low cost and even no cost ways to save energy this winter. Individually, these changes may seem insignificant, but even small adjustments can make a big difference both economically and ecologically.
Before you turn up the thermostat, consider how well the heat you’re paying for is staying inside your home. Heat can escape through windows that are not properly sealed. A simple and inexpensive solution is to attach heavy-duty, clear plastic sheeting to the inside of your window frames. Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows. Hanging insulating drapes or shades can also help keep heat inside.
At bedtime or while at work, lower your thermostat about 10 degrees and save about 10 percent annually on your heating bill. For a one-time cost as low as $35, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat that will automatically change the temperature based on your specifications.
A roaring fire is warm and cozy, but don’t forget to close the damper when it is not being used. Keeping the damper open when there is no fire in the fireplace is tantamount to opening a window allowing heat (and the dollars you pay for it) to go right up the chimney. Consider adding tempered glass doors to your fireplace and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
Another simple money saver is as easy as turning down the temperature on your water heater. Heating your water can account for up to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Lowering the water temperature will also protect small children’s little hands from getting scalded.
Ok, these are just a few ways to help save energy, but there are numerous resources available on the internet designed to help lower fuel bills and also slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, the U.S. Department of Energy recently launched the Stay Warm, Save Money campaign (energysavers.gov) to help consumers be more energy efficient and thereby save on energy costs.
Another resource is EnergyStar.gov, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The site is also designed to provide cost-saving ways to protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
The Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. These families save an average of $413 or more each year on their energy bills after their homes have been weatherized. Check their website waptac.org to see if you qualify for assistance.
It’s cold out now, but in a few months we can enjoy the mild spring weather. Until then, live green and save some green.