As the temperature dips and you turn up the heat, your carbon footprint is likely to also go way up. Do a few easy tweaks and tasks now, and you’ll save energy, and reap other environmental benefits, all winter long.
- Reprogram your thermostat. Lower the temperature to 68 degrees or lower — for every degree you turn down your thermostat, you’ll reduce your energy usage by 5%, according to the Consumer Energy Center. While you’re out, and when you’re sleeping, turn it down even lower. If you’re cold, just put on a sweater or robe, some warm socks or slippers, and throw an extra blanket on the bed.
- Give your water heater a jacket. If you have an older water heater, consider insulating it by making or purchasing a water-heater jacket or blanket (newer heaters typically have built-in insulation). The Department of Energy website has instructions on how to insulate a water heater yourself. This inexpensive project can reduce heating loss by as much as 45%. Don’t know if your heater needs insulation? Touch it; if it’s warm, it needs more insulation.
- Seal drafts. Your house will retain heat better if cold air isn’t seeping in from windows, doorways and pipes. You can hire a professional to do an energy assessment, or check for leaks yourself, paying special attention to the areas around electrical outlets, switch plates, baseboards, cable and phone line entry points, and vents and fans. Caulk, weather-stripping and other materials can help make your home airtight, which will not only help retain heat in winter, but also help make your air conditioner more efficient in the summer.
- Be smart with snow removal. Use a shovel rather than a gas-guzzling snow-blower (the silly, but efficient Wovel, a wheeled snow shovel, is a great human-powered alternative). And avoid scattering salt or ice melting chemicals on your driveway; it can damage grass and other plants and can leach toxic chemicals into the earth and waterways1. Instead, use sand or an eco-friendly ice-melting product.
- Light a clean fire. If you have a fireplace, make sure it’s clean and in good condition before lighting it. Since open fireplaces can cause a lot of heat loss, investing in an EPA-certified fireplace insert that is efficient and less polluting will save energy and be better for the environment. For existing fireplaces, make sure to burn clean fuel, like seasoned wood.