Simple things for sustainable living: Heating

Simple things for sustainable living: Heating

As the fall nights get cooler, some people may be turning on the furnace, wood stove or other heating device. Statistics show that nearly half of all the energy used in our homes is wasted. In our desire to live ever more sustainably, here are some tips to for more efficient heating.

You may have overlooked the simplest heat-save method of all……during the winter months, wear a sweater indoors and turn the thermostat down a couple degrees. It’s perfectly comfortable, and the cooler air indoors keeps one from getting dozy.

Draft Check
The one home improvement which saves the most energy with the least investment is draftproofing.

A simple way to locate outside air coming into your home is with a stick of incense. (Some hardware stores sell “smoke pencils” for this purpose.) Light the incense and inspect your home, from the inside, for air leaks. Choose a breezy day, and go around windows, areas where plumbing and wiring go through walls, attic doors, entry doors and fireplace dampers.
How much the smoke drifts horizontally from the incense will reveal how serious the leak is.

Most leaks can be quickly plugged with exterior silicone caulk – be sure to caulk the leaks from the outside of the house, or moisture will build up inside the walls. Weatherstripping and door sweeps will fix the door leaks quickly and easily. For larger voids use easy to apply insulating foam.

Work the drapes
Most heat loss in the average home is through and around the windows. Drawing the drapes at night is an effective block, making it harder for your warm air to escape. Lined drapes are best. Drapes will also help reduce window condensation because the space between the drapes and the window is cooler than the room air. Drapes can be lined with less expensive material or re-used bed sheets. The cost of the material is recouped by the savings in energy.

Door Sweeps and Draft Guards
The warm air in a heated home exerts a “pull” on outside colder air, drawing it in wherever it can. Under the door is the common site for cold air entry.
Door sweeps are available online or at home supply stores for about $10. They can be installed without having to take the door off its hinges. Simply slide the sweep under the door and cut off excess length with a hacksaw. A few screws, provided with the sweep, hold it in place. Draft guards are also available to stop drafts coming from under interior doors.

Block drafts from electric outlets
Rooms in many homes may have cool air seeping in through the electic outlets on walls which face outdoors. A simple draft check (see above) will let you know if this is the case in your home. Simply plug the outlet with inexpensive outlet safety caps to prevent drafts. This is also a safety measure if there are young children who might otherwise poke things into the outlet slots.

Ceiling Fan
Although ceiling fans are most often associated with home cooling, they can also help with home heating. Most of the heat generated by your heating systems rises to the ceiling where it slowly dissipates or radiates into the upper walls and ceiling.

If you have ceiling fans in your home, check to see if they are reversible. In winter, the blades should rotate clockwise. This reverse rotation will collect warm air from the ceiling and pull it downwards. Set the fan at its slowest speed so as not to create a breeze. The energy savings will only be realized if you lower your thermostat correspondingly. For each degree you lower the thermostat, heating costs will be reduced by 3 – 5%.

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