- It's the time of year when homes have their highest energy demands. Heating accounts for 34% of all annual utility usage and is part of what makes an average home twice the emitter of carbon dioxide emissions as a vehicle. Here is a way to reduce the demand for expensive space heating. Check the ducts. To ensure that as much warm air as possible is delivered through your central system, check the ductwork and wrap any leaks with duct tape. Distribution losses (what's lost while air is transported from your furnace through ductwork to the vents) often amounts to 30%. So, sealing ductwork could increase efficiency and the warm air you receive considerably, keeping you warmer and making your furnace work less.
- Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent adding hazardous waste to the environment (from the chemicals in the de-icing products). Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. Antifreeze that leaks from car engines and chemical snow melters on driveways, roads, and runways can pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil.
- Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and will keep you safe on the road.
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.
- If you have a manual thermostat or no thermostat at all, one way to save energy and money this winter is to install a programmable thermostat. When installed and properly set you can save about $100 each year while staying comfortable. Before leaving for vacation, turn down your thermostat (or use a programmable one) so that you don't waste natural resources by generating unneeded heat.
- Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
- Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broom stick until your log is the desired size, then soak your log thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.
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