Editor’s Note: This post is a Care2 favorite. It was originally published November 9, 2012. Enjoy!
Despite the fact that climate change brought on extreme heat, drought and storms this year, winter will be here before you know it. In fact, there’s reason to believe that although we’re likely to see less winter precipitation, what we do see will be more intense than years past.
According to an early 2012 study led by University of Arizona researchers, we could see an average 12.6 percent increase in the intensity of extreme winter precipitation events in the next 20 years and a 14.4 percent increase in the next 50 years. This means lots of cold, snow, ice and for some, skyrocketing utility bills. Add that to the threat of cold and flu that has a way of catching us at the worst time, and it’s no wonder people dread the onset of winter.
Well, it’s time to put a little jolly back into the cold weather season. A few simple changes, coupled with smart behavior made easy by some cool technology, and you’ll find that Old Man Winter is more bark than bite. Here are five of our favorite ways to save money, energy and your health this winter. Think we missed a tip? Please share it in the comments below!
1. Lower the temperature in your home to increase savings up to 12 percent. It seems obvious, but if you’re lounging around in shorts in the middle of January, you’re wasting energy. Control your home’s temperature, especially while away or asleep by adjusting your thermostat. If you’ve got a programmable thermostat, turn the temperature down 8 degrees for 7 hours each night and an additional 7 hours each weekday for seasonal heating savings of approximately 12 percent. For the average home, this could result in savings of about $180.
2. Look for the Design for the Environment label on more than 2,800 products during winter cleaning. Thanks to toxins in many cleaning products, indoor air can often be more polluted than outdoor air. Add in the fact that we almost never open the windows to let fresh air in during the winter, and it gets even worse. The EPA’s Designed for the Environment (DfE) logo differentiates products that use only the safest ingredients to protect people, our pets and the environment. In 2011, Americans using DfE products cut the use of harmful chemicals by more than 756 million pounds.
3. Keep a tight ship by sealing up drafts, cracks and unnecessary vents. Any opening into your house is a potential path for warm air to leave your home and cold air to get in. Maintain a comfortable temperature without cranking the heat by sealing up your doors, windows, vents and outlets. Use temporary silicone caulking around the inside and outside of door and window frames, and if you can, seal off windows entirely with a plastic window seal kit (this will also trap heat from sunlight inside during the day). Make your own draft snakes out of rolled up small blankets/towels or by filling up pantyhose with rice. Place them at the bottom of any outside facing doors.
4. Test your home for radon gas. One in 15 homes may have elevated levels. Radon, a colorless odorless gas, is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and levels can increase during colder months. Purchase an affordable Do-It-Yourself test kit online or at a local hardware store to determine the level in your home. Addressing high levels often costs the same as other minor home repairs.
5. Get creative about recycling heat. Warming up your living areas doesn’t always mean you have to adjust the thermostat. Baking or cooking on the stove instead of microwaves and crock pots adds plenty of heat and often moisture into the air. Better yet open the oven after cooking your meals and let the heat escape. Open your dishwasher immediately after running to let hot air/steam out. Flip the seasonal reverse switch on ceiling fans to blow warm air downward, ensuring it stay where both you and your thermostat can feel it. This should keep your heater from switching on as often.