Winter: A test for your green lifetyle

Winter: A test for your green lifetyle

What does winter have to do with being eco-friendly? Let’s put it this way: Being eco-friendly is about resources and the most critical resource in modern times is something called energy. That means oil, gas, hydro, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, wood burning, bio fuels and a few other options.

If being eco-friendly was a course you took in high school, winter would be the final exam. Get through winter wearing earth-friendly clothing, using the least amount of store bought energy to heat you home and not embarrassing yourself by going garish (and glare-ish) with 6 million Christmas lights during the holidays and you will pass the exam.

Luckily, there is a direct correlation between going green and saving money. A programmable thermostat in your home, on average, saves 10 percent of your heating bill every year, says the Department of Energy, meaning most programmable thermostats will pay for themselves in the first year of use. After that, you save green (dollars) by going green. And yes, the ecological impact of buying a thermostat (made of plastic, metal and shipped to a store) is usually less than the impact of keeping your home warmer than necessary (mining plus shipping fossil fuels or logging wood or using electricity).

How do liabilities change if you have major construction done in the house? If you put in a wood stove or a solar panel or a wind turbine – or even upgrade the windows – does contractor insurance cover the immediate liability of injury during building or the long-term liability of a problem that may develop down the road? and other insurance companies have a variety of different policies, which means consumers need to do some research to find out if a home upgrade is within their price range.

So wait, when you buy a thermostat are you balancing the gains against using less electricity? You sure are. And less electricity means less demand for a new nuclear power plant or a new gas-burning generator.

So, how to you get ready for a green winter? Short of building a new home, here are some options:

Review your heating options

Is it too late to switch to wood for heat? If wood is not a good choice, due to your location, explore the option of wood pellets. The stove may be very similar to a wood-burner, but managing pellets is very different from managing wood.

The Goal for Winter Heat

The Department of Energy puts this clearly: The goal is to keep the outside air out and the inside air in.

You do notice those double doors at large buildings – often at commercial buildings. Basically, just like keeping the bill for running a refrigerator low, the wider open the door, the leakier the windows, the longer doors are open, the more air from outside that your heating system will have to warm up.

Yes, build double doors if you can. Yes, put up an insulating curtain to slow down the rush of outside air if you can. Are these practical ideas? No. But they drive home the point. The cold air outside your home should stay there.

Work on your Furnace

People go through all kinds of fussy behaviors to buy organic food, to wear certified, eco-friendly clothing and to buy a hybrid vehicle. Then, because they no little about them, they just let their home furnace keep operating year after year without any maintenance.

What to do? Clean out the ash, make sure the heater is running efficiently, clean the filters regularly. If it comes to it, check out a new furnace that will be more efficient than an older model.

Air ducts

Does your home have ventilation ducts? If so, seal them up before cold weather comes.


Use energy-efficient light bulbs year round, but this is especially important in the winter, which as few hours of daylight. In addition, windows and skylights reduce the need for turning on the lights.

Speaking of windows

Storm windows can reduce heat loss through a window by 10 percent to 20 percent, says the Department of Energy.

Last Resort: Move or rebuild

Yes, most of us won’t move or rebuild a home to be more ecologically friendly – but some of us might. Further, if you are in the position to build a new home, then you will have a few fundamental, potentially life-changing decisions to make that impact building decisions.

Solar panels, for example, are not just a building decision, they are a maintenance and lifestyle decision, as well. Building a home from recycled material – tires, milk jugs, discarded pallets and the like – is an extremely eco-wise idea, but may also impact your lifestyle.

These options need to be researched for their immediate (costs) impact and their long-term (cost and lifestyle impact). Get together all the information you can, not just from companies, but from people who have made similar decisions.


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