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As the calendar rolls toward winter, many homeowners are cautious about the increased costs that come with winter weather. Because many of these costs come from additional electricity use, you’re also looking at a larger environmental footprint.
Here are five projects you can perform around the house to keep it green this winter, even if it’s covered in snow.
Five projects you can perform around the house to keep it green this winter, even if it’s covered in snow.
1. Install a Programmable Thermostat
You can expect to spend up to $1,000 this winter on heating fuel. The easiest way to cut costs is to lower your home’s indoor temperature, but you still want to be comfortable while you are home. The solution; programmable thermostats.
Programmable thermostats allow you to select different temperatures for your house based on a schedule. During the day when you are at work, you can lower the temperature 5-10 degrees, while the weather outside will be warmer anyway. For nights and weekends, when you are more likely to be home, the system will adjust itself. No more checking temperatures on your way out the door, then panicking when you see your energy bill at the end of the month.
One of the nice benefits of programmable thermostats is that installation is a reasonable taskwith few required tools. It can be done in about an hour and most homes only have one thermostat that you’ll need to replace. You’re also looking at an investment of less than $100 that provides savings of up to $180 per year if you program correctly.
Two important notes to remember if you install your own thermostat:
- Shut off the power source to your thermostat before installation
- If your old thermostat is not electric, it likely contains mercury, meaning you should recycle it.
2. Weather Strip Your Home
Another way to increase the temperature of your home is to reduce the amount of cold air that comes in. Even if you keep your doors and windows closed, you still have air leaks that can be easily sealed in the winter. The way to seal those holes is by installing weather stripping.
Many doors will already provide weather stripping, such as a door sweep at the base to prevent air from leaking in below your door. But if your windows aren’t already sealed, you have plenty of options for what to apply around the perimeter to keep cold air out.
Check out this quick run-down from Lowe’s on weather stripping and other ideas to help save energy at home this winter:
Another option for windows is to apply shrink film over the entire window. This extra layer of protection will keep even more cold air out. You’ll be prevented from opening your windows, so you may want to keep a few unwrapped in case of emergency.
3. Time Your Lights
Days are shorter during the winter, which means you’ll likely use more lighting to increase visibility. Similar to programming your thermostat, you can purchase timers for your lights so they will turn on and off at scheduled times each day. This means you can have outdoor lights turned on when you arrive home at night, without leaving them on all day.
This becomes especially relevant during the holidays, when neighborhoods see an increase in outdoor lighting usage. Timed lights are also useful for home security, as it provides the appearance that people are home and awake to deter burglars.
When choosing the bulbs for your indoor/outdoor lighting, consider energy-efficiency. You’ve probably already heard of the energy (and cost) benefits of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), and there are also light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and halogen bulbs. These bulbs lose much of their effectiveness if turned on/off repeatedly, but set on a timer these bulbs should last longer than incandescents.
4. Check Your Water Heater
Just like you don’t want your air conditioner to break down in the middle of summer, having no hot water during the winter is an unpleasant situation. Performing basic maintenance on your water heater twice a year will reduce the chances that it malfunctions at the wrong time, like when you have visitors staying with you for the holidays.
So what are you checking for when you perform this maintenance? The main projects are tocheck the pressure valve and flush the tank. You can also look for any leaks in the tank or valves which would increase your energy use. Another option is to insulate your water heater to protect it from the cold.
If you decide to replace your water heater, you’ll want to consider a number of options, such as electric vs. gas and size of the tank. Every homeowner has different demands for hot water, and you’ll want to choose the right heater for your conditions.
5. Protect Your Garden
Photo: Flickr/ Debs-eye
If you’re worried about cold weather wiping out your plants, you can rest easy in most cases. Winter weather doesn’t cater toward flowers blooming, but your plants should live to see another spring. However, there are a few things you can do to maintain your garden during the winter months:
- Turn yard waste from the fall into mulch, which can be applied across your lawn and soil beds to contribute nutrients during winter months. You can mulch grass clippings, leaves, wood chips and even paper products like cardboard (be sure to remove tape), and it will also provide extra layers of insulation for plants.
- Limit your watering, because plants are less active in winter and therefore need less watering.
- If you utilize a sprinkler system, shut it off during winter months and water plants manually. This reduces the chances of your pipes freezing, and allows you to water only during dry periods.
- For potted plants, bring them inside or close to the house where weather is warmer. You can also put a tarp over planter boxes to shield them from weather.