As we put our gardens to bed in preparation of winter, we must keep in mind that sustainable living is important all year round. We can often get in the habit of blasting our heaters and running our fireplaces for a little too long during the winter months, which results in unnecessary energy consumption. Energy conservation is the conscious practice of using less energy or using energy more efficiently. Reducing our energy use benefits the environment by reducing our demand for precious resources and circumventing the pollution that is associated with energy sources. Luckily, sustainable living and energy conservation is possible even in the coldest of months. With a few simple and creative techniques, you can not only help the planet, but also help your wallet!
Try keeping a cooler house. This is an easy way to reduce your environmental impact. By keeping your home temperature a bit cooler in fall and winter months – especially when you are away from home (whether it be work or vacation) or asleep – you will not only reduce your emissions, but also save some money on your energy bill. You may also consider installing a programmable thermostat to adjust to lower temperatures automatically, or a smart thermostat to optimize energy usage of your home. Surprisingly, the cooler the internal temperature in your home, the slower the heat loss your home will experience. So, the longer your house remains at a lower temperature, the more energy you save. Every degree counts in saving money and the planet!
Take measures to insulate your home. The biggest culprits for drafty areas include doorways and windows. By installing window film and door draft stoppers (these can be DIYed), you can be sure that your home will be more energy efficient and produce less emissions. Even installing a curtain that covers your door during the night can prevent cold drafts from entering. If a new-build house or home renovations are in your future, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to fibreglass insulation (which is very energy-intensive to produce) such as sheep’s wool, ThermaCork, cellulose, and other options that can be discussed with your contractor. Insulation will not only keep you warmer in winter months, but also cooler in summer months.
Optimize your furnace and vents. By getting your furnace cleaned and inspected every year, you can be sure that it is running optimally. Go through each room in your home and ensure all the vents are properly open and exposed to make sure your furnace is working at its most efficient.
Adjust the temperature of your water heater. This is a simple thing to do, yet most people do not consider it! Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees Celsius, however, most household appliances (like washing machines and dishwashers) are just as efficient at 120 degrees Celsius. Not only will this save money on your energy bill, but it will also put less strain on your water heater, prolonging its life and thus saving you even more money in the long run.
Find an eco-friendly alternative to your wood-burning fireplace. If you have a wood burning fireplace, it is best to consider greener alternatives to burning firewood. Wood pellets are a great option since they are made from lumber by-products that would have otherwise gone to landfills. Plus, they burn more efficiently due to little moisture content and release fewer pollutants (note that you will need a fireplace insert to handle wood pellets safely, such as a blower to fan the fire). There are also many eco-friendly fireplaces that burn other materials, and each come with different trade-offs, thus it is best to access your home and your needs. If none of these alternatives work for you, a simple sustainable action you can take is to get your fireplace checked annually for leaks, cracks, backdrafts, or any other issues that may affect the efficiency of your fireplace and cause unnecessary pollution.
Position your furniture to be in warm areas. Do you ever notice that there are places in your home that experience warm drafts while others experience cold drafts? Although this one requires some creative thinking and muscles, you will find that positioning your furniture (couches, beds, desks, and otherwise highly used pieces of furniture) in warmer areas of your home will deter you from turning up the heat. For starters, you will feel warmer if furniture is placed next to internal walls and away from external walls. If some furniture needs to be next to an external wall for space, a simple cardboard sheet against the wall will reduce the cold drafts.
Find other ways to heat your home and body. There are many simple and sustainable things you can do to keep your home and body warm during cold months. For example, leave your curtains open to let the sun rays naturally heat your home and close your curtains during the night to block the cold from entering your home; layer up in cozy sweaters, socks, slippers, and blankets (extra points if you thrift these items instead of buying new!); open your oven door after you have cooked a meal to let the heat out; or sip on some hot tea, coffee, or cocoa (even better if they are sustainably and ethically sourced!).
Remember there are a variety of other ways to limit your energy use during the winter. Try searching an energy conservation website to inspire further action. Also, knowing the layout of your home, materials used in its construction, and how heat moves throughout your home (simple Google searches on any of these topics can help) can provide further information on how to keep warm with less energy. Let expensive and environmentally draining energy usage be a thing of the past, and together let’s progress to sustainably cozier winters!