When things get cold outside, heating bills get expensive. This is unfortunate for several reasons. For one, the cost comes from our accounts, and with the holidays either looming or having just finished, it’s the worst possible time to need additional funding for bills.
Environmentally speaking, it also means we are using up a lot of resources to stay warm. More often than not, these resources come from non-renewable sources. For those looking to lessen their footprints, heating can be a serious impediment.
The good news is that there are some reliable practices we can adopt to lower heating bills and use less energy. Though some of these habits will be a change, they are all easy to do and require little to no upfront costs.
1. Unblock Sun-Facing Windows
In the world of passive solar-heating, sun-facing windows are key. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, these windows are on the southern side of the house. In the morning, the southeast works as well and, in the evening, the southwest. Be sure to open any blinds or curtains on these windows during the day so that the sun’s energy can get into the house and warm it up. When the sun goes down, close the blinds and curtains to trap that heat inside.
2. Use Thermal Mass
To improve the passive solar-heating even more, thermal mass is the next crucial thing. Items with lots of thermal mass are able to absorb heat and retain it. For example, a brick wall stores heat much more than a wooden one does. Other things (besides bricks) with good thermal mass are stones, tile, concrete, and water (such as in an aquarium or large vase.) If these are near those south-facing windows when the sun comes in, they’ll capture the heat and release it slowly into the air during the night.
3. Block Pole-Facing Windows
In contrast to sun-facing windows, those on the pole side of the house (Santa’s side) don’t get any sun and are often exposed to cold winds from the north. For this reason, these windows should remain blocked — blinds closed, curtains drawn — during the winter. The cold air hitting those windows from the outside transfers through them to cool down the inside, so we don’t want that to happen. For a really keen energy saver, covering these windows — try a cardboard box with some decorative paper — is an even more effective way to stop that cold transfer.
4. Use the Kitchen
In permaculture, there is a great focus on stacking functions, and using the kitchen during the winter is a wonderful example of this. As we are cooking soup or stew, as we are baking bread or cookies, the stove and oven heat up, and that heat transfers to the air in the house. It works out beautifully because the winter is when we want to stay inside cooking and eating soup. To enjoy even more benefit, leave the oven door open after the baking is done (but do so with extreme caution if you have animals or small children.) Fireplaces are the same kind of thing — use them to actually warm (possibly cook) while they create a romantic atmosphere.
5. Dress Appropriately
During the summer, we wouldn’t dream of cooling the house enough to dress in sweaters, mittens, and socks, and we need to have a similar mentality in winter. It’s not the time to insist on t-shirts and shorts, even when we are inside. Using appropriate clothing for the season will mean that we aren’t relying on energy to keep us comfortable but, rather, a nice pair of flannel pajama pants and a cozy sweatshirt. Some homemade reusable hand warmers could be helpful. And, that’s sustainable heating.
6. Double-Entry Doorways
For those fortunate enough to have double-entry doorways, winter is the time to take advantage. A double-entry doorway is an entrance in which there are two doors, one coming into a small room from outside and another going from that small room to inside. Garages work the same way. These intermediate rooms prevent the cold, outside air from directly entering and cooling the house. Taking advantage of the two doors, while slightly more time-consuming, is energy-saving.
7. Shrinking the Space
Instead of spreading things out everywhere, winter is the right time to shrink our living spaces. Close the doors and air vents in spare bedrooms, bathrooms, and other rooms when they aren’t being used. There’s no need to continually heat them. To fully take advantage, learn to hang out in the kitchen and those rooms on the southern side of the house (the ones collecting the sun’s heat during the day.) Plus, sharing these shrunken spaces with others creates its own heat from our bodies.
Making these kinds of efforts are even more pertinent than buying energy-saving light bulbs and appliances. Heating and cooling our homes, at least in the developed world, can equate to half of the energy we use. If we can reduce that, it results in lowering heating bills and a huge reduction in the energy spent as well.
Lead Image Source: Pixabay