Brad ‘N’ Butter: How to: stay warm this winter

Columnist Brad Spudich on how to go green, even when it’s gray out.

It’s the time of the year when it’s comfortably cool during the day, but at night and in the morning, it’s tempting to lay in bed wrapped in your blankets. As temperatures begin to drop, instead of just cranking up your thermostat, there are a number of ways to keep your place warm that will help you save energy and money.

Unfortunately, many steps of making your home more “green” for the winter can seem daunting and infeasible for college students. If you’re a student, you most likely don’t own your own house, and chances are slim that you will convince your landlord to install efficiency windows or re-insulate your home.

Luckily, there are plenty of easy changes you can do to make heating your home more eco-friendly and save you money.

Thermostat: turn down before you leave and at night

This might seem obvious, but it’s one of the easiest and greenest things you can do in the fall and winter. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 10 degrees for eight hours can save you an estimated 10 percent a year on bills. Whenever you leave the house, turn down the thermostat instead of turning it off. It saves more energy than turning it completely off, and your place won’t be freezing when you get back home. When you go to bed at night, you’re going to be under the covers and can save extra energy and money by bumping the thermostat down a few degrees. The key here is you need to keep yourself warm, not the entire house, which brings up another point.

Use a space heater

You need to keep your room warm, not your whole house. With a central heating system, you’re paying money and using energy to keep your whole house warm. A cost-effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is by investing in an electrical space heater. Radiant space heaters emit infrared radiation that heat whatever is closest to them, and if you can, find low-energy models. You can unplug space heaters when they’re not in use, so you’re not wasting energy or cash. It’s also relatively easy to find a space heater secondhand on Craigslist, or in the Mizzou Free & For Sale group on Facebook.

Switch your ceiling fan

This might sound ridiculous, but you can actually use your ceiling fans to heat your home. I may have narrowly avoided failing my science classes in high school, but it’s a pretty basic rule of science that heat rises. Most ceiling fans have a switch on them to change their direction, and running your ceiling fan clockwise will actually redistribute the warm air that rose to the top of your ceilings back down to the whole room.

Block drafts in your home with “draft dodgers”

This is a tip that goes back to the Depression era, but it’s still an incredibly useful method to stop wasting heat. “Draft dodgers,” “draught excluders,” or whatever you want to call them are simply materials used to block cold air from entering and warm air from escaping your home. If you look at most doors and windows, they often have a decent sized gap at the bottom of them that funnel heat outside. You can actually buy pre-made draft dodgers, but they’re easy to make yourself, or you can use things you already have. To make one, all you have to do is sew two pieces of material together with some sort of stuffing (rice, lentils, cotton-whatever you can find) and make it large enough to throw in front of your door. If you’re lazy like me, wrap up old blankets and toss them in front of your doors and window cracks.

Add humidity

Humidifiers are relatively cheap and the humidity added to the dry, cold fall and winter air helps to make your house feel warmer, and it also helps alleviate symptoms of sinus infections, flu, dry skin and eyes, allergies and the common cold. You don’t even need to buy a new humidifier; Instead, you can leave cans of water near the vents of your home and leave a pot of water on your stove. One of the biggest changes you can make to lower your carbon footprint is also one of the best ways to keep your house warm.

Hang-dry your clothes indoors Dryers are one of the biggest uses of energy in homes. Hanging your clothes on a line or on a drying rack will save you a ton of money, and it will make your clothes last much longer. But one of the biggest advantages of hang-drying your clothes comes in the winter months, because the wet clothing acts as a natural humidifier to help add moisture and warmth to the air in your home.

Cover bare floors Rugs help retain heat. According to the National Energy Foundation, non-insulated floors account for roughly 10 percent of heat loss in homes. And, bare floors are cold. In the fall and winter, rugs will help your home retain heat and keep your feet warm.

Caulk cracks and holes in your foundation and windows Window and foundation sealant wears down over time, which means you’re allowing energy to seep out of your home. This is an incredibly cheap and easy thing to fix; All you need is a caulking gun. Caulk will seal the open areas of your foundation and window fittings, so you can retain the energy you’re paying for to heat your home. Caulk guns are a cheap investment that give you a quick and beneficial ROI.

Make your curtains thick Thick curtains retain more heat in your home, but you don’t need to go out and buy new ones. To keep cold air out of your home, you can sew curtain liners inside of your curtains that will add an extra layer of insulation. Sewing machines can be intimidating and a rare item in college residencies in 2014, so you can also hang blankets in front of your windows. This does the same trick, without the effort.

Follow your grandma’s advice: Wear more layers and blankets Instead of pumping up your thermostat and using an incredibly high amount of energy, keep yourself warm. Add more blankets to your bed and give up sleeping in only your underwear. One of the most satisfying feelings is lying in a warm bed in the colder months, so add an extra fleece blanket under your comforter. When you’re in your home, keep your clothes on and don’t be afraid of the sweatsuit. House slippers are one of the best investments you can make and merino wool socks will keep you cozy at night and during the day.

Staying warm in the winter doesn’t mean you need to waste energy or overhaul your home’s insulation and heating systems. It’s easy to go green in the winter, and most methods are simple and will save you money.

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