Insulate your house well. Insulation not only keeps warm air inside during the winter, but also keeps hot air outside during the summer. The reason why houses become stuffy is because of poor insulation and air circulation. Your attic and basement are key here, along with walls and edges around doors and windows. Caulk windows well and have weather-stripping around your doors and windows. Check for air leaks by putting your hand around doors, windows and directly on the walls: In cold weather, the walls will feel cold wherever air is leaking in.
The old Southern trick of opening windows up at night, then drawing shades shut and closing windows/doors during the day, really works. You’ll be amazed at how much cooler your house is when you trap the cool air inside the house, as preserved by the tightly-shut windows and drapes.
Installing mesh drapes over your skylights *From the outside!* is more effective than when installed on the inside, for one simple reason: The outdoor mesh prevents the glass from heating up.
Plant a tree or fast-growing vine on a trellis to shade your most exposed windows.
If you are re-roofing your house, use lightly-colored shingles instead of darker ones. The dark colors absorb heat, whereas the lighter ones absorb less. This results in a cooler roof, which results in a cooler house.
While you are at it, consider the newest solar technology: Solar roof shingles. Yes, they exist! No more ugly solar collectors atop your roof. Let your roof do the work for you! Improve your home value, go off the grid or greatly reduce your energy usage, and the energy savings will help to pay back the costs of your roof. And…save the environment. Win-win!
Snow country insulation tips:
Check for air leaks by putting your hand on the walls, close to window and door edges as above. If you feel a cold wall or any cold air coming in, insulate.
Just prior to snowfall, we used to rake bags of leaves and pile the bags around the foundation of our house. When snow fell, the resulting snow bank would insulate the foundation of the house. It worked beautifully: We needed much less furnace or woodstove heat during the sub-zero weather, and the house felt warm and cozy.
Rugs keep toes and feet warm, while insulating and shielding from basement drafts.
The trick to keeping your house warm in the winter is not so much using the heat as it is keeping air currents still. That’s the ticket. A house with minimal air currents feels warm. Period. (Though of course you will obviously need some supply of heat. Just much less of it, that’s all).
Please post your own ideas for energy and water saving, below! Thank you for helping the cause along.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING:
See Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG+E’s) book, 30 Simple Energy Things You can Do to Save the Earth. It’s simply marvelous. It also tells you what percentage of your bill goes to which utility. Very informative, helping you to chart your own carbon footprint reduction strategy. The Earth Works Group, distributed by Pacific Gas and Electric, published 2006 by the Earth Works Press.
Another great book is World Changing: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century. This includes info about urban planning, green home building, going off the grid, and consumer usage information not discussed in the book above. I recommend the PG+E book for home and daily energy use information, and the World Changing book for larger projects such as building et al. Edited by Alex Steffen, with foreword by Al Gore
Green This by Deirdre Imus has wonderful green cleaning ideas, while also stressing the health impact of chemical cleaning in a very important and often overlooked way. She points out that children may experience increased asthma symptoms as a result of chemical cleaning exposure, discusses which chemicals result in which symptoms including cancer and nervous system malaises, and other matters of importance to the public knowledge. Her methods of green cleaning also include green plumbing and drain unclogging tips, which really work. In fact, they work better (in mine and my husband’s experiences) than the commercial drain openers, with zero harm to the environment. And her ideas are inexpensive, too! One pleasant and therapeutic idea of hers is to put fragrant (and anti-microbial) essential oils onto cloths and stuff them into heat vents, with a resulting fragrant breeze blown around the house. Lovely! Eseential oils are secreted by plants to kill insects, viruses, and other invading pathogens: Not only are they pleasant in fragrance, but they are disinfectants too! Published by Simon and Schuster Papaerbacks, ISBN 13:978-1-4165-4055-7 OR ISBN 10: 1-4165-4055-5