How to Save on Energy This Winter

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ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
Since moist air holds heat better than dry, your home will stay warmer at less cost, if you keep its relative humidity at 35 to 40%.

This article provides a long list of helpful tips on how to save on energy this winter, including advice on appliances, maintenance of heaters, temperature control in the home, and more.

How to Save on Energy this Winter

Substantial amounts of household heat are lost through
single-pane windows like these. Storm windows, or plastic
sheeting taped over the frames, can cut the leakage in half
. . . and closed drapes — or, better yet, insulated
shutters — reduce heat loss even more.

This bundled-up
sleeper has the right idea: You can cut heating costs as
much as 15% just by turning the thermostat down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at bedtime. Use quilts, warm night wear, and — if you
like — furry bedfellows to take the bite out of chilly winter
nights.

Chilly drafts like to sneak into a house through
cracks at the edges of door and window frames. Caulking and
weather stripping are inexpensive do-it-yourself projects
which can slice 10% or more off the average household’s
energy bill.

Since moist air holds heat better than dry,
your home will stay warmer at less cost, if you keep its
relative humidity at 35 to 40%. Although a humidifier like
this one is ideal, pans of water on radiators — or a
good collection of houseplants — will also help.

For
satisfactory temperature control, a thermostat is best
located in a draft-free spot — always on an interior
wall — and at least three feet from lamps, TV sets, and
other heat-generating appliances.

Radios, TV sets, and
electric lights aren’t big consumers of current . . . but
they all add up. It’s a good ecological practice (and just
plain good sense) to turn off any appliance you’re not
actually using.

An “instant on ” TV set — especially of the
tube type — uses power even when the screen is dark. It’s
best to plug such a unit into a socket controlled by a wall
switch, or to provide it with an extra on-off control.

Light-colored walls, rugs, drapes, and
furnishings are efficient reflectors which reduce the
amount of artificial illumination needed to keep a room
bright and cheerful.

In areas where bright illumination is
needed, one large incandescent bulb performs more
efficiently than several smaller ones . . . and all lights
function best when well dusted.

Your furnace must be
correctly adjusted to operate properly. You can cut its
fuel consumption as much as 10% by having the system
serviced yearly . . . preferably each fall. Filters used in
forced-air heating should be cleaned or replaced monthly,
and all radiators and other elements kept dust free.

An
efficient alternative to a conventional furnace is the heat
pump, which supplies 1-1 /2 to 2-1 /2 times as much heat as
the electrical energy needed for its operation . . . and
will also provide air conditioning come summer.

Since a
natural gas heater needs a good flow of oxygen for top
performance, make sure the unit’s air intake is working
well.

It’s very important to check heating ducts for leaks,
and to insulate any portions of the system that pass
through unheated areas of the house (such as garages and
basements). Otherwise, large quantities of warmth will
escape on the way to lived-in rooms where the heat is most
needed.

More than half the energy used in American homes
goes into keeping our houses at livable temperatures . . .
and every degree over 70 degrees Fahrenheit can add 5% to a family’s
fuel consumption (and costs). Substantial savings may be
gained by leaving your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day
(and wearing a sweater if you feel chilly).

We’re sorry
that we have to evict that bird from its comfortable nest .
. . but chimneys should be cleaned yearly to avoid the
danger of fire and to allow proper functioning of the
household heating system.

Warm air, of course, rises . . .
all too often, into the attic and on out through the roof.
A 6inch layer of insulation between the upstairs storeroom
and the main part of the house will cut this loss to a
minimum.

If you can’t resist the charm of an open fire, a wise
choice of fuel will help to reduce its disadvantages.
Hardwoods burn hot and clean and are preferable to
softwoods, which emit chimney-fouling creosote.

A good way
to improve the performance of a standard fireplace is to
install a bent-pipe log holding device sold under the name
of “Thermograte”. This ingenious fitting which works by
drawing air through its metal tubes-directs heat out into
the room (instead of up the chimney).

Partial closing of
the damper when the fireplace is in use will help to
control the escape of heat up the flue. (You don’t need a
roaring blaze for coziness.) The damper should be fully
shut at all other times.

Food to be roasted, broiled, or
baked for more than an hour can be put directly into a cold
oven. If it’s necessary to preheat the oven, 10 minutes is
usually long enough. Once the dish has been launched, it
should be left to its own devices (since each peek costs
you something like 25 degrees of useful temperature).

The
perfect pot for stove-top use is straight sided and flat
bottomed, covers the entire burner, and comes with a
tight fitting lid. It’s best (for both thrift and nutrition)
to cook with little water and to turn down the heat as soon
as the liquid boils. Clean burner reflector pans also help
to save energy.

Electric dishwashers operate most
economically at full capacity (you may need to accumulate
utensils from several meals, if your family is small). And
have you considered letting dishes air-dry after the rinse
cycle is over?

Frost — which acts as an insulator and makes
it harder for a freezer to rid itself of warm air — shouldn’t
be allowed to build up thicker than 1/4 inch. Dusty
condenser coils are another energy drain to avoid.

This
hungry gal would probably be startled to learn the actual
cost of her midnight snack. Cold air rapidly spills out of
an open refrigerator and large amounts of energy are needed
to again lower the temperature of the box. It’s important
to keep the unit closed as much as possible . . . and to be
sure it closes tight. If the door’s edge won’t grip a piece
of paper, its gasket should be replaced.

For obvious
reasons, the faithful family refrigerator will have to work
overtime (and consume more energy) if it’s placed right
beside the stove. The appliances pictured in the illustration are in a
good relative position.

The production of hot water — the
second biggest item on the American householder’s energy
budget — accounts for 15% of home power consumption. You can
cut this figure by locating the water heater as near as
possible to the points where most of its output is used (to
avoid heat loss in piping).

A good way to reduce the expense of hot water production is
to revise your idea of “hot”. Clothes, dishes, and human
beings can be washed effectively in water heated to
120 degrees Fahrenheit . . . and cold liquid is quite adequate for many
cleaning jobs. (Don’t believe, by the way, that articles
are “sterilized” by washing them at higher temperatures.
‘Tain’t so, unless you process them at least five minutes
at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.)

One dripping faucet can waste thousands of gallons of water
yearly . . . and if it’s hot water, the energy loss is
considerable. Well-maintained plumbing is kinder to your
budget and to the nation’s resources.

The dryer’s exhaust on the outside of your house needs a
periodic cleaning. A partly blocked vent means longer
drying times and the use of more than necessary current.

If
you’ve always hated ironing, here’s a cast-iron excuse not
to do any: An ordinary hand iron — which converts
electricity to heat by the rather inefficient methods of
resistance — uses three times as much power as a color
TV set would consume in the same period. Natural non-iron
fabrics, then, save energy . . . yours and the nation’s.
Artificial fibers, however, are frequently a different
story since — because they don’t “breathe” — some
people find such clothes make them swelter in hot weather
and feel clammy during cold snaps.

Your washer and dryer
will perform best when full but not overloaded. A few
hints: Wash in warm or cold water if possible, sort clothes
by weight for drying, and dry them in consecutive batches
to make use of the heat which has already built up in your
dryer. Check the lint screen often and remove accumulations
of fluff. Or air- and sun-dry your clothes outdoors on a
line!