Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice

"Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider." - Yule Lore

Winter Solstice marks the beginning of longer days ... and the promise of spring. But in most of the U.S. the weather is cold ... and we can expect colder weather for at least the next couple of months. Does colder weather mean we toss out our green living ways in order to stay warm and toasty? Nope! Here are some ideas:
  • Every energy saving website on the Internet will tell you to turn down the thermostat in the winter to 68 degrees or lower. The fact is, for every degree you lower your heat in the 60 to 70 degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. But no one likes to be cold. So, to keep frost bite away ... put on some extra clothes. Layering clothing traps in the warm air created by your body. Use cozy "throws" or blankets, to wrap up in, while watching TV. Put on extra socks or use slippers. Got some thermal underwear? They're not just for outdoor activities. Use stocking caps indoors if your ears are cold. I've even been known to use mittens with the fingers cut out to keep my digits warm while typing away on the computer (we're trying not to use any heat at all this winter ... I'll update you in a later post about that). Snuggle with a loved one ... body heat is a great source of warmth (both physically and mentally).

  • In the fall we talked about cleaning furnaces and getting them tuned-up for the winter. Now, be sure to replace or clean the filters once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use.

  • Let the sun shine in. Open drapes and let the sun heat your home ... at night, be sure to close them to help insulate.

  • Rearrange your rooms. Move your furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls ... the areas near exterior walls and windows are cooler.

  • Traditional fireplaces are energy losers - they pull heated air out of the house and up the chimney. When not in use, make sure the damper is closed. One word of caution ... before closing the damper, make sure that there aren't any smoldering embers present. If the fireplace isn't going to be used at all, block off the chimney with a piece of rigid insulation from the hardware store that fits snugly into the space (dampers don't shut fully without some leaking).

  • Do you have rooms that aren't being used? Close any heating vents and close the door ... no sense heating rooms that no one goes into to.

  • If you live in an apartment, check doors and windows for cool air. Most apartments are built with economy, rather than efficiency, in mind ... and things like insulated windows and seals around doors don't come cheap. To stop the cool air from coming in, use rolled up towels, blankets or rugs along the bottoms of doors and windows.

  • Use what you have ... for example: After using an oven to cook a meal, leave the door open so that the left-over heat escapes into the room. While doing laundry, leave the laundry room door open so that heat from the dryer warms the adjacent rooms. The same goes for taking hot showers ... leave the door open and make use of the hot steam. Another shower idea is to put the plug in the tub and, after you've finished your shower, let the water sit there until it's cold ... warmth from the water will slowly escape into the room.

And finally ... I'd like to offer one more piece of advice:

  • Do not use a BBQ or camp stove ... or any other equipment which is designed and intended for outdoor use ... as a heating source. Not only are they fire hazards, they can produce high levels of carbon monoxide which has no odor and is deadly.

The weather outside might be frightful ... but using these tips will make your home ... delightful!

As always ... I'd love to hear from you!