Friday, September 23, 2011

29 Tips for Fall

Welcome to the first day of Autumn. As we move into the cooler months, we have the perfect opportunity to "green" up our routine. We've been compiling this list of ideas over the past several years ... they are tried and true. If you're moving into spring instead of fall, click HERE for some ways to get ready for the warmer months. Here are your fall tips:
  1. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.
  2. If you have a garage, park the car in it. As the weather gets colder, using a garage will alleviate the need to warm up the car before driving ... and will save fuel.
  3. Clean and test the furnace. Did you know that your furnace needs cleaning? Yep ... it collects all kinds of dust and debris which not only affects it's performance but could cause a fire. Before you really need the heat, get out your owner's manual for instructions on how to clean it. No manual? Check here or call a furnace maintenance company. If you have a gas furnace, have it professionally inspected once a year.
  4. Move furniture or any obstructions from vents, baseboard heaters, registers on the floor or radiators so that air moves freely. This is also a good time to vacuum these areas to remove any dust or debris. And here's a tip if you have a radiator ... place a reflecting panel behind it ... you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
  5. Remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they can't be removed, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.
  6. Vacuum the refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently. It's also a good time to check that the refrigerator is level ... the door should automatically swing shut instead of staying open. Check the seal on the door ... try closing it on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. Repeat this process at several spots along the door to ensure that the entire seal is working. Here's another tip for running the refrigerator efficiently ... don't over fill it. Allowing room for cool air to circulate will keep everything at the right temperature. And how about another tip ... plan ahead and defrost frozen items in the refrigerator instead of on the counter top ... the frozen items will help keep your refrigerator cool thus making it run less.
  7. Clean the ducts and area behind the dryer. And don't forget, clean the filter after every use and every once in awhile, give it a good wash.
  8. Check windows for proper caulking. If you have single-pane windows, add storm windows. Even a plastic film over windows will reduce heat loss.
  9. Check doors for weather stripping and replace as necessary. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold or block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
  10. Check your roof for any missing or damaged tiles or shingles.
  11. Clean the roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Now would also be a good time to install a rain barrel ... rather than allow water to drain into one spot, a rain barrel would allow you to direct the water to where it's most needed.
  12. Electrical outlets, especially on outside walls, and light fixtures are prime places for cold air to leak into your home. Add foam gaskets behind covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in unused outlets. Be sure to shut off the power at the fuse box or circuit panel before doing this.
  13. Install foam covers over outside water spigots to prevent freezing.
  14. Check for water leaks both inside and outside.
  15. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket.
  16. If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction ... the fan should be run in a clockwise direction (stand under the fan and if you feel a breeze, reverse the direction so that air is being drawn upwards). This pushes the air up against the ceiling and down the walls, to gently re-circulate the warm air without creating a cooling "wind chill effect."
  17. Do you have a fireplace? This is a good time to have the chimney cleaned and get vent systems checked.
  18. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.
  19. Hang a thick curtain in front of the door to block cold air from entering the house.  Use a shower curtain rod and loop hangers so that the curtain can be easily pushed to the side to open the door. 
  20. Bring in any houseplants that have spent the summer outdoors. They'll help clean the air. Hint ... for about a week, bring them in at night and then put them out during the day. This will ensure that they aren't "shocked".
  21. Do a little outdoor landscaping. Trees and bushes, planted in the fall, have ample time to develop strong, deep root systems before the heat of the next summer. This increases their chances of surviving and typically means less watering during hot months. For a discussion on fall gardening, click HERE.
  22. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, consider raking them up rather than using a "blower" (it's great exercise). Once raked up, use them as mulch to protect plants throughout the winter or add them to a compost pile.
  23. Even though fresh, local produce isn't as abundant during this season, there are still many options available. Visit local farms or farmer's markets and find out what's available and then, eat locally and in season. Visit Sustainable Table to learn which crops are growing in your area.
  24. Before packing away those summer clothes, go through them and determine which items to keep, which items to repurpose into something else (cleaning rags, craft projects, etc.) and which to donate.
  25. Bring out all those warm sweaters, socks, slippers and blankets so that when the temperature falls you'll be ready to bundle up instead of raising the thermostat.
  26. Are your kids returning to school? Consider buying clothes, backpacks, etc. from second hand stores and/or thrift shops. If you're buying new items at a store, opt for earth-friendly products and don't forget to pay attention to packaging. Also consider investing in reusable lunch items (beverage bottles, utensils, napkins, etc.) to further minimize your child's impact on the planet.
  27. Do your kids ride the bus to school? Often buses sit in front of a school, idling while they wait for kids to climb aboard. Suggest, to your school or the bus company, that bus drivers turn off the engine when waiting for their passengers. And, of course, if it's possible for your kids to walk to school ... all the better (for them and the earth).
  28. Speaking of school buses, as the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to drive kids to the bus stop. To save that fuel, bundle up and walk your kids to the bus stop instead.
  29. In the fall entertaining moves indoors. There are football parties, cozy dinner parties and later events like Halloween and Thanksgiving. When planning your fall event, consider reusable plates, napkins and utensils, decorations from nature, clean burning soy candles and plenty of plant-based foods on your menu.

Do you have any fall tips that we haven't covered? We'd love to hear them!

10 comments :

  1. it's supposed to get near 90 today so it's hard to think of cleaning gutters, haha! yep this is the time of year i replace my furnace filter - i have an ultra-high (95%) energy efficient gas furnace so the filters are SPENDY but so worth it.

    other ideas:
    * blinds closed at night, open in day to attract/retain warmth. honeycomb blinds are especially insulating.
    * re: rainbarrels. we get a lot of rain here in the winter and a 50gal barrel fills with just 1/2" rain from the roof, so I drain the overflow water from the barrel far from the yard as it will flood the basement if it overflows next to the house. something the rainbarrel folks don't tell ya!
    * stock up on warm fuzzy socks so you're not blasting the heat :)

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  2. Wow, I feel pretty darn proud because we DO all that stuff already and have for years!
    I would suggest to install a programmable thermostat. It's amazing how much money you can save by doing this (use less fuel) and keeping your temps set at a moderate level.

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  3. I didnt think so much details about autumn,best wishes

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  4. I'll second that on the programmable thermo - I love mine! Mine goes down to 58 at night during the winter (I've weaned down from 60) and have never had over 72 in the coldest of days.

    Also add getting blown-in recycled cotton/denim insulation if you can budget it - super easy, super eco, and makes a huge difference in keeping house warm. That and my new E* windows? lovely!!

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  5. Great tips! There are definitely a few of those I need to get to still, particularly cleaning the gutters!

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  6. Oh I agree these are such great tips and will definitely save lots of money!!

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  7. Earlier in the summer, I turned around all the hangers in my closet. After I wore an item, I returned it with the hangers facing the "right" way. Now that the cold weather is settling in, I can see that about half my hanging clothes weren't used this summer. What are the odds I'll wear them next year? Zero, because I'll be donating those items!

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