If you don’t like the weather in New England–wait a minute. Does this thinking jade us? Maybe. Many scientists say this crazy weather we are having is in fact, CLIMATE CHANGE.
We started off last week with a King Tide that flooded many low-laying areas and gave us a glimpse of what sea level rise will mean locally. The “Snowtober” Halloween Weekend storm came as the end-of-the-week surprise and has left hundreds of thousands in the Northeast without power. By this Thursday, temps will be upwards of 60 degrees again!
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Postcards from the Edge series details the 2010-2011 climate change evidence with images and notes from coast to coast. The lesson for us in the Northeast: the back-to-back storms that hit Washington D.C.–which became known as Snowmageddon–were the result of warmer air that holds more water vapor. When the warm, moist air meets a cold front–whammo!
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we are in for it again. NOAA is predicting an upcoming season of wild temperature swings due to La Nina conditions and the Arctic Oscillation that will suddenly bring the coldest air in from Canada–resulting in Snowmageddon-like conditions that occur when a greenhouse-gassed warm front collides with Arctic air.
Let’s get our homes and coffers ready. Here are 30 Green Quick Fixes to keep the chill out of the house and money left in your wallet.
1. Check your heating-system filters and change or clean them if they are dirty. Your heating equipment will run more efficiently, saving you money. Note, National Grid recommends that a professional inspect all heating equipment every two years for efficiency, as well as for safety.
2. Bleed radiators (when they are cooled) and consider adding radiator thermometer valves to regulate each register.
3. Consider having your chimney up and running to reduce dependence on utility-powered heat. Be sure to contact a professional, as unnoticed clogs in chimneys can result in carbon monoxide exposure.
4. Inspect attic insulation and add any insulation you’ve been intending to install. The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association has resources that discuss energy savings and materials, including recycled newspaper and cellulose varieties at SimplyInsulate.com. Note, when adding insulation, be sure appliances are adequately vented to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.
5. Weather-strip and caulk cracks in walls, jams and floors. Check for worn out weather-stripping and replace. Check with your local community action program for how to access an infra-red camera to find those week spots you can’t see with the naked eye.
6. Seal leaky duct work with metal-backed tape to guard against heat loss when the system is on.
7. Lock windows to ensure the weatherproofing seals are tight and working properly.
8. Install plastic window sheeting to help eliminate drafts and heat loss from nearby registers. Concentrate on north-, east-, and west-facing, older, and upper-floor windows where heat loss is greatest and solar gain is minimal.
9. Open shades in south-facing windows to catch solar energy during the day. Add extra draperies or shutters to north-, east-, and west-facing windows.
10. Place thermometers outside windows. In the early fall and early spring, when temperatures climb up during the day, turn your thermostat down. This is a great tool for saving on heat costs in south-facing home offices.
11. Buying new flooring? Look for passive solar absorbent materials such as concrete, tile, brick, stone, and masonry or active solar flooring tiles.
12. If you have any air-conditioning units that are not removable, such as a wall unit, cover with plastic inside and outside, which may require a heavier gauge material.
13. Outside your home, remove leaves or snow blocking gas heating and appliance vents.
14. Go through your home’s interior and check that the space around baseboards, registers, vents, and air ducts are clear of window treatments, furniture, rugs, and miscellaneous items.
15. Switch ceiling fans to turn clockwise to blow warm air up off the ceiling and then down into the room (usually this is the up position on the switch).
16. Upgrade your thermostat to a programmable version, and set it to lower the heat at night and when you are away from home. According to National Grid, over an eight-hour period, lowering the heat from 72 to 65 degrees will lower your bill by 10 percent. Most experts suggest not raising thermostats above 68 degrees. Check out the latest thermostat gadget that you control from a smartphone or tablet–the Nest!
17. If you are able, close doors, turn registers off, and lower thermostats in unused rooms.
18. Install low-flow plumbing devices to not only help reduce your water bill, but also reduce energy costs.
19. Insulate water pipes to ensure against heat loss.
20. Set water heaters to low, or 120 degrees.
21. Encase non-insulated heaters with water heater blankets designed to eliminate heat loss.
22. Lower the temperature on your dishwasher. National Grid recommends 140 degrees. Run only full loads.
23. Wash clothes in cold water. Washers do not typically heat water to a high enough temperature to sanitize, so there is no point in heating water for everyday clothes washing.
24. Check the seal on your oven door by closing the door on construction paper, at least 1 inch wide. Gently pull the paper. If there is no drag, then the seal is loose. Check the entire perimeter. Have it professionally repaired — a leak uses up excess energy to maintain the set temperature and, if your fuel is gas, could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, if gas range-top flames are burning all yellow, clean the burners. If the problem persists, have it serviced.
25. Cover pots and pans with lids when cooking or boiling water to reduce energy waste.
26. If buying any new appliances, look for the Energy Star label.
27. Unplug all chargers when not in use — cell phones, MP3s, and other gadgets to avoid “vampire” energy use.
28. Use power cords at all grounded outlets where you have multiple electrical appliances — music and entertainment centers and computer terminals — and switch off when not in use. Particularly where there is a TV this is a good idea; even in standby or off mode, TVs still consume 10 to 50 watts depending on their overall wattage.
29. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (be sure to dispose of as hazardous waste when they die, which will take a very long time).
30. Switch lights off when not in use!
For more on climate change, check out EDF’s Postcards from the Edge. Read NOAA’s U.S. dealt another La Niña winter but ‘wild card’ could trump it to learn how upcoming weather could cause outbreaks of conditions like 2009’s Snowmaggedon.