In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: Winter's finally here. Do you have any tips for dealing with the cold and snow in a way that won't hurt our planet, but will also save me some money?
A: We sure do! Check these out.
• No need to idle. The Department of Energy says most vehicle manufacturers advise you should start driving off slowly after 30 seconds — driving helps your engine heat up faster than idling, and you'll get better fuel efficiency as your engine approaches its ideal operating temperature.
• Forget scraping ice off your windshield. Make a mixture of two parts rubbing alcohol to one part water and put it in a spray bottle. Alcohol has a much lower freezing point than the ice on your windshield, so it melts the ice like magic.
• Properly inflate your tires. You'll get better gas mileage and should have better traction on snowy roads.
• Use a programmable thermostat to set a heating schedule so you're not heating while you're at work or asleep.
• Leave your curtains and shades open during the day to take advantage of natural light and heat — close them at night to trap heat in your home.
• Have your heating system serviced yearly to maintain efficiency and prevent breakdowns.
• If you have a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when you're not using it.
• Use caulk to seal any gaps around windows or doors.
• Ceiling fans normally run counter-clockwise, pushing air down, which cools you as the air carries away your body heat. Most fans have a switch to reverse the blades' direction, which causes it to pull colder air up toward the ceiling. Hot air rises, but the influx of cold air from the fan pushes it down to your level.
• Put on a sweater or burrow under some blankets. Think in layers.
• Get cozy with a warm cup of tea or coffee.
• Do some aerobic exercise. Burn calories for heat.
Mass Save is an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts' gas and electric utilities and energy-efficiency service providers, including the Berkshire Gas Co., Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Cape Light Compact, Eversource, National Grid, Liberty Utilities and Unitil.
Having a no-cost Home Energy Assessment through Mass Save is the first step toward financial incentives for air sealing and insulation improvements, rebates and free energy-efficient light bulbs. To set up a Home Energy Assessment, call 1-866-527-7283.
For more tips to stay warm (or cool) and save money all year long, visit www.cetonline.org.