Tiny footprints: Your home’s carbon footprint in the winter

by / Monday, 05 January 2015 / Published in Carbon Footprint Reduction

Winter is here. Perhaps you’ve been drinking hot chocolate and making snowmen, or curling up to binge watch TV series. In Vancouver, winter means slogging through rain just a little bit colder than usual. But winter should also make us think about our carbon footprint. On one hand, winter means we can often save on air conditioning for our homes and offices. However, energy usage through heat is also a major contributor to carbon emissions through various channels. The more you can make your energy use smaller and more efficient, the better. Thankfully, most methods for reducing carbon emissions are also good for your wallet in the long run. Here’s what you can do to manage and reduce your home’s carbon footprint in the winter:

Hold off on heating

As a kid, whenever I would complain about being cold in the house, my dad would tell me to put on a sweater. I’m pretty sure he was thinking about his heating bill first and the environment second, but when you can make a positive impact on both of these, you’re definitely winning. So break out the hideous Christmas sweaters and bundle up! Cuddle with a pet or significant other (that doesn’t sound so bad at all). Wrap yourself in a recycled fleece blanket or an organic / tencel scarf (we can help you here).

If you have a programmable thermostat, consider setting it to turn off at night, while you’re bundled up anyways, and turn back on just before you get up. Why heat the house when you and your family won’t be awake to enjoy it?

Make your house more efficient

There a few things you can do around your home to greatly decrease your carbon footprint through heating. These range from easy DIY fixes to full window replacements.

Change furnace filters: Over time, your furnace’s filters get dirty. Dirty filters are inefficient (and gross!).

Seal any leaks: Older houses develop leaks, often around windows and doors. Find them and caulk them for quick savings.

Seal up your fireplace: It’s the 21st century. Many houses still have fireplaces, but few families still use them; if it’s not in use, seal it up to prevent heat loss.

Replace your windows: Old single-paned windows lose a ton of heat; double-paned windows can improve costs by 24% in cold climates, and triple panes are even better. This can be a huge up front cost, of course, but it will pay off over several years in heat savings.

Invest in energy efficient appliances: Though the initial cost can be high, these tend to pay off in long-term savings.

Replace your light bulbs with LEDs: Traditional incandescent bulbs waste a ton of energy as heat. This is often heat you don’t need. Take back control and use efficient, modern LED light bulbs. We’d be happy to put you in touch with our preferred partners at PVL Projects if you are commercial or industrial and looking to make the switch to LED.

Some firms are even willing to pay for the initial cost of replacing your bulbs with LEDs in exchange for a portion of your savings over the next few years. That way, there’s no initial cost to you (though you won’t see savings for an extra year or so).

Live in a better house

What? You’re not serious enough to move into a small straw bale home with a green roof, heated by passive solar and powered by a field of wind turbines? I thought you were cool.

Okay. We recognize that not everyone has the time, money and commitment to invest in a brand new, high-tech sustainable home (or renovations to that effect) right now. But we always like pointing out the latest cool trends in sustainable home design. And if you do happen to be considering a move, it’s an exciting time for that.

Solar panels, geothermal heating and wind power are nice. They can save (or make) you a lot of money and provide low-carbon energy for yourself and others — but don’t neglect to work on home energy and heat efficiency, too.

Keep it small: A smaller home is, obviously, easier to heat, requires less materials to build etc. Check out these incredible tiny DIY homes built on the cheap.

Of course any home you choose will have to be big enough for you and your family. Just consider: how much room do you need, really?

Don’t skimp on the building envelope: A good building envelope will keep the heat in and the cold out; a bad one hemorrhages heat and money.

Find cool ways to keep heat in: May we suggest a green roof? Very hip right now. Green roofs are great insulators, can make your roof last much longer, look great and literally pull carbon out of the air.

Live near to where you need to go: Unless you want to do your 2 hour commute by bike, staying near to where you work, eat and play can save a lot.

Want to learn more? Get a deeper run-down on design principals for energy-efficient homes here.