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Increasing the Green in Minnesota’s White Winter
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Minnesota Community Living January/February 2011

Increasing the Green in Minnesota’s White Winter

By Tony Poetz, Spectrum Home Services

Minnesota’s winter isn’t for the faint of heart especially when it comes time to pay the heating bill. The typical U.S. family spends $1900/yr on utilities – around $200 of that goes to just the January heat bill. Imagine the savings if your home were more efficient during the most vulnerable time of year.

There are obvious big-ticket improvers such as new windows or a new furnace, but the cost is painful at the beginning. Without breaking the bank, here are some simple ways to increase the environmental and economic green in your Minnesota condo.

  1. Attic Insulation – Heat rises, making attic insulation the most important ally in your battle against energy loss. An efficient solution involves one trip to the home store, a ladder and an afternoon. A standard roll of fiberglass insulation costs $15 and covers 50 square feet. Enter your attic through the access door in the ceiling and simply unroll the insulation across the existing insulation. Be careful to only step on the rafters and don’t pack the insulation tight against the sides. Air needs to flow along the edges. A hundred dollars worth of insulation will quickly save thousands and reduce the energy consumption of your home.
  2. Window Covers – The plastic stretched over the inside of windows works very well to create a "greenhouse” effect. A $4 kit will cover three standard windows. The 2-sided 3M tape goes around the edges followed by the plastic stretched onto the tape. Once the plastic is evenly placed on the tape, use a hairdryer on the sheet to shrink it tight.
  3. Window Seam Insulation – If you’ve got casing/trim around your windows, check for a draft. There’s a gap under that casing between the window and the wall stud. Gently remove the trim and fill the gap with some of the batted insulation you added to the attic. DO NOT PACK IT TIGHT...just enough to stop the draft. Insulation contains air pockets on purpose and should never be too tight.
  4. Ceiling Fan Rotation – Yes, the direction makes a difference. Clockwise in the winter sucks cool air up and sends heated air down. Flip the switch to the opposite in the summer.
  5. Open the Southern Drapes – The Minnesota sun arcs across the southern sky, and it’s a free heat source during the day. Open the curtains during the day to let the heat in. Close them at night to retain the warmth. Your cat will love the rays.
  6. Programmable Thermostats – Newer models are wizards with efficiency and don’t require a Ph.D. to program. There are zone systems with newer furnaces that keep certain rooms at certain temperatures. Set the temp 5 - 10 degrees lower for extended away times such as 10 hour work days or weekend traveling. Simply program a lower temp for when you’re at work.
  7. Blankets and Sweaters – Keeping a flannel shirt draped near the thermostat is a good habit to create. When your family reaches for the thermostat, they may just grab the shirt instead.

For more tips, visit www.energystar.gov.

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