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Encouraging North Americans to Pollute Less, Consume Fewer Resources, and Use Less Energy since 2007.

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Heating an Cooling

A large portion of the energy we require (and the pollution that results) is for heating and cooling our environment. Most changes in this area have at least a noticeable effect. This is an area where you can make a significant difference easily (and save money too).

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Level of Change

Turn down thermostat a few degrees Turning down the thermostat a few degrees during the heating season makes a big difference in regard to heating fuel consumption and air pollution. There is no good reason to need be comfortable inside the house during the winter while wearing only clothes that are appropriate for the summer and much higher temperatures. Put on a sweater - wear wool socks. It is Winter!
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Wear long underwear and appropriate winter clothes Wool does not feel as cold as other natural materials even when completely wet. Once you get used to wearing wool you will feel warmer at much lower temperatures and you will need to heat less. Long underwear (not cotton!) makes a big difference too. Do not wear anything made from cotton if you want to stay warm. Cotton is great for the summer when you want to be cool.
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Turn down the A/C a few degrees Turning down the A/C a few degrees results in the A/C having to cool down the building a little bit less and makes a big difference in regard to electricity consumption and air pollution. There is no good reason to need be comfortable inside the house during the summer while wearing clothes that are appropriate for much lower temperatures. Take off some clothes when you are too warm. Wear sandals, short sleeve shirts and shorts.
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Use fans instead of A/C A/C uses a lot of energy. Using a fan reduces the impact on your wallet and the environment. Fans use much less electricity.
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Let the fan blow air at you If you use fans in the house let them blow air "at" you. It will cool you down much better when you have a fan blow (even warm) air at you than trying to cool down the room with a window fan. The secret to being cool is to enable your body to "sweat better".
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Wear comfortable clothes in the summer Short sleeve shirts and shorts make much more sense than long pants and jackets. Some fabrics are not comfortable when you get just a little warmer. Yes, yes, there are some areas where it is required to wear "professional" attire. We live in a strange place where some of us have to wear clothes at work that require a climate that can only be created with the help of machines and lots of energy. Wear sandals, short sleeve shirts and shorts. Talk to your boss. Switch jobs.
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Blow out hot air - suck in cool air At night exhaust the hot air inside the house through the highest possible window. At the same time use a fan to suck in cooler night time air at the lower levels of the building. If it is only cool in the morning hours put the fan on a timed switch.
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Shade the A/C unit Making sure that the A/C unit is in the shade results in much less energy used to cool the house. If the sun beats on the A/C, the unit has to work much harder to create cool air.
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Insulate your building Insulation keeps hot air in and cold air out. As a result it requires less energy to cool or heat your home. Whenever you build new (even parts of your home) insulate the best way you can afford. Don't forget that you will have to pay less for heating and cooling as long as you live there. And you will pollute much less and that's what this is all about.
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Close doors and curtains Closing doors will keep the warm or cool air where you want it to be. Hot air travels up but you may not want the warmer air there. Cool air falls to the lower floors unless you keep it inside the room with the doors closed. Heavy or insulated curtains keep your house from exchanging hot or cold air with the outside. Close the curtains and shutters (if they still close) to pollute less.
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Heat the rooms you use Heating rooms that are not in use frequently or where no one lives (such as garage, storage room, small bathroom, etc.) uses energy for nothing.
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Insulate the attic Hot air goes up. If your attic is not insulated well a lot of the warm air you want to keep in the house (in the winter) will go right through the attic ceiling. The more insulation you can put in the attic the better.
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Keep the air dry Do not use a humidifier in the winter! Air at regular room temperatures feels colder when it is humid. To feel warm again you will have to increase the temperature of the room. Humid air conducts heat better and you cool off faster than if you where surrounded by dryer air. HOT (= enough to need to sweat) and humid air feels hotter because it decreases your body's ability to drop heat through evaporation of water on the skin (=sweating).
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Air out quickly with wide open windows If you want to air out your house do it by opening many windows and doors at once. This way you exchange the air quickly and you do not cool down the house walls, furniture, floors, etc. Airing out the building with windows open just a crack cools down the whole building which then has to be warmed up again by your heating system.
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Use heat exchanger If you plan to install an air exchanger make sure you install one that features a heat exchanger. This way the warm air that gets exhausted is used to warm up the cold fresh air entering the building from the outside. You have to use less energy to heat it with your furnace.
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Plug permanent air leaks If you have air leaks in the basement or anywhere else in the house plug them. Use caulking, foam, whatever, ... to stop the exchange of air with the outside. Don't just let it happen - you should be able to control the exchange of air.
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Programmable thermostats If you have a predictable schedule it may make sense to install programmable thermostats. This way the heat (or A/C) will be on when you are at home and it will be lower when you are not. Some models can be programmed for each day, others allow a change of heating/cooling patterns on the weekends. It is still better to do it by hand IF you are AWARE OF and can PREDICT your needs.
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Replace windows A lot of heat is lost through old single pane windows. If you are renovating consider replacing them with windows that insulate much more. Double or triple pane.
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Utilize passive solar heat Basic understanding of how the sun can heat your house and how architectural elements can prevent your house from getting too warm decreases the need for machines for both heating and cooling.
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Use a Wood Stove A wood stove does not necessarily create less pollution, however it creates NO ADDITONAL carbon dioxide since the trees stored the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while they were growing. However, woodstoves pollute more in regard to small, possibly carcinogenic particles (soot, dust) in the smoke. So, they are better for reducing green house gas output, but worse for breathing the air in your area.
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Use a EPA approved woodstove Same issue than with all other woodstoves with the exception that an EPA approved woodstove burns wood more efficiently and blows 4 to 5 times less particles through the chimney. That is still many times more than oil or gas furnaces. And it only works as an EPA approved woodstove if you use it correctly. If you worry about particulate matter a woodstove is not a good solution.
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Make small but hot fires Fires that burn hot burn much more efficiently than slow burning fires. That means the energy of the wood is transformed better into heat. Hot fires also do not allow the formation of as many dangerous particles in the smoke. Slow, smoldering fires create less heat and much more pollution in form of particulate matter that is hard on the lungs and may be carcinogenic. You want FLAMES.
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Use natural gas for heating Natural gas burns much cleaner than oil or coal. There is also little fine particulate matter in the exhaust. However just changing which fossil fuel you use is not going to make a difference. The burning of all fossil fuels increases the output of green house gases.
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Use electric heat Electric heat does not pollute where it is USED. It may pollute where the electricity is MADE depending on HOW the electricity is made. Also, a lot of energy is wasted since only a small portion of the electric energy is actually converted into useful heat. If (and only if) your electricity is made with a renewable energy source such as water, solar, or wind power you have a very clean source of heat.
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Move South Not everyone can or wants to do it, but moving further South will result in less pollution because you do not have to heat as much during the winter time.
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Go on vacation in the South during winter

If you travel a bit further South during the heating months and visit friends or family there rather than staying in your house in the North that needs heating while you are there, you will be able to turn down the heat and pollute less. Ideally you use the train or bus to travel.

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Move North Moving further North will result in less pollution because you may choose to not use as much air-conditioning during the summer time. If you use A/C during the few days it is really uncomfortable in the North there will be very little change.
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Go on vacation in the North during the summer

If you travel a bit further North during the summer months and spend in your friends or family's house rather than in your house in the South that is uncomfortably hot while you are there, you will be able to turn off the A/C and pollute less. Ideally you use the train or bus to travel. And don't use A/C at your friends house!

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Install a geothermal energy system Geothermal energy takes advantage of the near-constant temperatures of the ground (below, say, 10 feet) to heat or cool the air inside your home to a comfortable temperature without burning anything. All you need is the right equipment (and it makes most sense when you build new) and a little electricity to run the pump and heat exchanger. Very efficient, very clean, no chimney on the house required.
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Use natural cooling systems instead of A/C Cover windows from the outside. Shade windows. Close shutters. Open windows in top floors and create drafts. Draw air through cold places (tunnels, caves, basement) before it enters your living space.
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Shade your house in summer A deciduous tree (one that drops its leaves in the fall) that shades your house in the summer will reduce cooling needs inside your house during the summer months. After it has dropped its leaves in the fall, it will let the sun reach the house which will in turn reduce heating requirements.
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Let sun shine in during winter Open the curtains whenever the sun shines. Let the sun heat your house by letting the sunlight in. Put larger windows on the South side.
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Open windows at night to cool down Often the outside temperatures drop significantly by early morning. Opening the windows allows cold air to enter your building and cool it down.
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Close windows during daytime Even though it seems to be the wrong thing to do, closing the windows during a hot day (= hotter air temperatures outside in the shade than you want inside the house) will keep hot air outside of the house. That works especially well if your house is insulated well. Pay extra attention to windows that are near and above roofs or paved surfaces which heat up a lot. The less hot air and sunshine you let into your house, the less likely it will be you want air-conditioning, or, if you already have A/C you will turn it on less often. In addition, install bright white curtains and close them during the day to reflect sunlight, especially on the side where the sun shines directly into the house. Even better, block windows from the outside with shutters so that sunlight cannot get in the house at all. If you have the option, design the roof so it overhangs more and blocks sunlight during the summer
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Move in the basement If your basement can be a living space consider living (at least part of the time) or working there. It is generally much cooler in the basement and you are more comfortable without the help of machines.
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Maintain furnace A well maintained furnace works more efficiently and results in less pollution. Get it serviced once a year.
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Clean air filters A/C and furnace have air filters that prevent good airflow if they are dirty. Replace them to ensure efficient operation of those devices.
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Close chimney flue when not in use If you have a chimney flue that needs to be opened when you use the chimney, close it when you are not using the stove/fireplace. Hot air goes up and will happily disappear through the chimney if it can.
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Look at (but do not use) your fire place Fire places are extremely inefficient for heating the house. Not only do they not heat a room well, they also force so much hot air through the chimney that cold outside air is sucked in through the doors and windows of other rooms. One room gets a bit warmer, many other rooms get colder.
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Choose building terrain wisely Building on a North slope makes only sense if you need to avoid the heat of the summer and the winters are mild. Building on a South slope, on the other hand, makes most sense if the climate is harsh and you want the sun to help heating your house. If wind is prevalent, keep the building protected from wind. Wind cools a heated house just like it cools you.
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Install heating system other than forced air Forced air systems have the disadvantage that the room air has to be heated up higher than it is necessary with other systems that radiate heat. People feel more comfortable at lower temperatures if the heat radiates instead of being blown at with air.
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Get your muscles to warm you up Go outside to work physically if you are cold inside; when you get back you will feel very warm without having to turn up the heat. Even just working out or getting physically active will make a difference.
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Live without air-conditioning A/C uses a lot of energy and causes pollution. You may not need it at all where you live. Once upon a time people did not have A/C anywhere on this planet and they lived to tell.
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Seal your windows and outside doors Consider sealing all windows that are drafty with clear plastic foil. Cutting down on the air exchange between inside and outside saves a lot of energy and pollutes less.
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Clean refrigerator heat sinks A refrigerator needs to dump heat efficiently. This usually occurs at the back of the unit through cooling fins. If these fins/tubes are dirty the unit cannot work as efficiently as it could. Clean them and keep them clean and unobstructed.
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Seal ducts in duct work Leaking duct work releases hot air into the basement or inside walls. That may not be where you want your hot air.
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Insulate all hot water pipes Hot water often needs to travel some distance from the hot water tank to where it is required. If the pipes are insulated hot water arrives hot where you want it sooner and hotter. If the pipes are not insulated you heat the basement or the inside of the walls.
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Use pilot less gas stoves A stove with a pilot light burns a small amount of natural gas day and night all year long. The pilot light is necessary to start the burner. Some stoves do not require a pilot light; they use an electric spark instead. If you purchase a new gas stove purchase one without pilot light to eliminate extra heat and pollution. Do not just extinguish the pilot light inside a stove that needs a pilot light. Unburned gas will accumulate and could cause an explosion.
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Use warm water bottles One warm water bottle will heat up one bed very nicely and is much more efficient that heating a whole room. You can reduce the heating required for this bedroom during the night. You do not have to turn up the heat for the house or room just because you are cold inside your bed. Heat your bed, not the planet!
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Cook outside during summer if you have A/C Every time you cook inside in the summer you also heat your house. That is not wasting energy if you do not use A/C to cool the house, but if you do, the A/C has to work harder to cool the house down again.
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