What is the best way to go green and save money this winter?

What is the best way to go green and save money this winter? The Editors Santa Fe, New Mexico


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Just about any green steps you take around the home are going to save you money—but maybe the biggest one is installing proper insulation. It’s not as sexy as putting up solar panels or a wind turbine, but it’s true: You can instantly and cheaply lower your energy costs by up to one third through proper insulation and reducing drafts, according to the US Department of Energy.

Local utility companies often provide free energy audits—or they’ll know who can do it cheaply—to determine how energy efficient your home is, and what improvements should be made. Unfortunately, the demand for auditors is usually so high that if you call now, one probably won’t knock on your door until spring.

So here are some do-it-yourself tips. First, grab some incense sticks. Then close all doors, windows, and fireplace dampers, turn on the bathroom exhaust fans, and turn off the furnace and water heater by flipping their circuit breakers. Hold a lit incense stick next to the electrical outlets, light switches, window frames, door frames, attic hatches, and window air conditioner units. If air is flowing through any of these spots, you’ll detect it in the smoke—and you’ll know where to apply insulation (made from natural fibers, of course), or caulk or weather stripping.

Next, head to the basement. One of the largest energy sucking areas is the wood portion of the wall that bridges the gap between the top of the concrete foundation and the basement ceiling. Stuff insulation into that gap, all along the perimeter walls.

Finally, climb up to the attic. I’m assuming it’s unfinished. There should be thick, dense insulation covering the floor. If there isn’t, then hot air is billowing out of your house like a chimney. (Also, never insulate the attic ceiling. You need that buffer zone of air between the outside and the home’s living area.) A private contractor can blow cellulose insulation on the floor for well under 50 cents per square foot, and you’ll make that money back in energy savings extremely fast. As for the solar panels and wind turbine, tackle that project in the summer.

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