It’s Sweater Weather

One of the things I like about living where there are seasons is the opportunity to wear my favorite sweaters when the weather starts getting chilly.  Getting them out is much like getting reacquainted with old friends.  I remember when and where I got them – some are from the mid- to late-  nineties, some from the late eighties!   I am particularly grateful that I can tolerate wool since it is so warm,cozy, and sustainable.  And because I choose to wear my sweaters, I am able to reduce  my use of heating energy, saving both money and the climate impacts of energy use.

When I was growing up, our thermostat was set at 70-72 degrees for a daytime temp in the winter.  When we were first married, we did the same thing because that was “normal”.  But after we participated in the NWEI discussion courses, especially Choices for Sustainable Living, we had a better understanding of the impacts of our choices. So we lowered the temperature from 70 to 68; the next year it was set at 67, and so on. Now our winter house daytime temp is set at 64 degrees, and we wear our sweaters; nighttime temp is set at 58 degrees.  You would be surprised how cozy it feels inside when it’s cold outside. Give it a try, one degree at a time.

For me, this is about how much should we use – just because we can afford something, should we use more?  Should we waste something, or use more than necessary, just because we have the money to do so? I would feel guilty hanging out in a tee shirt in winter.

To get a better handle on the impacts of energy use, here is an energy footprint calculator from the Nature Conservancy:

Here is more energy saving information from the website:

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away, and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning. Check out our home heating infographic to learn more about how heating systems and thermostats interact.

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