Environmental-issues writer Adria Vasil released Ecoholic Home , her second book, earlier this month. As the weather turns cool, she shares her tips on how to heat your home the green way.
1. Change the furnace filters
Make a habit of replacing filters every three months, Ms. Vasil advises.
"It takes about 10 seconds to do and a Grade 1 kid could do it."
When she moved into her apartment, the filter hadn't been changed in years. She had the furnace repair guy show her where it was located and put in a new one.
"The curtains were billowing for the first time ever because it was allowing so much air to come from the vents," she says. "You're crippling your furnace if you let it get clogged."
Adria Vasil takes questions on how to make your home environmentally friendly
2. Seal up drafts
Even if your home is outfitted with the most efficient heating systems, you're still wasting energy if heat is escaping. It can slip out through spaces around windows, and also cracks in doors, electrical sockets, and around pipes.
"You'd imagine that if there was a big hole in the house, you'd fix it. Essentially, all those drafts add up to a hole," Ms. Vasil explains.
To track drafts, she suggests lighting a stick of incense and walking around your home with it. When you see the stream of smoke shift, you've found one. Use weather-stripping tape, silicone caulking, or electric outlet seals to close things up.
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3. Trade in the fireplace for a pellet stove
Ah, the rustic comforts of a crackling fire at home - cozy? Yes. But a good way to heat your home? Hardly.
"Old-fashioned fireplaces leak a lot of heat," Ms. Vasil says.
Not to mention pump a lot of smog-forming pollutants into the air.
She suggests replicating the ambience of the wood-burning fireplace with a pellet stove: They run on bits made out of agricultural waste or compressed sawdust and burn cleanly.
If you've sealed all the drafts in your home, there's still one more way to keep that precious heat inside: insulation.
There's a wide array of materials to choose from - fibreglass, mineral wool, natural wool, polyurethane - and each has an R-value that tells you how well the material blocks heat from escaping (the higher, the better).
Ms. Vasil gives top rating to AirKrete, a non-toxic, non-flammable and rodent-proof cement-based foam made of magnesium oxide and ceramic talc. You can install it without worrying about any hazardous properties evaporating into the air.
"I'm a fan of anything where you don't have to kick your families out to put it in," Ms. Vasil says.
5. Get a programmable thermostat
An antiquated thermostat might make your home warm enough when you're there, but there's no point blasting heat when you're away.
With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature to 21 degrees Celsius for when you're awake and at home, and then bring it down to about 18 degrees when you're asleep or at work ("Your pets will be perfectly happy," Ms. Vasil says). For just a $40 investment you'll see a drop in your energy bills.
*And don't do this
Use a space heater. It gobbles up energy without evenly heating a room.
Read: Ecoholic Home
Want more tips?
In Ecoholic Home , the follow-up to the bestselling Ecoholic , Adria Vasil tells you how to give your home a green makeover from the kitchen to the bathroom - and all the way out to the garden.
In the decorating chapter, she explains that there are eco-friendly ways to pick out a couch (opt for organic fabrics or find a used one), buy wooden furniture (avoid unsustainable tropical woods) and pick out paint (cut down on the formaldehyde and ammonia and go for plant-based varieties).
Ms. Vasil even justifies your IKEA habit. While its practices aren't perfect, she says, the company is ahead of many competitors. It doesn't use PVC and designs furniture to be stored and transported using fewer trucks. It turns out you don't need to be embarrassed about that Klippan sofa after all.