While plenty of fun can be had on slippery slopes this time of year, one thing that probably won’t be on the descent anytime soon is your energy bill. So here are some tips on how to buckle down and warm up without cranking up the heat.
Warm up your windows with the pull of a cord. Rather than sending the utility company all your money, instead use it on window treatments that will bring lasting comfort to your home, saving you energy throughout all seasons.
Robin Hoffman, owner of Interiors by Robin, in Spokane, says when considering options, think functionality first.
“Function usually drives my clients’ decision to start thinking about window treatments. For example, is the room cold in the winter and too warm in the summer?” says Hoffman.
She suggests keeping it simple with roman shades in naturally insulating fabrics such as burlap woven linen, wool, silk, bamboo, and other woven woods. These beautiful materials not only will help keep the warmth in during the winter, they will keep the heat out during the summer and add to the aesthetic beauty of your home, as well.
For the ultimate in window insulation, consider insulated shades, such as cellular shades and “window quilts” that fit snugly to the window trim with sidetracks or other fasteners and increase the R-value (the effectiveness of a material in preventing energy from flowing through it) from R-1.3 for a single-glaze window to R-7.69.
“The insulated shades are probably our number-one selling shade and will average from $200-$600 a window, depending on the fabric you choose and the size of your window,” says Renee Johnson, sale associate at Wallflowers Interior Design Center. Although a bit pricey, the benefits of adding to your home’s décor and warmth are obvious.
Also, if your family is going to be gone from the house, whether at school, work or just shopping, keeping those shades and curtains pulled to keep more warmth in while you’re out is an easy can-do.
Give them something to grab. If you haven’t already, break out those blankets and toss them at the foot of each bed, over arms of couches, and in baskets so that when the chill sets in, warmth is an arm’s reach away. Think cable-knits, fleece, alpaca, and felted merino wool (hint: give your Pashmina shawl a new life as a throw blanket), depending on the type of room it’s going in.
Kim Harmson, owner of Kizuri Fair Trade Gifts and Clothing in Spokane, suggests the perfect throw is one that not only keeps you warm with natural fibers, but which was handcrafted for a Fair Trade price. (Fair Trade aims to build equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and create opportunities to alleviate global poverty for men and women.)
Harmson says her felted merino wool throws made by women in Kyrgyzstan and recycled Sari throws made by women in India, are very popular.
“They not only make you feel good by keeping you warm but also by you knowing that they were made sustainably and that the purchase of one helps these women move towards a better way of life,” she said.
Pick the coziest of comforters. Natural fibers such as silk, wool and cotton are able to retain natural body heat while still breathing and absorbing excess moisture.
Juliet Sinisterra, owner of Sun People Dry Goods, says that wool nicely wicks away moisture so it keeps you warm in cool months and cool in warmer months. People who think they’re allergic to wool may be allergic to something else.
“If people have an allergic reaction to wool, it’s most likely from the chemicals that many conventional manufacturers treat the wool with,” said Sinisterra.
These chemicals are mainly used by manufacturers for stain-resistance and in the dyeing process. Most natural fibers are innately stain resistant and can be spot-cleaned. Also, there is a multitude of textile nontoxic dyes that can be obtained with natural, plant- and mineral-based dyes.
“Our Holy Lamb comforters are a mix of 100 percent organic certified cotton and organically processed wool, and they’re made in Washington, so that’s great too. They also make wool mattress covers and pads.”
Silk comforters are also a great choice. Advantages, when compared to down comforters, include no bunching or clumping—making cold spots virtually impossible—and its natural ability to conform to your body.
However, not all silk products are the same. For a great silk comforter comparison guide, visit Blue Stone Home’s website (http://silkcomfort.com/604-where_to_buy_your_silk_comforter.html)
Throw it down! Rugs in natural fibers such as sisal, jute, bamboo, wool and seagrass, keep the cold away from one’s toes. Even in a room with wall-to-wall carpeting, extra rugs can add more insulation, and therefore more warmth, to your room.
While synthetic fibers will become scratched, scarred and dull over time, wool carpets and rugs remain vibrant to the eye and supple to the touch, aging gracefully and developing a rich patina as years pass.
“Wool is a healthy non-toxic alternative to standard synthetic carpets that off-gas toxic chemicals. It is also the most durable, softest, easiest to clean, fire-resistant and longest lasting…that’s why it’s typically used in airplanes and commuter trains because it wears so well,” said Jill Carter, sales associate at Carpet Barn in Spokane. “It also maintains a certain level of moisture, so if your home is dry, it will add moisture to the air, and if there is excess moisture in the air, it will absorb it.”
Exchange your old, inefficient wood stove for a new one and a nice rebate. Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology, has been helping Spokane residents give the boot to non-EPA certified or pre-1995 wood stoves since this January.
“If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your old wood stove, now is the time to do it,” said Lisa Woodard, public information officer for Spokane Clean Air.
Old wood stoves can be highly inefficient and therefore costly to operate. Their inability to achieve the high combustion temperatures necessary to burn the particulates and ignite the gases, which are half of your wood’s fuel capacity, result not only in these toxins being released into the air, but a drain to your heating budget.
In exchange for doing their part to clear the air, participants in the program receive a $500-$1,000 voucher toward the purchase of a new heating device (wood stove, pellet or gas device or electric “mini-split” ductless heat pump). Income-qualified residents can receive a voucher for the full purchase value of a new device.
“When complete, the program will have removed about 140 old stoves, preventing an estimated 12,582 pounds of fine particle pollution from being emitted into Spokane’s air each heating season,” said Woodard.
You must live within the Smoke Control Zone to be eligible for this program. For more information on the wood stove change out program, visit www.spokanecleanair.org or to complete the application portion and submit it with a photo of your existing device. If you are interested in the Income-qualified wood stove upgrade program, call Lisa Woodard at (509) 477-4727 x 115.