Friday lunch recap 9/27/13: Getting ready for winter

The last two Friday lunch presentations had to do with the approach of winter. September 27th’s, by retired engineer and Green Garage welcome desk volunteer Tom Besemer, was about some basic steps that every homeowner can take to get ready for the colder weather. October 4th’s was by Joe Gallagher, who manages the Green Garage’s energy systems, and offered a look at the solar thermal panels that are an integral component of the GG’s heating system. We’ll briefly recap both presentations, starting today with domestic winter prep and continuing next week with the solar panel talk.

Preparing the Home for Winter

Tom Besemer broke down the steps we can all take to prepare our homes for winter into three categories: the furance, living area, and insluation. Here are some of his thoughts on each:

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Furnace

  • Turn it on — now! Don’t wait until it’s cold enough to need it and then¬†find out there’s a problem. Turn it on, let it work for a few minutes, and see if it’s in good working order. The earlier you notice there’s trouble, the less time you’ll have to wait for the repair folks, who get inundated after the first really chilly night.
  • Now’s the perfect time to replace your furnace filter, which should usually be done once a season (depending on the filter)¬†— a dirty filter can cause furnace performance problems.
  • Make sure you know where both your supply registers and return air registers are in your house. Double-check to make sure all are clear of obstructions, such as furniture, rugs, etc.
  • Thermostat setbacks: now’s a great time to start thinking about the thermostat setpoints you use to reduce hot air output when you’re away from the house or asleep at night.

Living Area

  • Take a few minutes to consciously observe points of air infiltration (drafts). Where does it frequently get chilly? Try to determine where the cool air is coming from. If from windows, make sure they’re closed all the way and locked. If still drafty, think about recaulking them or adding plastic covers.
  • For doors, does your weather stripping need replacing? If you’re thinking about making an investment in an energy saving tool, one of the best would be a storm door, if you don’t have one. This creates a “threshold seal” that helps reduce the amount of cold air entering the building.

Insulation

  • Insulate, insulate, insulate! How’s the insulation in your attic? Your basement? Between the joists in the basement? Between your basement blocks and wood? How about empty rooms that don’t get used much? Can those be better insulated? Again, now’s a great time to be asking these questions.

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We’re all intimately connected to seasonal change in this part of the world. As Tom made clear, learning to live more sustainably includes learning to observe, understand, and adequately prepare for the distinct energy demands of each season. At the Green Garage, we designed our building to respond directly to seasonal flux by installing a solar thermal heating system; check back here next week for a closer look at how it’s working!

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