Eco-Conscious, Frugal Tips

It’s Spring! Time to Think About A Greener Winter


I’m just back from my spring vacation and feeling refreshed and ready to tackle all the things I’ve been putting off. At the top of my list is Winter. That might sound a little odd considering that the leaves are unfurling on the maple where a pair of cardinals hunt for buds and bugs outside my window, but stay with me here and I promise it’ll make perfect sense.

As I’ve said before, we live in a drafty, old house whose saving grace is that it’s in the middle of sixty private acres of woods and fields. Also on the property is a small building with two studio apartments in it, where my late mother lived until October of 2005. Now, we use it for storage and for a guesthouse, mostly in the summer. Although we installed a pellet stove three years ago, and although we keep the heat down to 68 in the daytime and 55 at night, and even lower at the apartment house, our oil bill is enormous and getting bigger with each winter.

Every winter, we resolve to do something about it and every spring, when warm weather comes, we promptly get sidetracked by gardening and outdoor pursuits. Then, before we know it, it’s fall and we’re scurrying around, trying to weatherstrip and figure out how to cut down on heating costs. This year, it’s going to be different. This year, we’re going to prepare for winter during spring and summer.

While we were on vacation, the kids and I brainstormed and came up with several ideas to save money and help the environment next winter. First on our list of things to do is weatherstripping. Our doors and windows are old and we can’t afford new ones, so we need to do more than stuff the cracks with plastic bags, like we did with the door in the basement. The frame is so warped that no amount of weatherstripping completely fills the cracks, so in desperation one cold winter’s day, I shoved supermarket bags into the cracks around it with a piece of old wire. It worked, somewhat, but it wasn’t pretty.

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Next week, a local carpenter is coming over to give us an estimate on weatherstripping all the doors and windows – the right way. In our windy, top of the hill location, we need more protection from the winter blasts than just shopping bags can give us, that’s for sure. If the frames need to be squared, he’ll be able to do it so that the weatherproofing will work.

In order to pay for the carpenter, we’ll be saving money by hanging the clothes outside to dry. In the warmer weather, this is easy, but we’re going to continue to do without the clothes dryer even when it’s cold. Of course, in Maine, hanging out clothes in the winter can mean frostbite and frozen clothes, so we’ve come up with another idea.

We already use clothes racks in the basement near the furnace for delicate items all year ’round. Why not add some more racks and a retractable line or two and use them to dry all the clothes when it’s too cold to hang them outside? That way, the humidity from the clothes will also add moisture to the dry winter air that bothers us all winter. The exercise from hanging them and retrieving them won’t hurt my winter weight gain either, let me tell you.

With the dryer shut off and saving us about $60/month, we’ll be able to turn our attention to another big utility hog – the room over the garage. It’s zoned with our bedroom, bathroom, living room and study and it’s not very well insulated. Of course, the unheated garage beneath it doesn’t help and then there’s the fact that it faces northeast, where most of our windiest, coldest weather comes from. So, we’re going to get rid of it.

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No, not by hiring a demolition expert. We’re going to have a heating technician cap off the pipe to the baseboard heater that goes to it. That way, we can just close the door to the room’s stairs and keep the heat in the rest of that zone. We don’t use the room in the winter anyway, only in the warmer months, so the cold won’t hurt it.

We’re going to do the same thing on a more drastic scale to the apartment house. We’re having an expert “weatherize” it by draining the pipes, filling them with food-grade antifreeze and doing whatever else needs to be done to get it through the winter without heat. Because its oil tank is outside, we have to use a higher grade of fuel for its furnace, so this should save us a bundle.

I’m sure there are other things that we’ll discover while we’re waging our campaign to make next winter less costly than this winter was. I’m thinking we could paint the outside of the basement wall black instead of white and get some passive solar heating going and Son is thinking of making a solar window heater he’s seen plans for.

What about your house? Did it cost you a bundle this winter because it isn’t weatherized? Are there things you could do, like drying clothes on a line instead of in a clothes dryer, that would help the environment as well as your budget? Or do you know someone who could use your help with projects like these? Maybe an elderly relative or neighbor or a single mom or dad who’s struggling to make ends meet. Whether you do it for yourself or someone else, it’s never too early to prepare for winter.

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Authors bio: Brooke from, Spokane has the potential to offer a special quality of life offered no where else on earth. Our story is one of unwavering enthusiasm, and belief in the transformative power of Spokane’s continued redemption and rebirth.

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