(Without destroying the planet in the process!)
Let’s be completely honest here; winter in Texas is mild. Besides a discernible dip in temperatures during the months of January and February, “winter” is a hunky-dory affair wherein even the slightest powdering of snow results in school closures, elated children (as well as many young-at-heart adults), and an unfortunate but small spike in vehicular fender benders. Unlike our northern brethren who must put up with sleet, snow, ice, salt corrosion, drive-way shoveling, and a host of other wintry concerns, most Texans look forward to winter as a brief respite from the scorching Texas summer sun.
The state ranked 48th in the number of heating degree days, meaning residents in only two other states spend LESS time with the heater on. Not bad. But when we consider that of the ten million homes in Texas, nearly half relied on mostly coal-derived electricity and another 43 percent relied on fossil fuels, the negative impact on the environment is undeniable. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, home heating accounts for approximately 40% of our entire energy consumption. And over 95% is done with non-renewable fossil fuels; such as oil, natural gas or electricity from coal plants.
Thankfully, with mostly mild winters in most of the state, even a few simple fixes can make the difference between chilly and just right. Below are 10 ways to really bring on the heat in the winter.
Insulate everywhere! This is by far the most important step. Just like the human body, houses need clothing, usually in the form of inter-wall insulation to maintain temperature stability and retain interior heat. Don’t forget to invest in double or even triple-paned windows as well as a nice, air-tight layer of spray foam insulation for the attic. Local builders, >such as Native, can assist with properly insulating your dwelling. Adding a few hundred dollars worth of insulation can reduce your annual heating (and cooling) bills by as much as 30 percent.
2. Reverse Fans
As counterintuitive as switching on the ceiling fans in winter may seem, the method is founded in solid science. By reversing the fan, warmer air is circulated away from the roof where it tends to dissipate and trapped in the space.
3. Reuse Oven Heat
Nothing is better than an oven-fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies in the dead of winter, especially when the oven itself can help warm up the kitchen an additional one or two degrees with the oven door left open.
Much of our sense of what’s cold and what’s warm is determined by touch, by the interface of materials and air on our skin. With that in mind, by employing rugs on wood and stone floors, occupants “feel” warmer since less heat is lost through conduction through the feet, even though the air temperature is exactly the same or cooler.
5. Passive Solar Heating
Even during the winter the sun is still a viable source of heat energy. Clever architects and eco-builders design their buildings to maximize winter sun exposure on the building’s exposed faces to maximize heat gain. Placing your windows at the optimal height on the wall with respect to your overhangs, can yield free heat in the winter while remaining shaded in the summer. The best part is, it’s absolutely free.
6. Solar Water Heater
Despite being relatively novel in Texas, solar water heaters are a very common, low-cost, and low-maintenance way to provide water and even radiant space heating for a fraction of the cost of natural gas or electricity. Solar water heaters harvest the energy of the sun to warm up water which is then circulated throughout the house to provide warmth. If there is anything Texas does not lack of, it is sunlight.
7. Space Heater for Small Rooms
Generally speaking, if only one or two rooms are being occupied, why bother wastefully trying to heat the whole house through a central heating system? Depending on the number and size of rooms that need heating, sometimes the easiest, most cost-effective method is to simply invest in individual space heaters.
8. Wear More
One often neglected, but very viable option, is to simple wear a little more clothing. Rather than try to heat a large volume of air, focus on warming what’s important – in this case, your body. Go ahead and pile on the layers.
9. Geothermal Heat Pumps
Why not let the power of the earth itself warm your home? There is more than enough heat beneath our feet to warm your entire home for a fraction of the operating cost of any other available heating source.
10. Other People
People are meant to be social, and there are many benefits, the least of which is providing each other warmth. Body heat is a major contributor to a building’s heat load, which is a plus in the winter. The tighter your home’s thermal envelope, the more benefit you gain by inviting friends and family over to help provide free (except for food and drinks) home heating.
Build and operate your home according to your climate. Build Native.
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