• Keeping Warm While Staying Green

    Posted by   |  January 3, 2017
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    With the holiday season behind us, many across the state of the New York are now bracing themselves for a long, cold winter.  With that comes the prospect of massive heating costs, along with the strain they put on the environment. For those of us who have the luxury, it’s tempting to use a fireplace that burns wood or fossil fuels.

    Certain types of fireplaces, however, emit large amounts of soot and carbon pollution. Wood smoke, for example, contains hundreds of chemical compounds including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, organic gases, and particulate matter, many of which have adverse health effects. Older models, in particular, can seriously harm indoor air quality. Don’t worry though, there are still ways to stay warm without harming the environment.2778652449_39fb5c4365_z

    Cleaner and Renewable Fuels for Stoves

    Instead of burning wood or fossil fuels, you can equip your house with a pellet stove. Pellet stoves use biomass fuel, a sustainable resource made from naturally and commonly occurring items such as forest waste and agricultural by-products. Using biomass fuel, pellet stoves can create a fire and warm your house without all the detrimental effects to the environment. Each pellet stove in use can displace between four and seven tons of carbon emissions annually, and cut down heating costs up to 64 percent. As a sustainable resource, biomass fuels do not deplete in overall supply, and absorb almost as much carbon over the course of their growth as they do when burned.

    Similarly there are also stoves that run on biofuels instead of natural gas. Since biofuel burns much cleaner, these fireplaces can have sleek, modern designs, as an added benefit of reduced particulate matter.

    Sourcing Your Wood

    If you are going to use a wood-burning fireplace, make sure it’s not a traditional open-air model and is tightly sealed. Older models are highly inefficient and extremely harmful to air quality. The EPA has a list of new wood burning stoves that meet its standards for efficiency.

    Make sure you check to see that your wood supplier is dedicated to replanting the wood they harvest and that they’re committed to sustainability. Generally speaking, small, and local suppliers will process their wood in ways that have the least impact on the environment. If you’re cutting your own wood, try to only use branches from the tree rather than cutting down the tree itself, or use wood from a tree that is already dead.

    Cleaning and Maintenance

    When getting ready to use your fireplace for the winter, it is imperative to perform routine inspection and maintenance.  For starters, ensure your chimney has been cleaned, a buildup of soot and ash will make your fireplace burn inefficiently, leading to in-home respiratory issues, and pose a threat to the safety of your home by heightening the chance of a chimney fire. Check the seal on your flue damper, and if necessary, have it maintenanced to ensure the seal is properly working.

    On average, a household chimney can send up to 24,000 cubic feet of heated air up the chimney per hour.  In order to reduce this, open dampers at the bottom of the fireplace, install tempered glass doors with a heat-air exchange system that will help to circulate air efficiently, and use grates to draw cool air in fireplace and push warm air out into the room.  In addition, be sure to keep the damper closed when not using the fireplace.

    Programmable and Smart Thermostats

    Of course there’s no way to replace the charms of sitting in front of a fireplace, but the most sustainable alternative is to relegate the yule log to your television and get a programmable thermostat. If used correctly, however, it can save you money over the course of each successive winter. A programmable thermostat enables you to set the internal temperature to change at certain times of the day. By turning your heat down 15 degrees at night, or when you’re out of the house, you can keep from using energy when you don’t need it. A programmable thermostat can cut your heating bill up to 20 percent. The new generation of smart thermostats, which can be controlled from your phone and can learn when you’re out of the house, are making home heating easier than ever before.

    An Efficient Home

    The other top way to protect the environment – and your wallet – is to make sure that your entire home maintains a standard of energy efficiency. Some major overhauls, such as an energy audit or replacing insulation, may require significant work. But there are some easy fixes to keep warm air from escaping via drafty doors and windows and you can brush up from our post this past September.

    With all these in mind, you can get ready for the holiday season confident in your environmental footprint, and comfortable in your home.

    By Brendan Szendro and Mike Shelter

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