Keeping warm in winter is expensive on the one hand and if conventional methods are used it is detrimental to the health of the planet on the other. Adding up bills will give an exact figure for the former, but looking for numbers to understand the latter is harder and may never be exact because science has not understood it fully. But we do know from available information that the methods most of us use to keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer, is cumulatively unbalancing the ratios that the environment requires to maintain the stability that we expect from the environment.
We are aware of the environmental issues are being hotly discussed in many forums, but feel helpless because winter is on, and there is very little scope for major correctional modifications in winter. It may be good to take a look at the home as it is and work out how one can reduce the impact that the environment has to bear to keep one family warm in winter. A good way forward is to find out all the small things that can be easily done, many by the family members themselves.
Examine the ducts and other components like vents and grills that channel the heated or cooled air. A typical ducting system can waste 30 – 40 % of energy. It consists of a series of bent tubes that are joined together. Leaks can be instantaneously plugged using duct tape, aluminum tape or pastes like mastic. Leakages in the ducting system can exert additional load onto the back end equipment. A good beginning, at least, for the short term.
Air has the tendency to move through cracks, gaps and crevices. No sophisticated equipment is required to locate cracks, gaps and crevices. The inhabitants would already be aware of them by just having felt or noticed them. Since they would not be concealed as in ducts, more care needs to be taken to ensure that the impact on décor would be minimal. Weather-stripping material can come in handy to minimize leakages through gaps in door and window fixtures. V-strips can be cut to exact length and pasted along the sides of double hung or sliding windows and also on doors. Felt strips and foam tapes can be stapled or pushed into gaps and effectively plug gaps without having any glaring impact on the décor. Cracks and crevices can be sealed from the outside to shut out cold air from seeping in and neutralizing the warmth of the indoor air.
The property of a column of air that enables it to transfer its temperature onto another column of air that is completely blocked off from it has been beneficial to man in innumerable ways, but for homes, in winter, the need to minimize this potential is of paramount importance. Prevention of heat transfer is what thermal insulation is all about. Hot air on the inside should not transfer its heat to the cold air outside and vice versa. To achieve this end for the short term, we also need to look at the panels, screens, blinds, shades and draperies that are already in place.
To reduce the energy consumed to keep us comfortable in winter we need to make maximum use of abundantly available solar radiation to generate warmth. It is essential to have an arrangement that allows easy access to sunlight whenever possible and also easy reversibility to maintain internal temperatures when there is no sunshine. The introduction of an energy efficient drapery panel and roman shades can be advantageous for large windows. Drapery and roman shades fabricated with material that can efficiently absorb the solar radiation entering through windows and dissipate it into the interior, is available at most window dressing firms. Drapery panels and roman blinds are available in a variety of choices. They offer immense opportunities to dress up the windows and have long term value; additionally, drapery panels and roman shades can be introduced painlessly. There is scope to customize panels allowing for easy installation. Drapery panel and roman shades these both, in addition to blending with and enhancing interior decor also has the advantage of easy maneuverability – its drawing can be micro adjusted to suit varying requirements all year round.
If the introduction of new fittings cannot be considered for some reason, other options present themselves. Windows with poor heat recovery can even be temporarily draped with any thick sheet or blanket and prevent cold air from seeping in. Remember, we are attempting to reduce the adverse impact on the environment that our effort to keep our home warm and comfortable in winter. Everybody can easily do their wee bit with a little effort. By plugging the loopholes in thermal systems of our homes with the aim of reducing the utilization of non-renewable resources like oil, gas and coal and the inevitable emission of greenhouse gases we will be, proverbially, starting at home – the best place to start. If we don’t make this effort now, the cost of keeping ourselves warm in winter may become very expensive in the foreseeable future, and we all know that this is a fact.