Ways to Winterize Your Home, Clean the Air and Cut Emissions

Ways to winterize your home

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By Jared Mendenhall

For the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), sources of emissions are broken down into three categories: mobile sources, point sources and area sources.

Most of us are familiar with mobile sources. These are the emissions that come from motor vehicles. On any average winter day, about 48 percent of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) originates from mobile sources.

Another familiar source of emissions is the smoke stacks at industrial locations. These sources are called point sources and they make up about 13 percent of winter PM2.5.

In addition to mobile and point sources, there is an often forgotten and significant contributor to air pollution called area sources. Area sources include small pollution emitters like dry cleaners, gas stations, and auto body paint shops. It also includes residential sources. Fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and snow blowers all produce emissions that add to the wintertime smog. In fact, these forgotten sources contribute about 39 percent of the inversion gunk.

Properly winterizing your home is one of the easiest ways to cut down on area source emissions. It will also save you money on maintenance and energy costs. Here are a few steps to take before the weather gets any worse.

DON’T BURN

There is nothing as inviting as a warm fire on a cold night. But the smoke that comes from a traditional fireplace can contribute up to 15 percent of the pollution during an inversion episode. The easiest solution, don’t burn. If you just can’t get away from the fire, be sure to check air.utah.gov to ensure you aren’t burning on a no burn day. Also, consider switching out that traditional wood-burning stove with a natural gas one.

KEEP OUT THE DRAFT

Be sure all the important spots (attics, basement, exterior walls, crawlspace, etc.) in your house are well insulated. You will see big reductions in the energy it takes to heat your home from this important step. If you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to traditional insulation, try looking into recycled denim or wool insulation.

Leaky windows and doors can let the cold air in and the warm air out. Drafty windows can account for up to 30 percent of your home’s heat loss. Solutions can be relatively easy and affordable. Take immediate actions by weatherstripping and caulking trouble spots. There are also old-fashioned remedies like heavy drapes and curtains that improve your home’s energy efficiency. Remember, keep curtains open on the south-facing windows during the day. This will allow sunlight to heat your home naturally.

FURNACE SERVICED

Your home heating system is key to staying warm indoors during the coming months. A faulty or inefficient system uses extra energy and will bewilder homeowners when they just can’t seem to keep the house warm. Make sure your furnace is ready by switching out your filters on a regular basis. A clean filter ensures better airflow and greater efficiency. Same goes for the vents—keep them clean.

If you haven’t already, get a smart thermostat. A high-tech thermostat will raise and lower the temperature without any thought. This will keep the furnace from running when everyone is away. If you don’t have the money for one of these gadgets, remember to do it manually. And, of course, put on a sweater and run the furnace a few degrees cooler. After all, it’s winter .

REDUCE WATER HEATING COSTS

Give your water heater a break. Flush out the heater each year. This will help remove build up and sediment. Your hot water heater will run more effectively, heat more water and keep that comforting shower ready each morning. You can prevent pipes from freezing and ensure faster delivery of hot water by wrapping your pipes. Also, lower your water heater temperature from 140 to 120 degrees. It is barely noticeable in the tub, but could save you a ton on your utility bill. When it’s time for a new water heater, choose a low-NOx unit to further reduce emissions.

ENHANCE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY!

With your home sealed up tight for winter, your indoor air quality can suffer. Take measures to protect indoor air by keeping floors and carpets clean and free of dust. Stay away from aerosols and chemical cleaning agents. And, get a houseplant or two. Pot Mums, Peace Lilys and English Ivy aid in the removal of pollutants.

I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.