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Six Greener Ways to Stay Warm this Winter


With cool weather on the way you may be wondering just how you'll manage to maintain your eco-friendly habits and stay warm at the same time. While your home, like most in America, will likely rely on fossil fuels for heat for years to come, it's still possible to have a "greener" winter.

When it comes to home heating costs, "green" practices can also save you another kind of green - cash. The average American household spends $2,000 on energy costs each year, and half of that total goes to heat and cool the home, according to EnergyStar.

"Making environmentally friendly changes to your heating habits can significantly reduce household energy costs," says David Kogan, a home-heating expert with Indus-tool.

Here are six simple ways to stay green and warm this winter:

1. Winterize your home. Make sure weather stripping around doors and windows is adequate and in good shape. Check the insulation in your attic. If you can see the wooden beams, you likely need more insulation. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that about 80 million American homes are inadequately insulated. Proper insulation can save you up to 20 percent on energy bills, according to the DOE.

2. Use safe, green electric space heaters. Oil or kerosene heaters present tipping and burning hazards, plus they emit greenhouse gases. Modern electric space heaters are more energy efficient. Thermostatically controlled, both products put the heat right where it's most needed - on your feet and legs - rather than inefficiently trying to heat an entire area. "They use less energy than an incandescent light bulb and are safe for use around pets, children or elders," Kogan says. Visit www.indus-tool.com to learn more.

3. Dress for the season.
"Every winter, I'm amazed by the number of people I see dressed inappropriately for the season. You don't have to sacrifice comfort to look good," says Diane Artzberger, a fashion expert who blogs about beauty, fashion and cosmetics at www.thebeautyalchemist.blogspot.com. "You can look fashionable and stay warm by layering and choosing fabrics like cashmere, flannel or polar fleece and warm styles like hoodies, turtlenecks and cardigans."

4. Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically reduce heat settings when you don't need as much warmth - like when you're not home or when you go to bed. Homeowners can reduce energy bills by as much as $180 a year with a programmable thermostat, according to the government's EnergyStar program.

5. When you're home, set back the heat and get cozy. Use afghans and throws to stay warm. Create a warm atmosphere with candles and the fireplace - just be sure to follow basic safety rules. Don't leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended and keep flammable items away from the flames.

6. Rely on nature to help heat your home. Not everyone can afford to install solar heating panels on their homes, but you can open the drapes and blinds on a sunny day. The sun's rays will help warm the house. Use landscaping wisely as well. Cut back shrubs or trees that block the sun from coming in windows. Plant trees on the north side of the house to naturally insulate it from winter's northern winds.

On average, homeowners will pay 20 percent more to heat their homes this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration. A few environmentally smart changes can make a big difference in how much more winter's bite will hurt your wallet - and your conscience - this season.

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