To get a jump start on harvesting spring vegetables, consider making/buying a cold frame. These are mini greenhouses, usually low to the ground, with glass or plastic panels that can heat up soil so plants can be grown outside much earlier (or later in the fall) than would otherwise be possible. Lots of information is available on the web concerning how to construct a cold frame (search “cold frames”).
The Library also has print resources with instructions on building a cold frame: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour has lots of useful information about cold weather gardening and also includes plans for building a simple cold frame.
•Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. Antifreeze that leak from car engines and chemical snow melters on driveways, roads, and runways can pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil.
•Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and will keep you safe on the road.
•If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.
•Use electric snow removal products rather than gasoline-powered ones. While electric products consume energy, they do not emit greenhouse gases. As alternatives, use snow shovels, ice crackers, and brooms to clear snow from your sidewalk, porch, or driveway.
•If you have a manual thermostat or no thermostat at all, one way to save energy and money this winter is to install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat. When installed and used with the four pre-programmed temperature settings for weekend and weekdays, you can save about $100 each year while staying comfortable. Before leaving for vacation, turn down your thermostat (or use a programmable one) so that you don’t waste natural resources by generating unneeded heat. You can also buy outdoor and indoor lights with timers so that lights don’t stay on all night.
•Close the recycling loop. Many articles of clothing, such as jackets, scarves, gloves, and boots, are now made from recycled materials. Most fleece products are made from recycled plastic soda bottles, and certain clothing and shoe manufacturers use recycled cotton scraps and rubber tires to make their products.
•Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
•Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broom stick until your log is the desired size, then soak your log thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.
•To make sure your heating system (boiler, furnace or heat pump) is operating at its most efficient, it is a good idea to have a contractor perform a routine check-up and any necessary maintenance on the equipment before freezing weather drives up your energy bill.
•If your heating equipment more than ten years old, it may be time for a replacement to a more energy-efficient unit. While initially an expensive investment, replacing old equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment saves more energy and money in the long run.
See more energy saving tips from the EPA.
As the seasons begin to change your family migrates indoors for the winter, a lot of energy can be wasted to keep your family and your home comfortable. Between 40 and 70% of all home energy is wasted, but we could save about half of that by buying efficient appliances and taking energy-saving measures.
Cover your air conditioner: If you can’t remove your window unit, consider covering it both inside and out. Besides protecting your air-conditioning unit, these covers also help keep cold air from entering your home through the space around the air-conditioner and can be a great way to lower utility bills.
Caulk it: Small spaces and gaps around windows and pipes and wires entering the home create create energy wasting drafts that can cut the efficiency of your heating system. Most caulking products cost under $10; rope caulk, one of the easiest types to apply, sells for about
$4 for 40 or 50 feet.
Block drafts: Draft blockers are foam plates that fit behind light switches and electrical outlets to reduce drafts that enter through those spaces. You can get a packet of 10 for about $3 and they’re easy to install with just a screwdriver.
Upgrade your thermostat: Changing your thermostat to a programmable one allows you to control the temperature in your home at different times of the day without you being home. Keep the heat off when you’re out of the house and set it to turn back up before you get home. Some also have a second set of settings for weekends, when people usually spend more time at home. The thermostats range from $90 to $175, but can save 12% or more on your energy bill and pay for itself within three years.
The Mount Prospect Library is now offering thermal detection devices for checkout. These “Minitemp Noncontact Thermometers” are designed for detecting heat leaks around doors and windows. Now that the colder weather has arrived, these devices are useful for determining where to add weather-stripping or if a new window is necessary to conserve heat.
The thermal detection devices are available at the Reference Desk on the second floor. They can be borrowed for one week.
These devices are made possible through the Mount Prospect Sustainability Education Program, presented in partnership with the Village of Mount Prospect and the Mount Prospect Public Library and funded through the U.S Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG).
Steer clear of rock salt (sodium chloride) and urea-based de-icers. Not only can they pollute habitats with plant-killing runoff, but they can also corrode concrete, destroy your lawn (even a snow-covered one), and contaminate water supplies. Better bets? Sand, which provides traction without damaging salt-sensitive landscapes, and calcium chloride, which may still hurt vegetation, but is free of the cyanide present in rock salt. For more green winter tips see: http://www.wholeliving.com/article/eco-friendly-winter-health-tips
The Village of Mount Prospect is offering matching grants up to $1500 for home weatherization projects to the residents of Mount Prospect. Projects that can be funded by the grants include: roofing; weather stripping; energy efficient windows; floor, attic and wall insulation; and energy efficient furnaces and water heaters. Applicants must have owned and occupied home one year prior and gross household income must not exceed HUD’s low-income limits according to household size. For more information including income limits please visit: http://www.mountprospect.org/index.aspx?page=160
•Add programmable thermostats so the furnace doesn’t work as hard while you’re away but kicks back in before you get home. In most homes, you can reduce your heating bill about two percent for each degree that you lower the thermostat for at least eight hours each day.
•Insulate your boiler with a jacket.
•Clean or replace air filters regularly.
•Clean registers and make sure they’re not blocked by furniture.
•Bleed radiators properly.
•Tune up your burner every one to three years, depending on what kind of system you have. That will keep your system running well, cut heating costs, and reduce the pollutants that seep into your home.
•Seal furnace ducts to keep them from leaking hot air or circulating dust.
•Line your chimney. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct). Reline your chimney whenever you replace an old furnace or boiler with a more efficient one, as the new unit may create more corrosive exhaust.
•Keep it up. High-efficiency units produce an acidic exhaust gas that should be vented only through a properly lined chimney (or through a separate duct).
Remember, any improvements you do around the house—from installing efficient windows to adding insulation—can help your furnace to work more efficiently. Even a tree maturing outside a window can have a positive effect. Assess the situation from time to time, and you may realize that you could use an even smaller furnace.
The Village of Mount Prospect’s Energy Efficiency Home Weatherization Rebate Program offers residents the opportunity to perform energy efficient upgrades to their homes. The Village will provide matching grants of up to 50% for energy efficient projects such as home insulation, Energy STAR window, door, water heater, furnace and air conditioner upgrades. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis until funds run out. To see if you qualify and for more information on the program, go to www.mountprospect.org or call 847/818-5328.