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Don’t let winter break you

By N.R. Mallery and Thaddeus Rumple

Now is the time to prepare for winter. There is still time to prepare for this winter. If you wait until spring, it is time to prepare for next winter.

The easiest place to start is with efficiency. Air intrusions are among the biggest villains around, when it comes to making people cold. A search for them can lead to the discovery of missing, broken, or ill-fitting storm windows. Inside storm windows, or window inserts, can be great DIY projects that make a real difference, and if you have good insulation, the difference can be huge.

What about your insulation? Even if you cannot get needed insulation right now, if you need it, it is a good time to plan for it. You can start working on this right now, by checking our weatherization and other efficiency programs on page 14.

You might think about a new heating system. Masonry heaters are wonderful, especially if you are inclined to be romantic about fireplaces. Heat pumps can also be wonderful, as they cut both costs and pollution.

There are more than a few smart people in this world who have discovered that Jimmy Carter was right, when he told us we could save money and stay comfortable by turning down the thermostat and wearing a sweater. Flannel sheets and an extra blanket are also mandatory if you still live in a cold house. But, buttoning up your building is a long term solution that will result in immediate savings, comfort and warmth.

Winter is a great time to plan a home, business or community solar project. And now is the time to start on it, because the sooner you get your solar system in, the sooner you start saving money. You can plan a system to be financed so that it pays for itself, including the financing, bringing your electric bill down instantly. And some of the power companies, like Green Mountain Power, will actually help.

If you have time, you might even plan to have that solar system generate all the power for a net-zero ready home. Today, even old houses can be made sufficiently highly efficient to rely on solar as the only source of energy for most of the time.

Winter is also the time to think about planting a garden. Seed catalogs will help with planning — remember to plan to plant vegetables for next winter’s storage vegetables, such as winter squash, pumpkins, turnips, beets, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Think permaculture and about planting fruit and nut trees in the spring, for future winter’s storage. And certainly, it is time to consider such vegetables as leeks and Brussels sprouts, that you may actually be harvesting now and until the snow gets too deep.

Perhaps you might plan for a home or community greenhouse to keep fresh local veggies available year-round…  For now, growing herbs and lettuce on a windowsill is rewarding, as are nutritious sprouts from seeds — to give you fresh vegetables even in winter.

Lastly, think about driving less. Think about x-c skiing more…. Winter is on the horizon!

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