Thursday, October 21, 2010

Green and Frugal: A Cool Pioneer Tip for Naturally Insulating Your Home

Another great post from our friends at The Greenest Dollar...

According to Consumer Reports, heating costs are expected to go up this winter. Again.

Big surprise, right?

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that the average American household will spend $986 this winter to heat their home. And, that’s the average. If you’re heating with fuel oil, you can expect to pay 11% more than you did last year (coming in at a winter cost of over $1,900) and if you heat with propane, you’re going to pay 7.5% more (at $1,830).

Electric users (like myself) actually going to get a bit of a breather. Our costs are down 1.9%.

These figures, however, are only an estimate. I don’t know who Consumer Reports sourced for their winter forecast, but they’re claiming that heating-degree days will be 3% warmer than last year. Because of that, these figures aren’t worse.

If you check the Farmer’s Almanac, however, you’ll see that they’re predicting a bitterly cold winter for much of the country. NOAA, on the other hand, disputes this.

So like always, it could go either way. Personally I’m rooting for the Consumer Reports forecast!

Whether we have a balmy winter or a mild one, it’s still going to be cold. And there are things we can be doing right now to make sure we spend less on our heating bill.

Saving Money on Heating Costs: Pioneer Way

Stop and think about this for a minute.

Do you ever wonder how people heated their homes before central heating was invented?

Sure, people had radiators and wood stoves. But they didn’t have insulation to keep all that heat from escaping. Or did they?

A few months ago I finished read “Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression“. And I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable books I can remember reading in a long time. It was fascinating to read a memoir that detailed how people really lived so long ago. I’m talking, what they ate, what they grew, what they read, what they did for fun…it was amazing!

One of the details that struck me was how people insulated their homes back then. On the farm, right before winter set in, people would drive 6 foot posts into the ground, three feet away from the sides of the house. They would then pile straw between the house and the posts. Then, come the first big snow, they would pack snow over the straw, making almost a wall of ice.

And that’s how it stayed until the first Spring melt.

The author said this “makeshift insulation” did a wonderful job keeping the cold out and the heat in. So I started to wonder, could we do this now?

Well, we could if we lived in a smaller home. And if we didn’t have straw, we could use leaves. I even found a tutorial on on how to insulate your house with leaves. The cool thing about using leaves (once they’re bagged) is that you don’t have to pile them on the outside of your house. You can insulate your attic and basement with leaves!

I love this idea because if you can’t afford to go out and get insulation, or if you’re renting and don’t want to pay for improvements you might not benefit from long-term, using bagged leaves as insulation is the perfect solution. Now, I can’t attest to how effective this is. BUT, leaves are like down; they have plenty of open air space between them, which slows the transition of hot and cold air.

To me, this basic principal means that leaves would work just fine to insulate your home, especially in the attic.

Last Word…

What do you guys think about this? Would you use leaves to insulate your home if you had to (or if you wanted to)? Do you think it would work? And if you’re on a farm, would you ever consider using the straw-packing tip to insulate the outside of your home?

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