By Holly Glen Gearhart, Contributing Writer
Weather is inherently changeable – today, weather seems to change more rapidly than in past decades and seasons come and go over a shorter period of time.
The fact is, summers are hotter and our winters vacillate between too much snow and too little. Manmade or not, apparently climate change is here. So, unless we make a few changes in our homes we will live less comfortably than we have in the past.
The pioneers who moved west during the great Westward Expansion (1830 to 1870) faced unknown climates and adapted their living structures to endure the weather that came their way. Taking example from these hearty souls, we too must adapt for our new climate.
Take a few steps to make your house or apartment more comfortable.
You can improve your level of comfort and lower your energy bills, or indeed, have no energy bills at all, depending on what you choose.
Help keep your house cooler in the summer by planting fast-growing trees on a sun-baked side of your home. If prevailing winter winds come from a different direction, also plant a row of trees to block that wind in the winter months, reducing your need for costly heating.
Planting flowers and vegetables in window boxes or on your balcony can actually catch the heat of the sun and reduce radiant heat that filters in to your home, and as a bonus, you get beautiful flowers and yummy veggies for your table.
Consider using an adobe mix or stucco on the exterior of your home. There’s a reason it’s popular in desert climates; it is inexpensive, durable, easily-painted, easy to repair, and most of all, a fabulous insulator.
Roof with light-color roofing material, and when possible, plant a roof-top garden for a more energy-efficient method to cool your roof.
Installing a water drip system over your roof collects overnight dew and cools the roof, reducing your home’s overall temperature. Install a few barrels to catch the rain and snow off your roof, and use this water in your garden.
Consider installing solar panels on your roof, too; this will increase the overall comfort of your home and pay for itself over time. There are assistance programs through the Snohomish County PUD to help offset the cost of solar panels, and you can even sell your excess power sometimes.
If you have the opportunity to build a home rather than buy one pre-made, take seasonal sun patterns into account when positioning walls and windows to help regulate year-round temperatures inexpensively.
Rooms which face west need more shade than those which face east as morning sun is cooler than afternoon heat. Also, east-facing windows help maximize on precious daylight hours, helping get the greenhouse effect on your side when warming your home.
One of the most wasteful features of older homes are single-pane windows. Install windows with two or three panes of glass to keep cold winter winds at bay, and in the summer block heat at a rate of 25 percent or better.
If you don’t own your property, buying energy-saving curtains or drapes will hold in warmth during winters and keep out too much sun in the summer; again energy savings in the range of 25 percent. Energy saving window coverings sell for as little as $40.00, bought online or at local department stores.
Inside, install ceiling fans to circulate warm and cool air; just remember to clean the blade of the fan often, as dust that collects on the blades reduces air-flow. Unplug the fan before cleaning and use a small towel and some soap and water to clean. Don’t forget to dry the blades before you turn the fan back on.
Ask your apartment manager or landlord what changes are okay to make your environment more energy efficient and comfortable.
If you are a property owner, the government will help pay for some energy-saving improvements. See