As explained in last week’s Update, your OUUC Environmental Action Team has dropped the Environmental Challenge contest. However! We are still going to have monthly challenges for you to consider to reduce your impact on the climate. This month we challenge you to look at home heating!

The generation of electricity is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, primarily from natural gas and coal-fired plants. In Thurston County, Puget Sound Energy gets 60% of its electrical production from these sources. Heating homes is a significant source of greenhouse gases: indirectly with electricity, or directly with natural gas. How can we stay warm and comfortable in the winter without wasting energy, money, and also reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases?

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends 68 degrees as the ideal temperature to save energy and still be comfortable and suggests that you should consider “setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.” In addition, the DOE says that no matter what temperature you decide on, you can save about 10% a year (up to hundreds of dollars) on your energy bills by dialing the thermostat back 7-10 degrees from its normal setting for eight hours every day (at night or while you’re at work).

Every degree you lower your thermostat saves money on your electric or gas bill. Remember that clothes matter: a thick sweater is the equivalent of 4 degrees of added warmth! If you have thick, cozy blankets, you can lower the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees while you sleep. As an added benefit, cooler nighttime temperatures will help you in more ways than just lowering your utility bill: “cold sleeping” boosts your metabolism and helps you fall asleep faster.

So, check that thermostat! Turn it down at night or when you’re away from home. If you have programmed it, make sure it still matches your daily or weekly cooler weather routine!

The Earth will thank you for it!