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Winterizing tips you can warm up to

Winterizing your home doesn’t necessarily involve big-ticket items such as adding insulation or pricey dual-pane windows. A lot of small improvements can add up to big savings in your winter energy consumption, report “The Daily Green” experts at www.GoodHousekeeping.com. They include tips here:

1. Mind the thermostat
It’s easy to forget to turn down the heat when you leave the building, but doing so is one of the surest ways to save money. Most households shell out 50 percent to 70 percent of their energy budgets on heating and cooling, so why pay for what no one uses?
For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill.

2. Use an energy monitor
Measure your way to savings with an energy monitor, such as the The Energy Detective (TED), which starts at $139. Such a device indicates household electrical usage in real time and projects your monthly bill. Research has found that such info leads consumers to reduce their electricity consumption significantly.
In fact, according to the company you’ll save 15 percent to 20 percent on each bill, which would amount to hundreds of dollars a year. By seeing exactly how much each appliance or activity costs, you’ll start seeing easy ways to cut waste.

3. Put on a sweater
Yes, Jimmy Carter was right. We need to dress warmer for winter, even inside. Gone are the days (for most of us at least) when we can afford to lounge around in our underwear while it’s frosty outside. Remember what we said about each degree on the thermostat costing you money?
Roughly speaking, a light long-sleeved sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth, while a heavy sweater adds about 4 degrees. So cozy up and start saving.

4. Dam those drafts
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 percent to 30 percent of your energy use. Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture — the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door, or make a more attractive DIY draft snake. You can use any scraps of fabric — even neckties — and fill with sand or kitty litter for heft.
Make sure drafts aren’t giving your thermostat a false reading, too.

5. Change furnace filters
It’s important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. A good way to remember is to mark a monthly check on your calendar.
Better, consider switching to a permanent filter, which will reduce waste and hassle. Did you know that disposable fiberglass filters trap a measly 10 percent to 40 percent of debris? Electostatic filters trap around 88 percent, and are much better at controlling the bacteria, mold, viruses and pollen that cause illness and irritation. They cost $50 to $1,000 or more. Another good choice is a genuine HEPA filter, which can remove at least 99.97 percent of airborne particles. HEPA filters are based on Department of Energy standards. But avoid “HEPA-like” filters, which can be vastly less effective.

6. Run fans in reverse
Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades. Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes while switching to clockwise makes it warmer: air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space — cutting your heating costs as much as 10 percent.

7. Turn down your water heater
While many conventional water heaters are set to 140 degrees F by installers, most households don’t need that much steam, and end up paying for it — in dollars and the occasional scalding burn. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees F (or lower) would reduce your water heating costs by 6 percent to10 percent.

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The secret lives of cats, revealed

It’s a question that’s tormented cat owners for centuries:  what does Mittens do all day while we’re away at work?

©2012 Rich Cruse | richcruse.com

We now have at least a whisker of an answer, thanks to an experiment conducted by ecologist Kerrie Anne Loyd, who recently received her doctorate from the University of Georgia, and National Geographic researchers.

At National Geographic, scientists wanted to learn more about how cats are affecting native wildlife like birds and rodents.

For about a week, 60 cat owners in the suburbs of Athens, Ga., strapped Crittercams, aka “kitty cams,” around their cats’ necks before putting the cats outside each morning.   The pet owners downloaded the video footage at night, after the cats had returned home, and recharged the cameras overnight.

According to the New York Times, the most surprising thing researchers found is that the majority of the house cats weren’t hunters. Only 44 percent of the cats stalked, chased or killed other animals during the day.

The prey was also surprising. Reptiles were No. 1 on the list, while birds were a minority.  Earlier studies had missed this because they looked only at what the cats dragged home.  Because of the kitty cams, researchers could see that the cats usually ate the reptiles, or killed them and left them at the scene.

Videos also showed cats eating insects such as walking sticks and earthworms, as well as roadkill.  Other activities included climbing into storm drains and drinking sewer water.

Four of the cats were discovered to be two-timing their owners, getting food and petting at other homes.
The bottom line for cat lovers: keep them indoors, in a stimulating environment, safe from traffic, disease, and other predators, advises the Humane Society of the United States.

You’ll be saving the lives of the critters cats prey on, as well.

Image via Rich Cruse
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Wind Power

Deer season just recently opened here in Texas and as I’m sitting here in my deer blind in Central West Texas anticipating the monster buck of all time, I can’t help notice the spinning turbines and wind farms against the surrounding hilly landscape sprouting up everywhere on the horizon of the northern edge of the Edwards Plateau. Texas leads the nation in electricity production from the power of wind which accounts for almost 7% of its electricity generated is from this wind source and that number is growing at a rapid rate. Texas currently generates and has the capacity for over 10,000 Mega Watts and will double that by the year 2025.

 Texas is not the only state in the country that’s aggressively installing wind farms to meet its overburdened power demands. Other states like Iowa, California and other mid-western and coastal states are generating a capacity of over 50,000 MW of power only second to China which produces a capacity of over 62,000 MW. Overall, only 3% of the nation’s electricity is produced by wind but the generation of renewable energy is 10% when you factor in solar, hydro and geothermal.


Wind has always been a main source of power for thousands of years. Sailing ships to move people and trade, windmills to pump water from the ground and grind grain. And then in the late 1800’s, wind was converted to electricity in a small Scottish village. Up until the 1930’s, wind was a main source of electricity especially in the rural areas. But as demand grew in the 1940’s wind capacity could not keep up with the growth of the global economy and was replaced by coal burning generators and eventually steam heated by a nuclear fuel source.


With the growing concern of global warming and climate change, we now look back to renewable energy sources. National programs such as the Clean Air Act, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will help reinvest back into our infrastructure to produce ‘green’ energy not only for our own energy but to reduce the dependence of foreign oil.

As we strive to reduce our carbon footprint, we must continue to rely and tap back into natural resources such as the wind, sun and water as it has been done for thousands of years before our present time. We must become responsible for the environment. Not to rely back on renewable energy would be irresponsible.


William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C
Architect/Design Manager
Wood Partners

Improving People’s Lives by Creating Better Communities

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The Hidden Savings of Public Transportation

There are may ways that we can enrich our planet and make it a better, more sustainable place to live. They can be as big as planting trees or as small as using biodegradable or reusable grocery bags. But one of the most vitally important ways to help the environment involves getting from Point A to Point B: carpooling and public transportation.

Today’s infographic from creditdonkey.com outlines the positive impact that increased public transportation has made in the past few years. Thanks to so many people opting not to use their cars, as much as 37 million tons of CO2 are not released and 340 million gallons of fuel aren’t used annually. That’s a lot of saved money on gas, too!

Wood Partners is always seeking ways to locate its communities near public transportation and encourage its resident to walk, bike or carpool if that is more convenient.  For more information on the benefits of public transportation refer to the infographic below.