By Ryan Kiscaden
Special to the Observer
As you heat up your home this winter, will you be thinking about energy efficiency? Many Vermonters say, “Yes.”
In 2017, WalletHub conducted an energy efficiency study ranking the “greenest” states in the U.S. It might have surprised many — except Vermonters — that their state finished in first place. WalletHub contributed the Green Mountain State’s top ranking to its residents’ fiscal sense, environmental smarts and eco-friendly behaviors.
Vermont is a longtime leader in the environmental field, and with approaching colder temperatures, they will shortly have another opportunity to demonstrate their ecological savvy. Below are recommendations from Vermont contractors to get your furnace ready for the winter season, as well as make the most of your thermostat to become more energy efficient.
Air Filter Change: Regularly change the filter in your furnace or heat pump monthly to keep the system working effectively – especially at the start of the heating season. Unclean filters can noticeably reduce air quality and restrict air flow for the furnace; ultimately, shortening its life.
Trial Run: Turn on your furnace for a trial run before you need to heat your home. If you have a problem or need repairs, it is much more convenient to get the furnace serviced while it is still warm out. During this time, check the efficiency of your thermostat by setting the device to a desired wintertime temperature. If your heating system fails to reach this temperature in a reasonable amount of time, replace your thermostat.
Regular Maintenance: Have your HVAC contractor check your furnace each year to see if it needs a tune-up. If you’re a DIY person, examine everything carefully. This will not only improve the efficiency and life span of your system, but will also result in lower utility bills.
In addition to evaluating the efficiency of your heating system, it is important to ask your contractor, or check yourself, to see if your thermostat contains mercury. Did you know that many thermostats built before 2006 have an ampule of mercury located inside of them as part of the switching system? Mercury is a well-documented health hazard that enters the environmental stream if disposed of incorrectly.
In 2008, Vaermont passed mercury thermostat collection legislation that requires thermostat manufacturers to establish collection programs for contractor and consumer-generated mercury thermostats. The legislation also added a $5.00 financial incentive rebate for every thermostat recycled at a Household Hazardous Waste Facility or hardware store.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “the coldest periods will occur from late December  into mid-January and late January into early February and in mid- to late February.”
This is the time to prepare. In the process of evaluating your equipment and making your home more energy efficient, help keep Vermont beautiful and continue being the leader of environmental stewardship by examining your thermostat. Together, we can make a real dent in protecting the environment by the simple act of recycling your mercury thermostats and spreading the word.
For more information visit www.thermostat-recycle.org.
Ryan Kiscaden is the executive director of the Thermostat Recycling Corp.