Saving energy | Living the Country Life

Saving energy

Why not make a few quick changes to help warm up your outbuildings a little and cut down on those energy bills?

There's almost no worse feeling than going out to the barn or shop on a bitterly cold winter's day only to find it's just as miserable inside as it is outside. So why not make a few quick changes to help warm up your outbuildings a little and cut down on those energy bills?

Landscape windbreaks

Though it won't help you this year, a combination of dense bushes or shrubs, evergreen trees, and an earth berm will help cut down on the windchill around your property in the future. When putting a windbreak in place, a good rule is to plant it at a distance from your home of two to five times the mature height of the trees you'll be using. Planting shrubs and bushes about 1 foot from the walls of your outbuildings will also serve as a kind of insulation. This creates air space that should help keep buildings warmer during the icy winter months.

Long-life, low-energy bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs, unlike ordinary incandescent light bulbs, last anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 hours (compared to around 750), and they use considerably less energy. They run at a different temperature than their counterparts, so they will appear a cooler shade than you might be familiar with.

While more costly up front, these more efficient bulbs are certainly worth the extra expense. Assuming you use the lights in your shop or barn just two hours a day, changing four of your old bulbs to compact fluorescents can save you around $10 a year and last more than eight years. They also come in just about every size base. So if you look around, you should be able to find replacement bulbs relatively easily.


Buying new windows is not always a viable option, particularly for your outbuildings. A practical alternative is taping plastic sheeting to the insides of the window frames. A tight seal will help trap warm air in during the winter, even if the view from your horse's stall may be compromised.

Draught proofing

In older barns and shops, there can be small gaps in hidden places that can add up to a lot of energy lost. Take a walk around the inside of your buildings. Pay particular attention to the areas around doors and windows, old fireplaces or heaters, recessed lights, or anywhere you might suspect is letting too much outside weather in. Close any openings up with a good silicone construction caulk.


While it seems like an obvious choice, insulating or improving the insulation already in your outbuildings can be one of the most effective ways to prevent heat loss. It works for the summer months, too, helping trap cold air inside. While you may not want to take on the job of insulating an entire outbuilding while it's cold out, even a little bit will help. Consider insulating the hayloft or the attic of your outbuildings as the first step in keeping the heat in.

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