Reduce your energy use

Global warming causes are at the top of all of our minds, so let’s get started with doing things ourselves. The key to reducing your carbon footprint is to reduce your energy use!

Reduce what you can and offset the rest!

Everyday Tips Low Cost Investments
Electricity
  • CFLs
  • Wrap it up!
  • Low flow shower heads
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Keep your system maintained
  • Seal up those windows and doors.
  • Transportation
  • Turn it off
  • Unplug
  • Get rid of the old fridge
  • A clean fridge is…
  • Hang it up
Hot Water Long Term Thinking
  • Use cold-cold cycle for laundry
  • Shorter showers
  • Size it right
  • Housing
  • Building / Renovating a home?
  • Buy the most efficient appliances
  • Your car
  • Get a professional energy audit
  • Where you live is important
  • Plant trees
Heating/ Cooling
  • Turn it up
  • Turn it down
Driving and Transport (and not)
  • Don’t idle your car
  • Accelerate gently
  • Drive slower on the highway
  • Drive less
  • Ride Your Bike
  • Share your ride
  • Fly less
Waste
  • Buy things with little packaging
  • Buy locally
  • Recycle (and compost if possible)

Electricity

Turn it off!
Turning off lights, TVs, computers and stereos when not in use will reduce your CO2 footprint and save you money. Think about it this way: if you were going shopping for an hour would you leave your car running? Of course not!! So why leave the lights or TV on when you leave a room or go out of the house?

Unplug
Many appliances like TVs, DVD players, stereos and cell phone chargers use electricity even when not in use. This is called Phantom draw and it can account for up to 5% of your electric bill. You can stop it by directly unplugging electronics or by plugging items into a surge protector/power strip and turning the whole strip off when you leave a room.

Get rid of the old fridge
If you have a fridge more than 10 yrs old it’s probably a vampire on your wallet, sucking your money away and putting thousands of pounds of CO2 into the air each year. If you have a 20 year old fridge it might use 2000 kWh annually costing you as much as $250 per year!!

A clean fridge is…
An efficient fridge. The coils on the back of a fridge are used to transfer heat from inside to outside, keeping your food inside cold. When the coils get dirty the fridge has to work harder to keep your food cool. To keep you fridge from breaking a sweat clean the coils every 6 months. All this takes is wiping them down with a rag. As an added benefit from cleaning, your fridge will probably make less noise because it doesn’t work as hard when it’s clean.

Hang it up
About 5% of all electricity used in US homes is used to dry clothes. Air dry your clothes and save 5% on your electric bill.

Hot Water

Use cold-cold cycle for laundry
There are detergents on the market that don’t need warm or hot water to get your clothes clean. This will save you money and will keep CO2 out of the air.

Shorter showers
This may be difficult but taking shorter, colder or fewer showers can save you money on your energy bill. Water heating accounts for many lbs of CO2 per household annually, think of all the CO2 your can keep out of the air.

Heating/ Cooling

Turn it up
Each degree you turn up your AC can save you a few percent on your energy bill, keeping CO2 out of the air and dollars in your wallet.

Turn it down
In the winter turning down you heat a few degrees can save you a few percent on you energy bill. Remember you can always add another layer if you feel a chill.

Driving and Transport (and not)

Don’t idle your car

An idling car gets exactly 0 miles per gallon. If you are going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds turn it off. If you are getting out of the car at all, turn it off!

Accelerate gently
Hard acceleration just takes you to the gas station faster. Accelerate gently and save cash and CO2.

Drive slower on the highway
Think about how much more energy it takes to run than walk. Now think about how much more energy (gas) your car uses going 70mph than it does at 55mph.

Drive less
Driving less is an obvious one, but there are a number of ways you can achieve this goal:
Take public transit, get some exercise and ride a bike or walk, consolidate trips, get the groceries and do other errands in the same trip. If you reduce your mileage by 20 miles a week you can keep up to 1000 lbs of CO2 out of the air annually.

Ride Your Bike
Drive less and ride your bike. Check out groups like the Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign for more information.

Share your ride!
This one has been around for a while but it’s still a very effective way to save money and keep CO2 out of the air.

Fly less
Flying is one of the most carbon intensive modes of transport. The average cross-country round trip flight emits about 6000 lbs of global warming pollution. Short flights are the worst, emitting more CO2 per mile traveled than medium to longer flights. So when possible take a train or bus instead of flying. Just think of all the security and TSA headaches you’ll avoid!

Waste

Buy things with little packaging
Packaging is just a waste. What you really want is the thing inside. More packaging results in more weight, requiring more energy to get it to you. And then there is the waste. Landfills can release large amounts of methane, powerful greenhouse gas, so reducing trash also helps to fight global warming.

Buy locally
Shipping food long distances uses lots of fuel. Why buy apples from some exotic location when you have local apples in season? Buying local supports local farmers and reduces the CO2 emissions from food transport.

Recycle (and compost if possible)
It may sound cliché but it works! Recycling saves resources and CO2 in a few ways. Many materials like aluminum and steel take lots of energy to dig ores out of the ground and refine. Recycling these materials saves huge amounts of energy, keeping huge amounts of CO2 out of the air. Composting keeps waste out of landfills where it can break down into methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Low cost investments

CFLs
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are a more efficient way of lighting your home. They are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs but because they are so efficient they will save you money over their lives. Traditional lighting accounts for a large portion of household electricity use, but CFLs can reduce this by up to 75%, saving you an average of 7.5% on your electricity bill. Some people report savings of up to 20% on their electric bills.

Check out this calculator to see how much you could save!

Wrap it up!
Wrap your water heater. Imagine standing outside without clothes on in 50 degree weather. This is what your water heater is feeling every day without a blanket. Wrap it up!! For just a few dollars you can wrap your water heater in an energy saving heat blanket, saving cash and keeping CO2 out of the air.

Low flow shower heads
Switching out old shower heads for new low flow models can drastically reduce your water heating bill, and keep thousands of lbs. of CO2 out of the air each year.

Programmable thermostat
Think of this as your own personal energy-saving servant for your furnace or AC.
You can set it to turn down/up the temperature in your home when you aren’t around and to automatically bring the temperature back up/down just before you come home. It responds to your every beck and call throughout the day and many even allow you to set different temperatures and times for each day of the week. These things are cool and easy to install, so get one today and start saving CO2 and $$.

Keep your system maintained!
You’ve probably had the air filter in your car changed at some point, well how about the air filter in your AC unit?? And that furnace, has it been tuned up recently?
Keeping your heating and AC system maintained helps it to be more efficient, reducing fuel costs.

Seal up those drafty windows and doors.
You wouldn’t leave a door open in the middle of the winter right? Well take a look under your door. If you can see through to the outside, picture dollar bills blowing through. Plug up those leaks! Use caulking for leaky windows and get a door “sweep” to keep the heat in your house and CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Transportation
Keep your auto tuned up and the tires properly inflated. Don’t leave that junk in the truck either. All that extra weight is killing your gas mileage, so leave those cinder blocks at home where they belong.

Long Term Thinking

Size it right
The most important component in reducing your long term energy use is sizing what you buy to match what you need. Behind every long term decision to purchase anything should be a conscious decision to size it right, not too big not to small, but just right!

Housing
Are you planning to purchase a new house, or to move into a new apartment? Think about how much space you actually need. We aren’t saying you need to live in a cave but you should carefully consider how much space you really need. If you buy something bigger than what you need not only are materials being poorly utilized in the construction, but you will be committing yourself to larger energy bills each year. Larger buildings no matter how efficient take more energy to heat, cool and light and that means more CO2 emitted from your home.

Building / Renovating a home?
Choose an architect who has experience designing green buildings. This does not mean sacrificing comfort. In fact today the most energy efficient homes use 75% less energy than the average home, saving you big bucks. Think about building to LEED standards. Just remember its always easiest to design efficiency in from the beginning than to add it later. Investigate solar thermal, photovoltaic and small scale wind. They might make sense for, but in any case you’ll come away with an education in renewable energy sources. A solar system might not be too expensive if you’ve already cut you energy use by 75%!

Buy the most efficient appliances you can get
When you plan to purchase new appliances always buy energy star qualified products. But don’t just settle for Energy Star – pick the model that uses the least amount of energy possible. If you don’t need a full sized refrigerator don’t buy one.

Your car
This might be obvious, but it is important because driving causes so much CO2 pollution. When choosing a car decide how big a vehicle you need then try to pick the most fuel efficient model in that class. Think about a hybrid but don’t buy a hybrid as an excuse for purchasing a larger vehicle than you need. When given a choice in engine size go with the smaller more efficient model. You’ll save money upfront and at the gas pump week after week.

Get a professional energy audit
While there are lots of easy things you can do around the house yourself, a professional energy audit is still a good idea. Many professional energy auditors report that their customers save up to 30% on their energy bills.

Where you living is important
Deciding to where to live is obviously a personal decision, but please keep the climate in mind. Choosing to live in an area where you can walk to work, schools and the grocery store can save you hundreds in gas bills per year and keep tons of CO2 out of the air. You might even find that you don’t need a car at all, saving you thousands of dollars.

Plant trees
If you are really in it for the long term think about planting trees, shrubs and bushes around your home. If you live in North America planting trees on the northern side of building can help to reduce heating costs. Trees that provide shade in the summer can also reduce cooling costs. In addition to the energy benefits trees can provide they remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Over their lives trees can sequester large amounts of carbon in the ground and in their biomass, however when trees die much of this sequestered carbon is re-released into the air.

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One response to “Reduce your energy use

  1. How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

    Imagine leaving a window open all winter long — the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

    These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in — costing you higher heating bills.

    Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

    But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home — the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Attic Stairs

    When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

    Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

    Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door — do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

    Whole House Fans and AC Returns

    Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

    If attic access is inconvenient, or for AC returns, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter and AC return. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed.

    Fireplaces

    Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

    Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

    A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

    Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

    Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts

    In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

    Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

    If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover, an attic access door, and is the U.S. distributor of the fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit http://www.batticdoor.com

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