Monthly Archives: September 2013

Bathroom Water Saving Tips

Bathroom Water Saving Tips

Approximately 35% – 40% of household water use originates from the bathroom. By using a few of these water saving bathroom tips you can reduce water consumption in your bathroom.

If you are planning on renovating your bathroom or building a new bathroom there are a few items that you should consider that can help you conserve water and save money on electricity and water bills. Toilets are the largest water-using fixture inside the home. By installing more efficient 1.6 gallon per flush or less toilets, you can save thousands of gallons of water per toilet, per year.

How to Measure water flow rate

To find out the current water saving qualities of your bathroom taps and shower you can calculate their flow rate. Run a tap for 10 seconds into a bucket and multiply the amount by 6 to find out the flow rate per minute. For example, to find out how much water your shower head is consuming you can put a bucket under the shower. Turn it on for 10 seconds before turning it off. Measure the amount of water captured in the bucket, then multiply the amount by 6. This will give you the shower head flow rate per minute, if it is over 2 gallons of water per minute you should install a water saving shower head.

Shower Water Conservation

Older shower heads can use 5 gallons of water per minute. By installing a new water efficient shower head you drastically reduce the water your shower consumes. A 3 star shower head will use less than 2 gallons of water a minute, saving 12 gallons of water per person, per shower. This amounts to approximately 5,000 gallons of water per year per person. So for the approximate $15 cost of a water efficient shower head you could potentially save yourself around $100 in water bills. You can also capture the initial cold shower water in a bucket for use in water plants or garden.

Water Saving Toilet

Around 15% of household water is flushed down the toilet. Older toilets use around 3gallons of water per flush. There are a range of 4 star dual flush toilets that use around 1 gallon of water for a full flush and 3/4 gallon for a half flush.

Water Saving Bath

A short 4 minute shower will use less cold and hot water than having a bath. If you do have a bath then only fill it to a level that just covers your body. If you use natural soaps or detergents in your bath you can bucket the water out and use it to water your garden.

Sink water saving tips

A running tap can use approximately 4 gallons of water a minute. Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. If shaving put some water into the sink to wash your blade instead of running the tap continuously. By installing flow restrictors or water saving taps you can reduce the water usage when you turn on the tap to brush your teeth or lather your hands with soap.

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Benefits of Indoor Air Purifiers

Why Use an Air Purifier?

Indoor air pollution is widely recognized as one of the top environmental health risks.

Health effects
Symptoms can be mild and non-specific such as headaches, tiredness or lethargy; similar to colds and flu such as irritated eyes, nose or throat; or more severe such as aggravation of asthma or allergic responses. People who are more susceptible to air pollutants including newborns, young children, elderly people, heart patients, people with bronchitis, asthma, hay fever or emphysema, and smokers.

Pets and Pollen
Many animal allergens (from cats, dogs, birds or even cockroaches) can also spell problems for some people. The allergens are usually contained in the animal’s droppings, saliva or dander (tiny skin scales) and can become airborne when small particles dry and fall off. In people sensitive to them, inhaling these allergens can trigger a reaction in the lungs or nose, through asthma or hay fever.

Moulds and Mildew
These are fine, often invisible spores become airborne and can be inhaled. Damp areas in the house are a perfect place for mold and fungal growth, as are water-damaged carpets and building materials.
In people sensitive to mould spores, inhaling them can cause various allergic reactions. Mould can also produce poisons known as mycotoxins which, when absorbed, can sometimes affect the nervous system. Some fungi can also infect various parts of the body, particularly the lungs and skin.

Air Purifiers can eliminate these pollutants leaving the air clean and fresh.

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Make the Switch to 100% Recycled Paper

In the US, nearly 60% of our landfill waste is due to the disposal of paper products. We are landfilling our waste paper or having it incinerated at a high cost financially and on environmentally. The landfills leak toxic wastes and the incinerator Imageplants emit VOC’S (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the atmosphere.

Genuine recycled paper is 100% made from ‘post-consumer’ waste. This means the paper has been used at least once by consumers, collected, and converted back to pulp to form paper products. Consumers should look closely at paper that is labeled “recycled”. In many cases, the product may actually include pre-consumer’ paper waste — meaning virgin pulp that never left the factory.

The best paper to buy is bleach-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper, because it uses up to 90 per cent less water and half the energy required to make paper from virgin timber, creates demand for waste paper that would normally end up in landfill, and no trees are cut down to make the paper.

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Benefits of Solar Hot Water Heating

A solar hot water system can not only be a conscientious purchase for the environment, but the installation can also provide real and practical benefits for the consumer or homeowner.
Personal benefits of a solar hot water system include:

Solar Water Heater

  • Environmentally friendly by reducing greenhouse emissions by reducing the usage of electric or gas water heater
  • Reduce your energy bills, hot water accounts for 20 – 30% of the average homeowner’s energy costs.
  • Increased home value – A study by the Appraisal Institute have determined that people are willing to pay more for homes with solar hot water systems.
  • Extends the expected life of your residential hot water tank by dramatically reducing scaling
  • Increased hot water – hot water systems can be installed with larger storage tanks to maximize the amount of heat captured by the sun.

According to the EESI, residential solar water heater systems cost between $1,500 and $3,500, compared to $150 to $450 for electric and gas heaters. With savings in electricity or natural gas, solar water heaters pay for themselves within four to eight years. And solar water heaters last between 15 and 40 years–the same as conventional systems–so after that initial payback period is up, zero energy cost essentially means having free hot water for years to come.

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Hill Country Solar Tour – Saturday Oct. 12, 2013

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Join the Hill Country Solar Tour, a collaboration of TXSES, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, and in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society National Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event. The tour will take place next to Oak Hill and the surrounding areas, and it will feature homes with solar installations and other green features.

This year’s tour will feature opening presentations on solar energy, a solar car workshopPEC_Hill_Country_Solar_Tour_1 for kids ages nine and up and a solar and energy-efficiency exhibit.
9:00AM – 11:00AM:   The day begins at the PEC Oak Hill Office with Cathy Redson’s popular Solar 101 class, a presentation that is well worth a second visit if you have heard her before. Larry Howe from Plano Solar Advocates will discuss his organization’s successful Solarize Plano project that organized interested residents in his community to negotiate a group purchase of solar installations for their homes. Dr. Gary Vliet will conduct his energetic Solar Model Car Workshop for kids (9 years and up please), buiding and racing the finished product.
11:00AM – 3:30PM:  The self-guided tour of five solar powered homes spans the territory from just off FItzhugh Rd. all the way to Blanco, with projects in between. You need not travel in any special order to see these homes, nor are you required to attend the presentations (though there is much to learn!). The tour is free and we will post the addresses of the homes closer to the tour date. Tour guidebooks will be available  at the PEC Oak Hill office on tour day, at the homes, and in .pdf form on this website.
Tour Preview:
Traildriver in Big Country, 78737
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Builder/Solar PV Installer - Native
Just completed in the summer of 2013, this 3,200 sq.ft. home for a family of five was built with a 6kW solar array, rainwater collection, geothermal HVAC, Energy Star appliances and heat pump water heaters. Siting the home for solar energy collection and passive solar design features were crucial to
energy efficiency and comfort.
Harris Dr. in Belterra, 78737
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Solar PV Installer - Longhorn Solar
Built in 2008, this 2,530 sq.ft. home in a traditional suburban subdivision was retrofitted for a 5kW solar array in 2013. Prior to the installation, the owners made sure their home was energy efficient by adding extra insulation, solar screens and double pane windows. This is the first ‘visible from the street’ solar array in this subdivision.Thanks to the Belterra HOA for their open minded attitude regarding the adoption of solar.
Twin Oaks Trail west of Dripping Springs, 78620
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Solar PV Installer- Freedom Solar
Designer, Builder and Solar Thermal Installer-Z Works Design Build
This home has both solar thermal for hot water and 7.3 kW solar PV for electricity. Built in 2012, it was designed, sited on the property and built for energy efficiency, comfort and beauty. Insulated concrete forms the walls and structural insulated panels (SIPS) the ceilings. A 28,000 gallon rainwater catchment system supplies all their water.
RR 165 between Henly and Blanco
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The air conditioned space for this 18 year old home is 1500 sq.ft. The solar configuration is a combination of both grid tied (interconnected to Pedernales Electric Co-op) and off grid (stand alone) production. The grid tied array is 2.46kW on a single axis tracking device. The off grid .7kW array is
on a fixed pole mount.
Misty River Run, Blanco
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Built in 2010, this 1,144 sq.ft. home was planned and constructed to be extremely energy efficient. The 2.7 kW solar array is your first clue, but there is more. Deep porches, a metal roof, geothermal heating and cooling (efficient also for hot water), thick walls and ceilings  and a modest footprint all contribute to a sustainable lifestyle.
               Hill Country Solar Tour, Saturday October 12, 11:00-3:30

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Natural Fat Burners

Here are some natural fat burners to help you lose weight:

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Cayenne 

Derived from Chili peppers, has the ability to trigger the ‘full’ feeling in stomachs when consumed. Cayenne also stimulates digestion, increases metabolism and fat burning.

Green Tea

Green Tea is known to assist weight loss and is a natural fat burner. It helps to boost metabolism and burn fat and is a common ingredient in diet pills. Green Tea is also rich in antioxidants. 

Ginseng

Ginseng helps to boost energy levels and metabolism
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Eat Out Less and Save Money By Eating Green

Here’s a way to save hundreds and even thousands. The best way to save is to take your lunch and make more meals at home. The average U.S. family spends over $5,000 annually. The typical U.S. family spend $4,000 on meals prepared outside of the home. By just brown bagging it 2 times per week an average family will save over $1000 fairly easily.
Cooking at home is also a great first step toward going green. By making your own food, you’ll pay attention to the ingredients you use, how they were grown and how nutritious and healthy they are. You will then consider if your ingredients are organic, whether they are locally sourced.
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Are There Harmful Ingredients in Your Shaving Cream?

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There are many options when it comes to the ingredients in shaving cream. The most popular shaving creams tend to be less expensive and filled with ingredients you probably can’t pronounce. In anumber of cases, higher quality shaving soaps and creams and lotions tend to contain more pure ingredients that are better for you and your skin. Are these unpronounceable ingredients harmful chemicals? It’s worth a look — after all, what you put on your body is just as important as what you put into it. There are several ingredients that can be found and avoided.

The most common chemicals to look for in aftershave / shaving creams are:

  • Benzyl acetate: linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Ethyle Acetate: May cause damage to the liver and kidneys, headaches and dehydration of the skin.
  • Terpineol: Linked to pneumonitis, central nervous system and respiratory damage, and headaches.
  • Propolene glycol is a humectant like glycerin, frequently found in antifreeze and brake fluid.
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) is anemulsifying agent, meaning it helps keep the oil and water from separating. Many formulas containing TEA are found to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer.
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES): Lauryl mimics estrogen, which is especially problematic for women, and laureth often hosts a known carcinogen called dioxane.
  • Mineral Oil: Mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum.

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Food Waste Composting Tips

ImageGenerally food waste is organic and will decompose, but when mixed with other waste in the landfill food waste actually contributes to the production and release of harmful gases which potentially cause environmental damage. In fact, food scraps are the third largest segment of the waste stream with nearly 26 million tons generated each year. Of the overall aste stream,about 12% is food-related, behind paper and plastic

However, by composting your food waste, you can actually put that waste to good use by putting it back back into the earth. The resulting compost can be used in a variety of different ways to support your yard or garden.

Compostable Food Items:

  • Uncooked vegetables and peelings
  • Salad
  • Fruit
  • Tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Non-food materials such as plants and flowers, grass clippings, leaves and shredded paper, cardboard.

Non-compostable Food Items:

  • Food which has been cooked. Cooked food, even vegetables, can attract vermin
  • Meat or fish
  • Dairy products
  • Non-food items such as cat or dog litter, large pieces of wood, coal ash
  • Plastics and metals.

How to Compost

You will need to buy or make a compost bin to effectively to manage your waste to create compost. Check with your local municipality for compost bin rebate programs.

Place your compost bin on a level, well-drained area. Make sure that the base of your compost bin is open and place it on soil ideally. This is so that the compost can absorb nutrients and moisture from the soil below easily. It also enables creatures like worms to get into the waste and they help break it down into compost.

Cover the compost bin with a water-proof cover. Every three months you will need to stir the compost pile until it is ready. The process can take anywhere from four to 18 months depending upon your climate and the types of waste in the compost pile. The compost is ready when the compost is a consistent dark brown and develops an earthy smell.

Tips for Composting

  • The ideal composting mixture will be a combination of all the materials in the first list above.
  • Small items tend to compost faster. Cut larger items into smaller pieces to speed the composting process.
  • Add fresh water periodically to maintain the needed moisture level for a healthy compost pile, but do not over-water. If your compost pile gives off a strong odor, add less water and add wood chips or cardboard  to soak up the additional moisture.
  • Access to direct sunlight will speed the composting process.

Easy and Quick Composting For those that may not want to deal with the physical demands or time it takes for a compost pile to mature, we recommend the use of a tumbling composter Tumbling is the most effective method for making compost quickly because it evenly mixes nitrogen and carbon materials(green and brown) for optimal eco-interaction. Add the benefit of complete distribution of moisture, air, and organic microbes throughout the batch and you’ll create conditions perfect for express composting. Vented ends provide optimal aeration so this tumbler will help create finished compost 4 to10 times quicker than a tradition composting bed. Plus its resistant to animal entry and it’s easy to turn. Just load up the composting drum and tumble it a couple times a week. Nature will do the rest as it creates nutrient rich organic compost in as little as 3 weeks.

Checkout our indoor composters and yard composters.

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How to “Beat the Peak” Energy Usage

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There is two periods of peak energy use, winter and summer.  “Summer peak times generally occur during the period of May through October and between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Winter peak times are November through April and between the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.”

For all intensive purposes, power users should note the highest strains on the electric grid occur when consumers are getting ready  for their day in the morning and when they arrive t home after work during the evening. “Peak” energy hours are the time of day during which the most electricity is used – typically daytime. During peak energy hours additional power plants, “peak-hour plants”, are needed, which is typically is the most dirty and costly sources. Energy produced from these sources significantly impacts the cost of your electricity and results in the generation of more green-house gas emissions during the worst time period possible.

Here are a few tips to “Beat the Peak”:

Set the thermostat to 78 degrees or higher. Greater peak-shaving can occur by increasing (during the summer) or lowering (during the winter) the setting by two to three degrees during the peak time.

  1. Delay use of major home appliances ie. dryers, dishwashers, ovens and washing machines.
  2. Postpone using hot water so that the demand for the water heater is reduced during the peak times, particularly if the source of heat is an electric tankless water heater, which significantly increases demand.

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