Category Archives: Energy Conservation

Water Saving Tips

 

water-conservation1

Fix leaks.  The most common fixture that leaks is the toilet flapper.  Checking for leaks should be part of your overall maintenance plan and should be done on a regular basis. Perform a water audit. Take a look at your water meter when no one is likely to be using water.  If the meter is moving, you have a leak.

Install water-saving devices. Can you transform your single flush toilets to dual flush with a kit?  How about installing a Smart Faucet in every bathroom?  The EPA has rolled a complete line of water saving fixtures under its WaterSense label, however, but these are merely minimums.  Individuals should go beyond the minimum by installing 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) shower heads when the WaterSense minimum allows shower heads with flow rates of 2.5gpm.  Rebates may also be available from your local utility to promote the installation of new high efficiency toilets that utilize 1.28 gallons per flush or better.

Upgrade to water saving appliances. Old dishwashers and top-loading washing machines are incredible inefficient, utilizing as much as 25 gallons per load of dishes and 35 gallons of water per load of laundry.  New high-efficiency models utilize a fraction of the water. Dishwashers in the two gallon range are very effective and front-loading washing machines use about a third of the water of what top-loaders use and rebates may be available.  The less water an appliance uses, the less electricity and natural gas that will be needed to heat that water.

Rethink landscaping. Plant what’s appropriate for your region and you will reduce water consumption, increase habitat for native species and raise the value of your property.  Re-landscaping is a big expense, but you are paying to water and maintain plants every year, year and year out, when you could be pocketing the money you currently budget for water.

 

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Filed under Energy Conservation, Healthy Living, Water Conservation

Remember Earth Hour March 29th, 2014

On 8:30pm, Saturday 29th March, the WWF are encouraging everyone to switch their lights off for 1 hour to help recognize the increasing problem of climate change.  It is widely accepted that climate change is causing the ice caps to melt and seas to warm, threatening ecosystems and coastal areas around the world. This is also causing related effects in other places as rising temperatures are causing increased droughts , threatening the most vulnerable animals and people worldwide.For just 1 hour, 8:30pm, Saturday, March 29th, many landmarks and cities throughout the world are showing their support for Earth Hour and recognizing the danger of climate change by switching the lights off during this time. To find out how you can participate, go to http://www.earthhour.org/TakeAction.aspx.

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Which Caulk Works Best?

The prep for caulking and sealing small repairs like windows and doors is usually pretty minimal. The surface needs to be clean and dry and it is best if the temperature is at least 55.  Rain should not be in the immediate forecast as the caulk needs to cure properly.  Using the right material for Window-Caulkingthe job, however, is critical. Price is not really an issue, as most of the caulking materials are inexpensive, but there are some ease-of-use issues. The water-based spray foam is probably the easiest for a novice to use around windows and doors and the clean up is pretty easy.  Look for low or no-VOC products that carry the Greenguard label to maintain good indoor air quality.

Here is a chart from Consumers Reports that outlines several products and their best uses:

Type of Caulk Best Use(s) Pros Cons Price
Acrylic tub and tile To seal kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Flexible; mildew resistant; cleans up with water. Not paintable; not as durable as 100% silicone. $4 and up per tube
Butyl rubber To seal and fill around windows and skylights and around flashings and in gutters to seal dissimilar materials (glass, metal, plastic, wood, and concrete). More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. More flexible (can stretch in multiple directions) than silicone; can be painted after curing one week. Good in areas that experience high temperature variations. Formulations with asphalt are best for roofing repairs. Does not adhere well to painted surfaces; shrinkage varies; might require two applications. Can be toxic; precautions must be taken and requires solvent cleanup. $3.50 and up per tube
Concrete and mortar repair To repair cracks in concrete and damaged masonry and mortar. Can be shaped to fit before drying; remains flexible, cleans up with water, dries to color of concrete mortar or can be painted. Not recommended for horizontal surfaces where water could accumulate. $4.50 and up per tube
Latex To seal gaps in exterior walls and plug holes and fill gaps in interior walls and woodwork before painting. Inexpensive; takes paint well;, can be sanded; easy to work with; cleans up with water. Will crack eventually where temperatures vary greatly (acrylic latex formulations are more durable); needs to be painted when used outdoors; won’t adhere to metal. $1.50 and up per tube
Oil or resin-based To seal gaps in exterior walls. Inexpensive; will bond to most surfaces. Cracks after a few years; much less durable than elastomeric (silicone, latex, or acrylic) caulks. $1 and up per tube
100% silicone To fill around pipes and vents and building structures made of nonporous materials and plumbing fixtures. Not as effective on wood or masonry. Very durable and flexible; doesn’t crack. Expensive; limited colors; can’t be painted or sanded, gives off strong odor when curing; solvent required for cleanup. $4.50 and up per tube
Siliconized latex Same uses as 100% silicone, except not on plumbing fixtures. Very durable and flexible; rarely cracks, many colors available; cleans up with water; less expensive than 100% silicone. Can’t be sanded. $3.50 and up per tube
Spray foam (polyurethane-based) To seal around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Expands more than latex and fills a greater area than caulking alone. Expands after application, so it can warp door and window frames; can’t resist UV light; must be painted for exterior use; very difficult to clean up after use. $5.40 and up per can (but one can fills as much space as many tubes of caulking)
Spray foam (water-based) Around window and door frames or to fill cracks and holes. Does not expand as much as polyurethane foam; can be shaped while wet; easy cleanup with water; will not cause windows or doors to bind. Does not adhere as tightly to materials as urethane; takes longer to cure (up to 24 hours). $5 and up per can (but one can can fill as much space as many tubes of caulking)

Chart Courtesy of Consumer Reports.

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Caulking Tips

Caulking seems like a relatively easy thing to do, and in most cases it is. There are simple tips and tricks that can make a big difference between a easy, seamless, hassle-free caulking job and one that’s messy and full of frustration. Before you start your next caulking job, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Window-Caulking

  • Purchase a good-quality pro-style caulking gun ($10). Skip the cheap low-end guns that utilize a ratcheting plunger. Ratcheting guns don’t operate smoothly, making it hard to apply a clean, uniform bead.
  • Use blue painter’s tape to protect your windows and the other side of the joint you are trying to fill. Leave a gap between the tape about 3/8ths of an inch wide.
  • Find a utility knife as when you cut off the top of the caulk tube, you do not want an uneven or straight cut. Make the cut at a 45 degree angle.
  • When you apply the caulk you will hold the caulk gun at approximately 45 degree angle.
  • Bend a piece of cardboard and practice on the seam before you attack your first seam. You could start in a less visible area where any mistakes will be less noticeable.
  • After you apply the caulk, use a plastic spoon to smooth the seam so that it is more or less flush.
  • Keep the tip of your caulking tube clean and free of dried caulk.
  • Make sure you pull the tape off before the caulk dries to leave clean seam.

Proper caulking and sealing will lead to an increase in energy efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems. Caulking can also substantially extend the life of windows and doors.

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Test For Air Leaks and Drafts to Reduce Energy Loss

Properly sealing cracks and openings in you home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs throughout the year. You may already know where some air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but you’ll need to find the less obvious gaps to properly seal your home. 

Here are several tests that can be used to check for air leaks:

  1. Window Seal Check – Shut the window on a piece of paper. If paper can be pulled without tearing paper, than window should be resealed.
  2. Visual Gap Check – After daylight hours, shine a light through closed window and door seam and have a partner confirm if light is visible on other side.
  3. Hot/Cold Air Check – Use your hands to feel around door and window seal checking for cold or hot air coming in through a leak.

Common areas to check for leaks are between brick and wood siding, between foundation and walls, and between the chimney and siding. In addition, you should inspect around these areas for leaks and drafts:

  • Door and window frames
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas service entrances
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Outdoor water faucets
  • Where dryer vents pass through walls
  • Bricks, siding, stucco, and foundation
  • Air conditioners
  • Vents and fans

 Home Pressurization Test

If you are having difficulty locating leaks and drafts, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:

  1. First, close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues.
  2. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
  3. Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.

This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to drift, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

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Green Tip: Green Wedding Ideas

Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, but your special day can also result in harm to the environment. It has been calculated that the average wedding can result in up to over 15 tons of CO2 that it also causes substantial environmental damage.

Luckily, if you do not have the time or know how, there are many wedding planners that specialize in eco-friendly weddings. However, there are many easy steps that the do-it-yourselfer can do to minimize waste on their special day.InvitationsOne way to cut down on paper usage, you can send e-cards or emails instead of sending out card invite. This would allow you to limit paper invites to those without computer access. For those paper invites, be sure to use recycled paper.

Flowers

The flower arrangements can be one of the most expensive and wasteful portions of the wedding. Try to get double use of the flowers by arranging to use the same flowers for the wedding and reception. The flowers could have a second life by drying and pressing the flower petals for use as handmade thank-you notes or for placement in your wedding memory book or photo albums.

After the wedding, you could dry and press the flower petals and use them to make handmade thank you cards for your guests and/or incorporate the petals into your wedding scrapbook or photo album. Also plan to have the leftover flowers sent to a hospital or a nursing home. .

Food

There are nearly always leftover food items at weddings. In the first place it’s a good idea to order the food with restraint, as people never eat everything there. If you do have leftovers, choose a venue that supports the environment and has a waste composting capabilities.

If composting is not an option, encourage guests to take home the remaining food or donate the food to a local charity.

Wedding Favors and Decorations

If you opt for favors, avoid disposable itmes that are not recyclable such as disposable cameras.  Use leftover decorations, and napkins either reusable or recyclable Go for favors which are not personalized with your names, so that they can be reused for future use.

Catering Service

This may be one of the most visible ways to make your wedding green-everyone talks about the food at a wedding. Making simple choices like using biodegradable utensils and plates that can be composted. Also choose organic and local food for the cuisine.

Honeymoons

Following the wedding, it’s time for the honeymoon. There are global opportunities for eco-tourism options that get get you fare of the beaten path. There are many companies that specialize in outdoor adventure activity and environmental advocacy. These companies promote sustainable tourism which safely connects people with the world’s greatest places and adventures. By combining the economic power of sustainable tourism with the ingenuity of those connected with nature and aware of its peril.

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Ways to Have a Green Christmas

Here are a few ways you can make this Christmas season more eco-friendly:

green-christmas

1. Buy Less

Gifts can fit a practical need and need to be bought new, while other are gestures of thoughtfulness. Find gifts that fit without overspending. 
2. Christmas lights

Solar LED lights are the most energy efficient lighting options. Worse case, convert all older lighting to some form of LED and reduce your energy cost by up to 90%.

2. Wrapping paper

Instead of wasting loads of money on wrapping paper,  use old paper bags, newspapers and school art work. If you do buy, use environmentally friendly wrapping paper. Choose wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp or paper from recycled content. Also, reuse or recycle gift packing materials

3. Set Holiday Light Displays On Automatic Timers

Setting the light display on an automatic timer allows you to only have the lights on during optimal times, minimizing the waste of having the lights on during the overnight hours.

4. Shop online

Rather than driving around for hours and wasting time and gas, consider shopping online.

5. Cook As Efficiently As Possible

If you are cooking on an electric oven, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that you can reduce your use of electricity by doing some of your cooking in a crock pot, which supposedly uses less electricity than an electric oven. You can also reduce your fuel consumption 

6. Durable decorations

When buying decorations, ensure you buy good quality or make them yourself from reusable products you find around your home. Good quality decorations may cost more initially but they won’t need to be replaced as often as their cheaper versions

7. Christmas tree choices

Whilst artificial Christmas Trees last longer, the plastic used to make them can be quite toxic to our environment. Consider purchasing a real Christmas Tree. You can keep it in a pot through the festive season than plant it in your backyard at the end of December. Real trees also support tree planting programs which soak up carbon from our atmosphere.

8. Green gifts

Consider only purchasing Eco Friendly gifts. You can find products available that are often made from recycled goods or are made only of sustainable materials.

9. DIY cards and gifts

Make your own cards and presents – these gifts are more likely to be treasured, extending their life cycle. You can also reuse last year’s cards by making gift labels for this year.

10. e-cards

Instead of sending traditional Christmas Cards to family and friends, which cost both money and resources, reduce your carbon footprint by sending an e-card with a personal message.

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Filed under Energy Conservation, Healthy Living, Recycling, Repurposing

Green Driving Tips

America’s love and need of the automobile won’t be going away anytime soon.They are a fact of life and are an essential element that allows us to meet our daily needs and obligations. There are ways that we lessen the impact of our vehicle use on the planet – green driving is one of them. By making just a few adjustments, we can make a difference and save some money along the way.

green-carHere are a few “Eco-Driving” rules that can lower costs and reduce your carbon footprint

1. Make your next auto purchase an alternative fuel vehicle. Electric powered vehicles and other alternatives are becoming more widely available.

2. Don’t drive alone. Join a carpool or utilize mass transit.

3. Drive the speed limit. For every five miles per hour you drive above 55 miles per hour, you lose 10% – 15% fuel efficiency.

4. Avoid short journeys and multiple trips.

5. Properly inflate tires. Improper tire inflation can result in the loss of over 2 – 3 mpg.

6. Stay aerodynamic. Avoid excess vehicle weight and anything that creates aerodynamic drag, such as roof racks, bike carriers and roof storage carriers.

7. Drive smoothly and anticipate road conditions. Avoid sharp acceleration and heavy braking. Accelerating less aggressively and slowing down moderately can increase fuel efficiency by 20% – 30%.

8. Don’t idle your engine. For stops of more than 2 or 3 minutes, shut off your engine. This can save up to 15% of fuel efficiency.

9. Utilize cruise control. This will save up to 10% by maintaining a steady speed and avoiding unnecessary acceleration.

10, Maintain your vehicle. Keep your vehicle properly tuned and replace old spark plugs and filters.

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Conservation Tip: Maintain Your Water Heater

Water heating currently represents up to 20 percent of US residential energy consumption, making it the third largest energy consumer in homes, behind heating and cooling and kitchen appliances.

Maintaining your water heater will not only save energy, but also will extend the life of the water heater. Here are a few tips to maintain your water heater and save up to 200 lbs. of CO2 per year:

  1. Drain water heater annually. Sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, which leads the hot water heater to perform inefficiently and lead to higher energy costs. By draining the water heater once per year, you will eliminate the build up inside the water heater and keep the water heater working efficiently.
  2. During the annual draining process, Inspect the water heater for damage and assess system performance. Check for leaks and any strange noises, may be a sign that it is time to replace your water heater.
  3. Set water heater temperature. Manufacturers typically preset new hot water heaters at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends homeowners set the heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) to save money and energy. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%-5% in energy costs.
  4. Insulate water heater. Heat loss from the tank and pipes causes decreased energy efficiency in a conventional hot water heater. You can save money by purchasing a water heater blanket from your local hardware store.

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Reasons to Switch to LED Christmas Lights

This holiday season nearly everyone is looking for ways to save money, by shopping wisely and making gifts and wrappings. One are that should be considered is to switch from incandescent lighting to LED Christmas lights. LED will save you money and give you a peace of mind as this technology offers improved savings and safety.

If all decorative light strings that are sold in the US this holiday season are Energy Star qualified, over 700 million kilowatt hours would be saved and the equivalent of 100,000 emissions from cars would be reduced in greenhouse gases in one year. Here are some additional reasons to switch to LED holiday lighting:

led lights1. Energy efficiency. LED uses over 70% less energy and on average lasts 10 times longer.

2. Improved safety. LED lights remain cool to the touch. Reduces fire risk of lighting on the evergreen decorations and contact burns.

3. Solid-state reliability. Technology does not require each light on string to be in operation for the light string to operate.

4. Durability. LED lights are enclosed in an epoxy casing, versus the fragile glass bulbs of incandescent bulbs.

5. Improved lifespan. Incandescent lights typically only provide 2,000, while LED lamps are rated for at least 50,000 hours of service.

6. No filaments to burn out. LED lighting does not require filaments, which burnout and can be easily damaged.

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