In honor of Energy Awareness Month, find out how the way you live at home can protect the environment and your bank account. Practical tips can bring your home up to date.
There was a time in America’s history – not too long ago, when it was unthinkable to let anything go to waste. Old clothing was re-sewn into a quilt or used as a dish rag. Old sweaters were unravelled and knit up as socks. You get the idea. It’s not so bad reducing, re-using and recycling. Actually, it’s a creative challenge and very satisfying. And aside from this, it shows children how best to be resourceful with what they have. That’s a good thing because costs are rising for everything when it comes to home living.
There is something that can be done. In a word – energy efficiency. Energy is expensive and harmful to the environment, and our homes consume the third largest part of energy after industry and transportation – which is 20 percent of all energy used in America, according to Joel Makower, author of The Green Consumer. October is Energy Awareness Month, so, let’s bring this home, and add an awareness of a healthy environment to boot.
Work With What You’ve Got
Essentially, every step you take to reduce the amount of energy you use, whether it be in your home, car or business is a step towards helping the environment, improving your health (and the health of those around you) and saving money, according to Fred Stratton, program manager of the Energy Division of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Depending on how much of an environmental or energy-saving guru you want to be, there are steps of action that span a wide level of involvement. Step number one is to work with what you have.
The U.S. Department of Energy on Energy Efficiency and renewable Energy offers the following suggestions of no- or low-cost ways to save energy:
- Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents
- Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle
- Use your microwave instead of a conventional electric range or oven
- Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
- Plug home electronics, such as TVs and VCRs, into power strips and turn power strips off when equipment is not in use.
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater; 115 degrees is comfortable for most uses.
- Take showers instead of baths to reduce hot water use.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
Next, only invest in appliances that may cost a bit more to purchase, but end up saving hundreds from your energy bills over the year. Stratton says that energy-efficient appliances more than pay for themselves if you keep them for the long haul and get a lot of use out of them.There is a wide variety of these kinds of products on the market today. One sure way to know that you are purchasing an energy-efficient machine is to look for the Energy Star approval. Energy Star is a government-backed program whose purpose is to help individuals and businesses protect the environment by finding was to maximaze energy efficiency.
Take a clothes washer, for example. One with an Energy Star label uses only 18 to 25 gallons of water per load compared to 40 gallons for a standard machine; it’ll save you $110 a year on your utility bill. Energy Star appliances do not necessarily cost more than standard versions – it depends on just how much energy you want to save and what other features you like to have on your appliances.
Home Altering Choices
Also, get serious about making major adjustments to your home that will maximize natural resources and energy savings. Stratton says that a lot can be done if homeowners who choose to build their houses get involved. He says to ask for more insulation and better windows.
Other things that can be done by any homeowner include installing solar hot water heating, replacing out-dated mechanical heating and air conditioning systems with energy-efficient new ones, insulating your attic and walls with insulation made with recycled content and minimal chemical emissions. Install water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights or incorporate a program that recycles rain water back into the house or garden through a gutter system.
All of our efforts are pointless if we don’t pass this knowledge on to our children. “There is a direct correlation between energy use and the amount of sulfur and oxide that goes into the air,” says Stratton. Every time we flip a light switch gases are emitted into the air, he explains. The good news, Stratton points out is that families are in a great position to learn about these things together.
Schools are making more of an effort to bring energy education into the classrooms with the Tennessee Energy Education Network. They provide in-service training for teachers, student conferences, classroom competitions, contests and more.
Embrace the knowledge that you are helping create a better tomorrow for your children by being energy savvy and passing that on!
Jennifer Lee is a mom and associate editor for this publication.
- Turn off everything not in use.
- Use ceiling and other fans to provide additional cooling and better circulation so you can raise the thermostat and cut down on air conditioning costs.
- Clean or replace air conditioner filters monthly.
- Use a programmable thermostat.
- Close blinds and shades on the south- and west-facing windows during summer days. Plant trees that will shade your house.
- Keep the blinds and drapes open during the day in the winter to allow the sun to warm your house. Close them at night to conserve heat.
- Use caulk and weatherstrip to make sure you are not allowing energy to escape through leaks in your house.
- Activate sleep features on computers and office equipment.
- Consider Energy Star Torchiere lamps rather than the popular halogen torchiere lamps that can cause fires and are expensive to operate.
- Use dimmers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
- Shift energy-intensive tasks like laundry and washing to off-peak energy demand hours to increase electricity reliability during heat waves.
Source: The Green Store