By Ed Roskowinski, CR
A good friend recently asked me what they could do at home to be more “green.” My first thought is to simply say, “Do those things that your parents used to nag you about when you were a kid.” “Turn off the lights when you leave a room,” “Stop taking 20-minute showers, you should be washing it not playing with it.”
It’s true that much of the new green concepts are simply taking us back to days of old. Here’s a list of things you can start doing today that could reduce your energy costs by 20-50%:
Turn off what you’re not using. When you’re away from your computer or appliance for more than an hour, turn it off. Even on “energy-saver” mode, a computer, game console, or television wastes energy.
Eliminate “Phantom Load.” Many electronics use electricity even when they’re turned off. Plug your TV and accessories into a power strip and switch it off when they’re not in use. Believe it or not, a quarter of the energy used by your TV each year is consumed while the TV is OFF.
Skip the drying cycle on your dishwasher and choose the “air-dry” option, OR better yet, open the door overnight for some zero-energy dish-drying action.
Don’t Heat or Cool Empty Rooms by closing off heat vents or turning down radiators in unused rooms. And when you go on vacation, lower your thermostat by least ten degrees.
Make do with one fridge and unplug the extra one. A typical refrigerator costs around $120 a year in electricity. You can also help your fridge function more efficiently by placing jugs of water in any empty space inside (water retains cold better than air does). If your fridge was purchased before 1993, replace it as soon as you can with a new Energy Star fridge – it will pay for itself quickly in energy savings.
Turn the dial on your washing machine to “cold/cold” and leave it there. With modern washing machines and detergents, washing your clothes in cold water gets them just as clean as washing in hot, but it uses half the energy. If you can, replace your current washer with a new Energy Star unit, which expends 50% less energy than a standard washer and uses 15 to 22 fewer gallons of water per load, saving you about $100 per year.
Skipping the dryer and hang your clothes to dry on a rack or a clothesline. You can avoid wrinkles by using your dryer for five minutes before hanging clothes on the line. It takes a huge commitment of energy to run a dryer. Many households spend more than $100 a year on the energy used by their dryer
Replace Your Light Bulbs: I know, you’re tired of hearing this one, but you really should replace the light bulbs in your home, even if they haven’t yet burned out. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last 10x longer and use one forth the energy. Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lights are also becoming more widely available for uses around the home. An LED light lasts about 50 times longer than an incandescent bulb. If each home in America replaced one bulb with an Energy Star CFL, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars.
Plug the leaks in your home by calling your utility company for a free energy audit, or call an energy auditor in your area. The EPA estimates that properly sealing and insulating the “shell” of your home is often the most cost effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Reduce Your Water Use by replacing faucets and showerheads with low-flow alternatives. The energy used to transport and treat the water that runs out of your tap for five minutes would power a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours. I know it’s hard to believe in the land of 10,000 lakes, but water shortages are becoming a harsh reality for many communities. A recent government survey found that at least 36 states are anticipating water shortages by 2013.
Cut Waste Through Windows by covering them with curtains or drapes at night in the winter and during the day in the summer. This can greatly cut heating and cooling costs, but remember to open them up during winter days to capture some of that passive solar energy.
Now you can go to your mother’s home and nag her about washing cloths in warm water or about that old energy sucking dryer.
Linden Hills Power & Light: http://www.lhpowerandlight.org/
New Hope 360 Delicious Living Green Guide http://newhope360.com/green-sustainability/2010-green-guide
Ed Roskowinski is General Manger and VP of Vujovich Design Build, Inc., a 35-year design build firm specializing in building and remodeling unique Twin Cities homes for unique homeowners.