It's finally spring and time for cleaning and planning how to save energy all through the warm months.
Based on March data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household will spend $2,200 on energy this year. Learn how you can save some of that money with the Alliance to Save Energy’s spring cleaning energy efficiency tips.
Spring Cleaning Tips:
1.Wash clothes in cold water to save $63 a year.
2.Clean or change furnace filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm.
3.Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills.
4.Reduce water heater temperature to 130° F to save energy
and money on heating water; and wrap the water storage tank
in a specially-designed “blanket” to retain the heat.
5.Seal air leaks and properly insulate to save up to 20% on heating and cooling bills, while also increasing home comfort.
6.Use your window shades – Close blinds on the sunny side in summer and open them in winter.
7.Turn off all lights, appliances and electronics not in use.
A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. (Sometimes
the simplest things are really effective!)
8.Change to new and improved light bulbs. Reduce energy use from about a third to as much as 80% with today’s increasing number of energy-efficient halogen incandescents, CFLs and LEDs.
9.Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10% on cooling and heating costs.
10.Look for the Energy Star label, the government’s symbol of energy efficiency, on a wide range of consumer products to save up to 30% on related electricity bills.
--Thanks to the Alliance to Save Energy
If a new television is on your family’s holiday wish list, it pays to look carefully at how much electricity your dream model will suck. Some models use nearly 50 percent more power than others.
Plasma TVs generally use more electricity because each pixel uses an individual light source. LCDs tend to use significantly less electricity because they use a backlight that is constantly on and illuminating the screen, blocking light from getting to specific pixels.
Recently, a global organization encouraging greater efficiency, the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) Initiative gave its first-ever awards for flat panel televisions. Samsung and LG took top honors.
The commercially available winning products use 33 to 44% less energy than televisions with comparable technology. The emerging technology winner is 59% more efficient than comparable televisions on the market today, the organization reported.
"We have seen drastic improvements in TV energy efficiency over the last years, but the winning manufacturers demonstrate that the potential for improvement remains large," says Peter Bennich of the Swedish Energy Agency.
Globally, televisions account for 3 to 4% of residential electricity consumption. If all televisions sold were as efficient as the SEAD award-winning models, more than 84 billion kilowatt-hours of energy could be saved worldwide each year by 2020 -- enough to power New York City for nearly a year and a half, the group claims.
These are the winning models:
SEAD Global Winners
-The Samsung UN26EH4000F received the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the small-size (less than 29 in.) category.
-Two Samsung models, the UE40EH5000W and UN40EH5000F, tied as the global winner in the medium-size (29 in. to less than 42 in.) category.
-The LG 47LM670S received the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the large-size (42 in. and above) category.
Global Emerging Technology Winner
-An LG 47-inch backlit LCD prototype TV won the SEAD Global Efficiency Medal in the emerging technology category. It will be commercially available worldwide within the next two years.
Whatever TV you are using, be sure to plug it into a power strip that you can turn off when its not in use. Otherwise your television will continue burning electricity even when it has been turned off.
As the leaves turn and the air chills, cold air has a way of seeping into our homes and letting us know exactly where we have leaks. Sealing those air leaks and insulating the shell of your home is often the top energy-saving recommendation from experts, as well as the best way to make your home more comfortable during the cold season.
ENERGY STAR estimates that you can save up to 20 percent on your home’s biggest energy users- heating and cooling – by proper sealing and insulating. That means you can cut your total energy bill by up to 10 percent with these steps.
Some of the measures are pretty easy: putting caulk or weather-stripping around windows and doors and other places where you feel drafts. Other steps probably require a skilled contractor, such as making sure your attic has enough insulation to serve as a “blanket’’ this winter.
To learn more, a good place to start is at Energy Star’s DIY guide to Sealing and Insulating which you can find here: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_sealing
Want to cut down on heat (and soon to be cold) beaming through your windows but can't afford to replace all that glass? Maybe window film is for you.
The International Window Film Association (IWFA) says that a thin sheet of window film can help you save energy, protect your from harmful UV rays and even offer a little extra security during a storm.
The non-profit association is offering a free consumer booklet available at http://www.iwfa.com/ConsumerInfo/IWFAWindowFilmBooklet.aspx.
“Many consumers are deciding for a variety of factors to stay in place and are looking for ways to improve the curb appeal and efficiency of their homes,” said Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA. “Window film is a long-term and cost-effective solution for home improvement challenges. It can reduce energy consumption by reducing solar heat gain, and reduce the carbon footprint, while allowing you to enjoy natural light without the negative impact of harsh glare and UV exposure,” he added.
Window film is rated by the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council), as are new windows and doors, so homeowners and property managers can be sure of the benefits. The new booklet helps consumers understand more about how window film delivers up to seven times the energy savings per dollar spent, as compared to installing replacement windows.
About the International Window Film Association
The International Window Film Association (IWFA) (www.iwfa.com) is a unified industry body of window film dealers, distributors, and manufacturers that facilitates the growth of the industry by providing unbiased research, influencing policy and promoting awareness of window film. The organization builds alliances with trade associations, utilities and government agencies to advance dealers and distributors businesses and provide value to their customers
As summer heat sizzles, here are some money-saving tips to beat the heat by tending to your cooling system:
1. Consider a tune up to make sure your air conditioning equipment is running efficiently. Cooling puts the biggest stress on your summer energy bills and a professional “tune-up” could save you the cost and misery of a breakdown on the hottest days.
2. Replacing your old central air conditioning system (CAC) with an ENERGY STAR-qualified model could cut your cooling costs by as much as 30% if your system is more than 12 years old. And while these products can have a higher purchase price, the cost difference will be paid back over time through lower energy bills.
3. Having properly sized CAC systems or window units will ensure optimum performance. A system that’s too large will not keep your home comfortable due to frequent “on/off” cycling.
4. Purchase an AC unit with the highest Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) that you can afford – the higher the SEER level, the more energy efficient the equipment. Current federal appliance standards require a SEER rating of at least 13 on CAC systems.
5. Clean or replace CAC system filters monthly – and check window unit filters even more frequently.
6. A programmable thermostat automatically coordinates temperatures in your home with your daily and weekend patterns to reduce your bills up to 10%. Be sure to program the device properly to raise the temperature while your house is empty and lower it again shortly before you return.
5. Using ceiling fans to circulate air will make you feel cooler and can allow you to raise the temperature setting on your AC by a few degrees. But be sure to turn the fan off when you leave the room, because fans cool people, not rooms.
--Thanks to the Alliance to Save Energy for these energy-saving tips!
Lawns are typically by far the biggest household water users in summer months, and many people pour more water than needed on that patch of bluegrass. With many areas facing water shortages ahead, now is a good time to learn to cut back and still enjoy your yard.
Let your grass keep some length-- it will need less water if you don't give it a crew cut. Longer grass provides more shade and loses less in evaporation. A good rule of thumb is to remove no more than one-third the height in any mowing. And letting the lawn get a little thirsty is actually good for your turf-- grass will send its roots down deeper in search of a drink. Fertilizing in the summer isn't necessary -- it will probably just make your lawn grow faster and want more water.
Denver Water has declared a Stage One drought and is asking its customers to take these common sense steps:
o Water only two days a week, and use a day of rain to skip watering. A rule of thumb is that if you walk across the lawn and your footprint stays, your lawn is thirsty.
o Only water the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.
o Water early in the morning or in the evening to avoid evaporation.
o Adjust sprinkler systems throughout the summer, starting with using less water now. Don’t just set your sprinkler system once and forget about it.
o Water two minutes less. If all of Denver Water’s customers took two minutes off their watering times, that would add up to nearly one billion gallons of water saved each year!
More information: Denver Water: http://www.denverwater.org/Conservation/TipsTools/Outdoor/WateringYourLawn/
The average U.S. household will spend about $2,100 on home energy this year, according to April data from the U.S. Department of Energy.
To help U.S. consumers go green and save green, the Alliance To Save Energy offers this compilation of energy-saving tips:
1. Seal air leaks and properly insulate – Always the first steps for reducing energy waste, saving up to 20% on heating and cooling bills and increasing home comfort.
2. Turn off all lights, appliances and electronics not in use. (Sometimes the simplest things are really effective!)
3. Use your windows shades – Close blinds on the sunny side in summer and open them in winter.
4. A programmable thermostat, properly programmed, can save up to 10% on cooling and heating costs.
5. Look for the Energy Star label, the government’s symbol of energy efficiency, on a wide range of consumer products to save up to 30% on related electricity bills.
6. New & improved light bulbs – Reduce energy use from about a third to as much as 80% with today’s increasing number of energy-efficient halogen incandescents, compact fluorescents and LEDs.
7. Clean or change furnace filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm.
8. Reduce water heater temperature to 130° F to save energy and money on heating water; and wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed “blanket” to retain the heat.
9. Wash clothes in cold water to save $63 a year.
10. Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills, too.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, the economy, and national security.
As gas prices soar this spring, smart consumers can save a bundle by paying careful attention to maintenance, driving habits and alternate ways to get around:
Tips for Vehicle Maintenance
• Tune up. Fixing a car that’s out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%!
• Keep tires properly inflated to improve mileage by up to 3.3%. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. In addition, proper inflation improves tire longevity – and your safety while driving. DOE cautions not to go by the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall, but to find the proper tire pressure for your own vehicle on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in the glove box, as well as in your owner’s manual.
• Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil or risk lowering your gas mileage by 1-2%. For example, says DOE, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can depress mileage by 1-2%; and using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower mileage by 1-1.5%. DOE also advises looking for the phrase “Energy Conserving” on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.
• Get the junk out of the trunk. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds your vehicle’s trunk could reduce your mileage by up to 2%.
• Also avoid a loaded roof rack, which can decrease your fuel economy by 5%.
Tips for Smart Driving
• Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.
• Avoid speeding. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. DOE says each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 29 cents per gallon for gas.
• Avoid idling. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Idling can waste a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, but it only takes a few seconds’ worth of fuel to restart your engine, according to DOE.
• Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas and money.
• And don’t forget to engage the overdrive gear. With overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down, saving gas and reducing engine wear.
• Plan your trips. Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
• Beat the traffic. When possible, drive during off-peak hours to avoid stop and go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions, thereby reducing both gas costs and stress.
Tips for Smart Commuting
• If you have a choice of vehicles at home, use the more fuel-efficient one.
• Consider alternatives to driving solo. Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs in half and save wear on your car if you take turns driving with other commuters. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy.
• Consider using public transit if it is available and convenient for you. The American Public Transit Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in your state.
Thanks to the Alliance To Save Energy for these tips!
You can get help paying for many energy efficiency home improvement projects this year through hefty rebates. While many of the federal tax credits for energy efficiency have expired, Xcel Energy is offering 2012 rebates, and so are many other utilities.
If you’ve been aghast at heating bills during the cold winter months, you might consider a new high efficiency furnace qualifying in Colorado for a $120 rebate from Xcel Energy. Or perhaps you’d benefit from a more efficient water heater— a standard tank qualifies for a rebate up to $90 while a tankless water heater might get you a $100 rebate.
Experts agree that one of the most cost effective efficiency improvements you can make is to add insulation and air sealing, akin to throwing a blanket on your home. Xcel Energy is offering up to $300 in rebates for such improvements.
Rebates vary by locale. For information, check out the Xcel Energy website: http://www.xcelenergy.com/rebates. For more comprehensive information on rebates, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at http://www.dsireusa.org/
If you have a fireplace that you don’t use, it may be one of your home’s biggest energy wasters during the winter. Your fireplace likely has a damper and if it is not closed, warm air can escape all day up the chimney. It’s like keeping a window wide open on a cold day.
Even if the damper is shut, it may not be tight enough to prevent air from leaking. Luckily there are plenty of options for sealing the leak. For example, inflatable rubber plugs allow you to seal the chimney, but change your mind down the road. You can also add caulking around the hearth.
If you do use your wood-burning fireplace, make sure you don’t close the damper until the fire is completely extinguished.
A variety of inserts are available to increase the efficiency of your fireplace. Most have tight-fitting doors and air-circulation features to blow the heated air back in your room. One of the most efficient options is to explore burning wood pellets.
If you are looking to replace your wood fireplace with a gas log model, you’ll face a choice of either a standing pilot light, which is lit all the time, or one with electronic ignition. The electronic ignition models are more efficient because they only burn gas when they are turned on.
Learn more about how to choose an efficient solution for your fireplace: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/space_heating_cooling/index.cfm/mytopic=12570
This year, consumers have more energy-saving light bulb choices than ever before and can save up to $100 a year on electricity bills with smart lighting choices.
Thanks to a 2007 law signed by George W. Bush, new lighting efficiency standards start phasing in this year. Manufacturers in 2012 must offer bulbs about 25 percent more efficient than traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs.
Choices abound: consumers can get the look of an incandescent with a more efficient halogen incandescent bulb that can save $3 over its lifetime.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) offer the best bargain, using about 75% less energy and lasting up to 10 times longer. If you buy CFLs in a pack, you can get them for $2 or less each and each bulb can save up to $50 over its lifetime, according to the Lumen Coalition.
And the most efficient bulbs of all are Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which can save more than 75% in energy costs and last up to 25 years. Their upfront cost is higher but they can save you money over their long life. More and more styles are coming on the market and it's worth doing a careful cost comparison, taking into account how long they last.
The new lighting standards will save our nation as much as $10 billion dollars a year and the amount of electricity generated by 30 large power plants, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
If you are planning to do a retrofit of your business, check with your utility to see if rebates are available. Xcel makes it very attractive for small businesses to upgrade to more efficient fluorescent lighting, for example.
If you are considering a home retrofit, there are issues to consider such as the type of fixture you have, whether you want the bulbs to dim, and what "color'' of light you prefer.
Learn more about lighting choices at the Lumen Coalition: http://lumennow.org/energy-saving-choices/.
Don't forget your microwave oven.
According to Energy Star, you can reduce the energy used in cooking by up to 80 percent by using your microwave for small portions. Microwaves are much more efficient for defrosting that frozen meat or vegetables than heating up a whole oven.
Microwaves use high-frequency radio waves to heat water molecules inside food, and can reduce the cooking time and energy needed for preparing certain foods, especially in small amounts.
While you are cooking, be sure to keep the inside of the microwave clean so energy goes toward your food, not the oatmeal you forgot to wipe up this morning.
While cooking on the stove top, make sure your pots cover the burner completely to get full benefit of the heat.
And however you are cooking, use the smallest pan that fits the food so you aren’t heating up more pan than you need.
Your refrigerator is probably the kitchen’s biggest energy user, so make sure that you aren’t leaving it open unnecessarily as you are preparing your holiday feasts.
During the holiday season, people in the U.S. generate an extra 3 million tons of household waste. We waste three times as much food as at other times of the year, according to the Worldwatch Institute.
Here are 10 tips for reducing your food waste this season, provided by the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization:
1. Be realistic: The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Instead, plan out how much food you and your guests will realistically need, and stock up accordingly.
2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before heading to the grocery store. Sticking to this list will reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessary quantities, particularly since stores typically use holiday sales to entice buyers into spending more.
During the meal: Control the amount on your plate to reduce the amount in the garbage.
3. Go small: The season of indulgence often promotes plates piled high with more food than can be eaten. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. Guests can always take second (or third!) servings if still hungry, and it is much easier (and more hygienic) to use leftovers from serving platters for future meals.
4. Encourage self-serve: Allow guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat. This helps to make meals feel more familiar and also reduces the amount of unwanted food left on guests' plates.
After the meal: Make the most out of leftovers.
5. Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.
6. Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps from making your meal, consider composting them. Individual composting systems can be relatively easy and inexpensive, and provide quality inputs for garden soils.
7. Create new meals: If composting is not an option for you, check out Love Food Hate Waste's creative recipes to see if your food scraps can be used for new meals. Vegetable scraps and turkey carcasses can be easily boiled down for stock and soups, and bread crusts and ends can be used to make tasty homemade croutons.
8. Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. The charity group Feeding America partners with over 200 local food banks across the United States, supplying food to more than 37 million people each year.
9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cases, food-recovery systems will come to you to collect your excess. In New York City, City Harvest, the world's first food-rescue organization, collects approximately 28 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise go to waste, providing groceries and meals for over 300,000 people.
Throughout the holiday season: Consider what you're giving.
10. Give gifts with thought: When giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit, works with farmers and producers in tropical areas to ensure they are practicing environmentally sustainable and socially just methods. The group's certified chocolates, coffee, and teas are great gifts that have with long shelf-lives, and buying them helps support businesses and individuals across the world.
One of the most important things to do when you crank up the furnace in the fall is to replace your furnace filter—and then check it every month.
If it has a gray furry look like a mouse pelt, you can be thankful you caught all that gunk before it entered your lungs. And that’s a good sign it’s time for a fresh white filter. Most sizes of standard filters are available at home improvement stores and even grocery stores. They vary in price depending on how much dust they can catch.
Replacing filters frequently allows the furnace to pull air with less labor and thus to use less energy. And it keeps dust and dirt from clogging up the heating system as well as your breathing tubes.
Fall is the ideal time for a furnace check and “tune up’’ as well. As the biggest user of natural gas in your home, your furnace will use about 5 percent less gas if it is clean, lubricated and property adjusted.
Make sure the furnace can do its job by checking that the vents are not covered by furniture, drapes or those old boots you forgot about. Letting warm air circulate freely will spread more warmth for less money.
You can make a real difference in cutting pollution by making a simple change that won't cost you anything and, in fact, will save you money on your heating bills.
What’s the change?
Wash all your clothing in cold water.
Heating the water for each load of wash accounts for nearly 90 percent of the energy used by your washing machine. The Sierra Club estimates that one household can eliminate 1,600 pounds of annual carbon dioxide emissions simply by washing all the clothing in cold water.
Worried that your clothing won’t get as clean? New detergents are made to work just as well in cold water as in hot water. And they don’t generally cost any more. So you’ll end up saving money and saving energy as well.
In fact, Proctor & Gamble has teamed up with the Alliance to Save Energy to get the word out about the value of converting to cold water washing. The groups hope to educate 100 million U.S. households by Earth Day 2013 about cold-water washing, and they want to convert 70% of washing machine loads to cold water washing by 2020.
Here are some other tips from the Alliance to save more energy while doing your laundry:
• Do full loads of laundry. Running the washer for a partial load wastes water and energy.
• Do not over-wash clothes. Use a shorter cycle for clothes that are only slightly soiled..
• Clean the dryer lint filter after every load. A lint-free filter improves air circulation and quickens drying. Dirty filters can become a fire hazard.
• Separate light and heavy items before drying. Lightweight items take less drying time, so don’t mix your underwear and t-shirts with your towels. Consider line-drying your towels, if not all your laundry.
• Don't over-dry clothes. Take clothes out while they are still slightly damp to reduce the need for ironing — another energy user. If your dryer has an auto-dry feature, use that instead of the timer.
Rather than pay for an expensive gym visit, consider putting some muscles to work in your yard this fall. You can save energy, improve your personal habitat and burn calories all at the same time. Roughly 20 percent of what we send to landfills every year is yard waste and ALL of it can be recycled. Think of the impact of eliminating one in every five trash truck trips in your community.
If you haven’t started yet, this is a good season to start to compost your yard waste, including raked up leaves, pruned twigs from bushes, and those annual plants transformed from glory to finished after the first hard frost.
To make compost, alternate layers of materials by whether they are dry or green. Plants lose up to 75 percent of their volume in composting, so you can recycle a lot in a bin or corner of your yard. Many people include kitchen wastes such as coffee grounds, eggshells and fruit and vegetable trimmings. Composting is easy and results in a way to feed your garden either as a soil amendment or a mulch. There are many resources available to get you started. Colorado State University Extension offers a wealth of resources including a composting fact sheet.
While you are working in the garden, try raking by hand. The energy savings may surprise you: A leaf blower emits 34 times as much hydrocarbon pollution as a typical auto, per hour of operation. That’s more than a weedeater, which emits 21 times more, and a gas lawn mower, which emits at least 10 times as much!
If you don’t have your personal computer set to go to sleep after a brief period of inactivity, chances are you are letting it suck energy and money for no reason.
Many PCs have a sleep or power-down mode – but often, you have to set it through your operating system software. ENERGY STAR® computers consume 15 Watts or less power when they are put to “sleep’’, which is around 70% less electricity than a computer without power management features.Setting your computer to go to “sleep’’ saves much more energy than using screen-savers.
And while it may seem that it takes a burst of energy to start up your computer, the machine uses more when it’s running idly for long periods of time. Guidelines from the Department of Energy suggest you turn off the monitor if you aren't going to use your PC for more than 20 minutes and the whole system if you are leaving it for more than two hours. And if you plug everything into a power strip and flip off the switch while you are away, the computer won’t be using “vampire’’energy even when it is turned off.
Finally, when you are considering buying a new personal computer, remember that desktops use up to three times as much energy as laptops. Besides selecting a portable model, remember that selecting an ENERGY STAR rated model will ensure maximum savings.
Are you prone to letting your inner race car driver loose on the highway?
If you slam down on the gas pedal to speed around other cars and then pound on the brakes to slow down, you might be wasting money as well as putting yourself in danger. You can decrease the mileage your car gets by about a third through speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. That can add up to about $900 a year in wasted gas.
Even if you only drive like a jackrabbit around town, you can lower gas mileage by about 5 percent.
One of the best ways to cut your gas bills is to slow down. Mileage decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour, the Alliance says. Each 5 mph over 60 equates to paying about a quarter per gallon more for gas.
Refrigerators account for nearly 10 percent of your total home electricity bill and run all the time, so paying attention to these big units are worth your time.
You can give your fridge a longer life if you keep the coils clean—check out whether they are behind or underneath the unit and save money by using a vacuum on them regularly.
If your refrigerator dates to the 1980s, a new model can save you $100 a year in electricity savings. If your fridge is even older—dating to the 1970s, you can save about $200 a year by replacing it. And if you have an old fridge in the garage keeping a few drinks cool, it's likely costing you much more in electricity than it's worth. Not every fridge is the same—be sure to look for the Energy Star label and compare estimated electricity costs as you shop.
Refrigerators will continue to improve. New efficiency standards approved by the Department of Energy will drive more innovation while ensuring that fridges use only one-fifth the energy they used to. Once they take effect in 2014, the new standards will mean a typical fridge will use $215 to $270 less per year in electricity than a comparable 1978 unit.
Over 30 years, the new standards will save roughly enough energy to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year, according to the DOE. Over the same 30-year period, and taking into account up-front costs, consumers will save up to $36 billion.
More efficient refrigerators will cut CO2 emissions by an amount equal to the pollution of about 67 million cars, and reduce other pollutants dramatically. U.S. refrigerator manufacturers have already begun making investments needed to meet the 2014 standards.
While a big refrigerator or air conditioning system might seem like your home’s biggest energy user, a recent study found that much smaller devices eat more power in many homes.
Turns out that the 160 million set-top boxes in the U.S. last year consumed about 27 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, or the annual output of nine average ( 500 MW) coal-fired power plants. The power costs consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Ecos.
A big problem is that the boxes that bring you cable and digital recording ability use just about as much power when they are off as when they are on. We spend $2 billion a year as a nation powering the boxes when they are not in use. Plugging them into a power strip and leaving them off when you’re not using them can help save power and money. And convincing your cable or satellite provider to replace inefficient boxes with newer ones that hog less energy will save you more.
The average food on your plate travelled 1500 miles to reach you. But especially this time of year, you can slash the amount of oil and gas it took to get that food to your table and enjoy the freshness you are adding! You’ll get the best nature has to offer if you eat locally. It’s not too late to convert some of that thirsty bluegrass in your backyard to some fast-growing crops you can harvest in the fall. Farmers’ Markets are bursting this time of year with melons, corn, fruit and just about every kind of green vegetable you can imagine. And when you meet up with friends for a meal out, look for restaurants that serve locally grow food. Here’s one of many websites to help you get started on the local eating path: www.localsustainability.net .
There’s an easy way to save money and help the environment, and you can do it every day:
Drink tap water and not bottled water.
An average of 38 billion water bottles per year-- 85 percent of those consumed in the U.S.-- end up in the trash, according to American Water. It takes more than 1.5 million gallons of oil to make these bottles.
Consumers can enjoy water from the faucet for less than a penny a gallon on average, and tap water is subjected to rigorous testing to make sure it is safe. Bottled water costs 250 to 10,000 times more depending on the brand, American Water estimates. So make friends with a reuseable water bottle, ensuring it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, and then refill it over and over and over.
Banish vampire energy!
When you squint and scan your living spaces, do you see little dots of light sprinkled like stars? While you can be lucky they’re most likely not miniature electronic spies watching you, they are more than likely energy vampires! That’s right, all those little green, red, blue and white lights signal that those electronic devices you turned off are still sort of on, sucking electrical current. They aren’t using as much electricity as if you were watching the plasma TV or video chatting with your friends on Facebook, but the vampire energy really adds up. The Department of Energy estimates that 5 to 8 percent of your home’s total electricity use each month is blinking away. That could add up to nearly a whole month’s bill! Luckily there’s a simple fix: buy some power strips at your local hardware outlet and plug several electronic devices in before connecting the strip to an outlet. Then when you aren’t using the devices, simply turn the switch off with a tap of your foot. It’s just as easy to turn the power supply back on and enjoy your gadgets. But you won’t be feeding the energy vampires any more.
CHOOSE ECO-FRIENDLY PAINT!
Sometimes all it takes to brighten up your life is a new coat of paint on your walls. Do you ever ask yourself if the chemicals in paint are harmful to you and your family? The smell alone should clue you in that many paints contain harmful vapors. According to the EPA, the amount of pollutants inside a home is bad news compared to the more spacious greater outdoors. The paint on your walls contributes to these harmful pollutants, which can cause a plethora of health problems. Thankfully there are many eco -friendly paints on the market today to choose from. So when you are ready to paint that accent wall, home office, or baby nursery, head to your local paint supplier and ask about your options for low VOCs or no VOC paint. After all, you should be able to add color to your space without adding volatile organic compounds, otherwise known as VOCs.
But wait! There is one more very important and easy step to cleansing your indoor space and cutting down on indoor air pollution. When the weather is nice, open all your windows and let Mother Nature’s breeze in. Never underestimate the serenity of fresh air; your lungs will thank you. Just make sure your heat is off before you let any chilly air in!
Let the sun shine in!
Maybe you’d like to make a family game of turning off the lights in your home that aren’t in use and getting everyone in the habit of helping out. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save on your energy bills. Ten 100- watt lights left on for just an hour use one kilowatt hour of electricity. Multiply that 500 times and you have an entire month’s average household electricity use. Those overhead cans and upright torchieres, the chandelier above the dining table—even the bathroom globes -- they’re all using electricity and ticking pennies onto your bill every minute. Just get in the habit of thinking about flipping off the light switch when you leave a room or no longer are using even part of a room. Maybe it will help you to remind yourself of the connection between your electricity use and your bill by taping reminders near the switches. Maybe you want to come up with rewards for family members who do the best each month!
It's easy to take our household appliances for granted because they tend to be so reliable they keep on working until they, well, break down. But you can help prolong their life with simple cleaning this spring. Ridding your appliances of household dust will extend their life and improve their energy efficiency, Plus, the cleaning can alert you to more serious issues that might require repair or replacement. You can get in the habit of cleaning the clothes dryer's lint trap every time you turn it on.
In the kitchen, you can remove dust from the refrigerator's coils with a vacuum cleaner and clean the electric range reflectors to improve performance. And changing the furnace filter every month or so in cold weather can make a big difference.
It's also a good idea to have your furnace professionally checked every year. Your household appliances cost you about one-third of your monthly utility bill so keep them happy and humming and they'll work harder for you and charge you less. What a deal!
Switch to CFLs!
That’s right, a single CFL (compact fluorescent light) can save you $65 in electricity costs over its long life. If your house is still full of those quaint incandescent bulbs like Thomas Edison invented more than a century ago, you may have noticed that they literally give off more heat than light. Switching your light bulbs , especially the six or seven you use most, to energy-conserving compact fluorescents (CFLS) can make a surprisingly big difference in your energy bill. And retailers around the nation are offering them at low incentive prices because utilities know what a big difference they make. You may have heard the new twirly lights contain mercury. Some do, so it’s a good thing numerous hardware chains now offer a free recycling service.
Fix that leaky toilet!
U.S. homes may be wasting more than one trillion gallons of water each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A minor toilet leak can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water in one month in one home! With 36 states expected to face some kind of water shortage by 2013, that’s not only bad for your wallet, but bad for the community.
You can see if your home is leaking by checking your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak. Check your toilet for leaks by inserting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait 15 minutes. If food coloring appears in the toilet bowl, you have a leak. Leaky toilets are most often the result of a worn toilet flapper. Replacing the rubber flapper is a quick fix that could save a home up to 200 gallons of water per day, according to American Water.