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December 17 2010

Top Tips for a Green Holiday!

by April

Top Tips for a Green Holiday

Despite the economy, the lines in every store I’ve been to are just as long as ever.  Nonetheless, I am full of holiday cheer (and bourbon laced eggnog) and ready to pass on my tips for a green holiday, whatever that holiday might be!

• Plan your shopping in advance: save gas by making one horrendous day of shopping rather than a multitude of small trips and get as much at one store as you can.

• Send E-cards and gift cards!

• When shipping: small items require less packing, try to pack items in recycled newspapers rather than Styrofoam.

• Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide them and give them a list of clues.  When you do wrap, reuse as much paper, bags, and ribbons as possible.  Wrap items in newspaper (comics are great), brown paper grocery bags, and kids artwork from school.

If every family reused just two feet of ribbon there would be enough to tie a bow around the entire planet!

For tips on energy saving dinners and parties check out my Thanksgiving blog.

Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone!

 


December 10 2010

Let’s Get Cooking on Saving Energy #2 – The Oven!

by April

All right, before we tackle all that holiday cooking let’s jump on that oven!  Get out your mitts and help lower your energy usage with these handy tips:

Saving Energy During Holiday Cooking

• Use glass and ceramic dishes.  They hold heat better and you can lower the temperature of your oven by 25 degrees.

• Save energy by cooking entire meals in the oven at the same time.

• A microwave is best for thawing and cooking small portions – use the oven for the big items or multiple items at the same time.

• Small appliances are often a good choice for cooking and saving energy.  Crock Pots are terrific and offer great winter comfort food.

• Preheat only if the recipe calls for it and don’t preheat if you are using the broiler.

• Use the window on the oven to check the food; yes you may need to clean it.  You lose 25 to 75 degrees of heat every time you open the oven while cooking.  Food takes longer to cook and uses more energy- so, no peeking!

• If you have a self-cleaning oven and use this feature – clean it immediately after you’ve cooked.  The oven will already be hot and take less energy to get to the heat needed for the cleaning stage.

Next week will be the Green Christmas blog – don’t miss it!

 


December 03 2010

Let’s Get Cooking on Saving Energy – The Stove

by April

Tips on Saveing Energy at Home - Stove

Since these are the months that I spend the most time in the kitchen, here are the tips I can pass on to help you save energy at home and save your green! This week let’s check out that stove:

• Thaw foods and cut vegetables into small pieces.  They’ll take less time to cook.

• Put lids on pots and pans and make sure they are the right size for the burners.  Foods will cook faster and use less energy.

• Clean the reflector pans under the burners – they reflect more heat when they are clean and shiny.

• If the flames on your gas oven or stove are yellow, energy is being wasted and the burners need to be adjusted.  Call an appliance repair professional.

• When your electric burners are worn and don’t work properly they use more energy.  Save by replacing them.

• Time to buy a new stove?  Choose a model that has electric igniters instead of pilot lights for more efficiency.

Get your mitts out - next week we tackle the oven!

 


November 24 2010

Top Tips for a Green Thanksgiving!

by April

Green Thanksgiving Tips - Thanksgiving Table

That’s right, a green Thanksgiving!  On a day known for waste let’s see what we can do to save!  Here are the best tips I’ve found:

• Skip the turkey.  I can’t even write that without laughing, but I have to put it out there.  I’m sure you have animal rights friends, I have one (yes, Racheal, it’s you) that will tell you what a drain livestock are on the planet and how terrible the treatment is for those poor, delicious birds.

• If dinner is somewhere else, carpool if you can.

• If dinner is at your house, turn down the heat before guests arrive.  The body heat will keep the house surprisingly warm.

• Don’t buy a bunch of cheap decorations that were made out of the country and will be unusable next year.  Fill jars with fallen leaves, cut rosemary, pinecones, or winter flowers from your yard, or your neighbor’s.

• Plan food portions wisely.  If you are like me and still can’t figure out how much spaghetti your family can eat at one sitting, check out Use Less Stuff.
It shows an average of how much to make for each person.

• If you do make too much and know you won’t eat ALL the leftovers, donate to a local food bank or shelter.  And if you don’t compost your organic scraps (potato peels, celery tops, etc.) at least throw them in the green can with your yard trimmings.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 


November 19 2010

Warming Your Home Part 2 – The Thermostat!

by April

Energy Saving Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat (sometimes called a setback thermostat) is a great investment. You might already have one and not know it so check your manual. It lets you set your heat to come on before you get out of bed (so you don’t have to run the heater all night) and back down when you go to work and back up right before you come home (so you don’t have to run it all day). Installing one at the onset of winter can save you up to 20% this season, recovering your costs the very first year.

More tips on saving energy with your thermostat:

• Turn down the heat -duh. Seriously, if you normally have it set for 71 degrees, try it at 70 or lower. You’ll typically save 1-3 percent on your heating costs for every degree you dial down.

• Set it lower, such as 65 degrees, if you will be away for a short time.

• If you’ll be away for five hours or more set it at 58 degrees. You’ll use less energy to heat the house when you return than if you keep it warm while you are away. Again, here is a time when it is great to have a programmable thermostat so it can get going right before you come home.

Warmer temperatures are recommended for babies, the elderly and infirm. We want to go green, people, not blue!

 


November 12 2010

Cool Your Heels on Warming That Home!

by April

Home heating is THE LARGEST use of energy and offers the greatest opportunity for saving your green this winter. Nearly 40 percent of your home energy costs go to heating. Here’s how you can save:

The Heat Lost In Your Home

• Clean or replace the furnace filter at least TWICE during the cold season. Furnaces use less energy if the airways are clear.
• Keep furniture, carpet and drapes from blocking vents.
• Set a ceiling fan at low speed to push the warm air away from the ceiling and spread it evenly throughout the room.
• Have your heating ducts and furnace professionally inspected and tuned.
• Use space heaters instead of the furnace when you can, and only if you are in the room with the heater! Don’t heat the whole house if it is just one or two people are spending the entire evening in one room, such as the family room in the evening and the bedroom at night.
• Wear warmer clothes around the house or office, even if it is just a long-sleeved shirt, and sleep with an extra blanket.

PLEASE NOTE: Warmer temperatures are recommended in homes with ill or elderly persons, as well as infants.

You can also keep that heat in by taking care of the seals in your home. Check out my Save The Seals blog. When it comes to energy, what’s good for the summer goes good for the winter!

 


September 24 2010

Conserving Energy via The Tankless Water Heater

by April

How a Tankless Water Heater Works

Since water heating is typically the third largest energy expense, accounting for about 14 percent of your utility bill, another opportunity to save some green is by going tankless. 

Traditionally, water heaters are huge storage tanks of water that are constantly kept hot, which means you are constantly using energy.  A tankless water heater uses either a gas or electric heating unit to heat water as it is needed.  Picture a small box under your sink, plugged into an outlet, which intercepts the cold water and heats it before it comes out of the faucet. 

One drawback is that it may not be enough for simultaneous water heating, for instance taking a shower while the dishwasher is running.  This can be avoided by installing two or more of the heating units in your home, i.e. one for the appliances and another for general use.  A big plus for the tankless heaters: they can be up to 50% more efficient than the traditional tank heaters.

For more information on tankless water heaters - how they work, who makes them, how they are installed, as well as a buying guide – check out:
http://www.tanklesswaterheaterguide.com/

 


September 17 2010

Getting Out of Hot Water: The Water Heater

by April

How To Drain Your Water Heater Tank

Water heating is typically your third largest energy expense, accounting for about 14 percent of your utility bill, let’s see where we can shave some of that off!

• Don’t leave the water running while you shave (or brush your teeth)

• Install a low flow aerator on your shower head, you’ll use less water and hardly notice a difference if you notice one at all

• Set your water heater temp for 120 degrees, lower if you like cooler showers – if you like ‘em hot, make ‘em shorter

• Check to see if your water heater has a “vacation” setting, use it if you will be away for more than two days

• Fix defective plumbing or defective faucets, a single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons per month

• Keep your water hot by making sure pipes in unheated areas are insulated

• Put and insulating blanket (not a regular blanket!) around your water heater

• Always use cold water when it will do the job as well as hot

• Once a year, drain your water heater tank completely (my husband gets to do this next weekend).  Then turn the incoming water on and off repeatedly for about 20 seconds.  You wouldn’t believe the sediment that builds up in there, and this helps flush it out and make your water heater more effective.

When it’s time for a new water heater, you can get some great tips at: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/

Tune in next week when I go tankless!


August 13 2010

Recycle Big, Save Big

by April

Recycle

While you are crushing all those old cans to recycle you might want to take a look at where those cans are coming from - that old fridge.  More than 70% of the energy being used in your home is going toward appliances.  If you have one of those nasty old refrigerators or freezers in your garage (like I do), or the one in your house looks depression era (like my mother’s), even more of that energy is being drained away.  Consider recycling it. 

Most electric companies will haul away the old ones for free, and some (like So Cal Edison) will even give you money for it.  So Cal Edison offers $50, PLUS another $50 rebate if you purchase a qualified Energy Star fridge to replace the old one.  For more information check out: www.sce.com or the website of your local electric company - you can usually find it on your bill.

 


July 30 2010

The Phantom (energy) Menace!

by April

Since my son is having himself a Star Wars marathon this week, I thought this week’s blog should be dedicated to that which plagues us all but few of us know of – The Phantom Menace.  Mostly known as phantom energy, phantom power, vampire power, etc. – it is the electricity your appliances and other gadgets are using even when they are turned off.  Most people pass this off as an urban myth but it is true, to the tune of 10 billion dollars wasted every year in the U.S. alone.  So yes, all those things plugged into your walls that aren’t even on - from plasma televisions (these are the worst) to computers and down to your cell phone charger – are sucking energy from your home and money from your wallet.  Unplugging everything can be more than annoying so consider grouping things on power strips (TV, DVD, and DVR on one, computer and chargers on another) that you can turn off at night or when you leave the house.  Yes, the DVR still works and records your stuff.  Check out http://www.vampirepowersucks.com to see a rolling ticker of how much we are losing to phantom power and calculate how much you use and lose.  So unplug those things – they suck!

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