When I was in college, I took a class called ‘Natural Resources’. That was 30 or so years ago and the call to action from that class hasn’t changed. Water and energy consumption was high, our resources were being depleted and our environment was getting weaker because of it. That’s not to say that action hasn’t occurred in the last 30 years, we’ve come a long way-we just have a long way to go. Just a few reminders of why it’s so important to remain vigilant: 1) preserve natural resources for our children and grandchildren; 2) save money on our energy and water bills; 3) minimize rolling black outs; 4) reduce carbon monoxide transmission into the air. That’s all easy by the way. Individuals embracing small, habit-changing steps to reduce energy and water consumption is the most important first step, with larger physical changes to our properties being part two. This article will be broken down into two parts with those steps in mind.
Cost effective ways to save energy-little or no money required(but you’ll save some!):
- Close drapes and blinds at night to help retain heat (I have found that sheers help too.)
- Open drapes during the day to allow the sun in.
- Keep the thermostat at 68 degrees when you are home and at 60 degrees at bedtime and 55 degrees when you are away.
- Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees
- Keep dryer vents clear and clean the lint filter after each use
- Use a toaster oven or microwave to heat small amounts of food.
- Use your dishwasher only for full loads
- Close fireplace dampers-this will keep heat from escaping through the chimney
- Conserve water-turn water off when brushing teeth, shaving and washing dishes
- Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator to avoid running the tap for cold water
- Get a reusable water bottle to carry with you in the car-eliminate plastic bottles
- Run large appliances during non-peak hours, such as washers, dryers and dishwashers
- Keep furnace and air conditioner filters cleaned monthly
- Unplug seldom used appliances-they still use power even when not in use
- Get rid of junk mail. Call or email to be put on the do not mail list www.DMAChoice.org or (212)768-7277 x1500 p
- Water early in the morning rather than mid-day
- Mulch your garden-this will reduce the need to water as often
Cost effective ways to save energy-graduate for more savings (some investment, but more return):
You might get some tax breaks or rebates for some of these to-dos. Check out the Flex your power website-it’s really comprehensive and easy to use. There are wonderful tools for identifying available rebates and incentives in your area. There are almost always programs available through PG&E, the SFPUC and the California Energy Commission. There have been cash for appliances programs in the past-check these websites to see if they are available now. www.fypower.org/res/ and www.cash4appliances.org
- Install low flow showerheads and sink aerators
- Get drips and running toilets fixed.
- Have your furnace checked annually to make sure it’s running efficiently
- Motion sensors for security lights
- Check heating ducts for leaks.
- Low flow toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush-replacement is now required at property sale in San Francisco City and County as of August 2009 (toilet dams are no longer allowed). A note that 1.6 gallons per flush is being altered-it will soon be reduced to 1.28 gallons per flush.
- Weather strip, caulk and paint around doors and windows to reduce drafts
- Insulate the hot water heater with an insulation blanket (be sure to have your hotwater strapped and braced at the same time for earthquake preparedness)
- Install a programmable thermostat
- Install a drip irrigation system for landscaping
- Plant drought tolerant plants
- Replace lawn with drought tolerant plantings
- Replace energy hog appliances with energy star appliances-there are always rebates of some kind. www.energystar.gov
It takes 28 days to form a habit, so let’s get started on those and in part 2 of this article, we’ll explore hard-core savings-looking at energy usage, rebates, tax incentives and installing solar panels.