Green Tips

Going Green Without Going Broke

Green_on_Green[ “Going Green and Staying in the Black” – continued]

Let’s talk about some specific things you can do immediately that will “reduce your carbon footprint.” Some of them don’t cost anything except some time and, if you applied them all, you could cut your electric bill by 50% or more. Think about what you could do with that much more disposable monthly income. This is not rocket science . . . it just takes putting your pencil to it and doing your “home” work:

  • Attic Insulation is the lowest cost and greatest money saving activity you can do for your home. Some homes built in the last 10 years are not well insulated, but particularly homes that are 20 years and older have high chances of being poorly insulated. Increasing the R value (all insulation has an R value rating) will lower your heating  and cooling bill significantly. Foil clad polystyrene sheathing is the most economical foam insulation available. The 4×8 panels are lightweight, easy to cut and can be nailed to the underside of your roof (foil side toward the roof) to make a cooler attic space. The installation of radiant barrier between current attic insulation and the roof gives amazing results. Remember that the best radiant barrier uses an air gap between the ceiling and the barrier to achieve maximum results. The best radiant barrier has top and bottom foil with bubble-wrap sandwiched in the middle. The least effective radiant barrier is the spray-on type.
  • Compact Fluorescent Lights [CFLs] usually consume about 4 times less Green_Bulb02electricity than regular incandescent bulbs. Here are a few tips to make sure you are really saving money. Be aware that these new bulbs all cost more than conventional bulbs, but sometimes you can find them on sale and the cost difference is minimal. Compare the life expectancy of the bulb, but don’t get overly impressed because I have seen energy-saving bulbs, from time to time, that have burned out faster than conventional bulbs. New technology isn’t always more reliable technology. Save the receipts and you can probably get a free replacement if they burn out within a year or two.
  • Light Emitting Diode [LED] Bulbs are just now coming to retail stores. These Green_led60super-efficient bulbs use 10 to 30 times less energy than incandescent bulbs. They are a little on the pricey side, but they last for 35,000 hours – at 3 hours a day average, that’s over 25 years. An incandescent bulb lasts for only about 1,000 hours. Even if you were to spend $20 for one of these 6-watt bulbs (60-watt incandescent bulb equivalent), you are saving money in just a very short time. If you already started replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFLs, just begin replacing with the LEDs. By the way, LEDs are the least toxic of all bulbs when it comes time to dispose of them.
  • Solar Tube Natural Lighting Systems have been around for decades, but SolarTubetechnology upgrades have made them more attractive as well as more energy efficient. They are tubes that are installed between your roof and your ceiling at various locations so you don’t have to turn on the lights during daylight hours. Some of these even come with energy-saver light bulbs installed so they can be used during the dark hours also. Certain brands have been awarded energy tax credit status that will offset a portion of their cost.
  • Other Energy-Saver Lighting Ideas include 1. installing dimmer switches to reduce the intensity of light in a room. 2. You could also install motion sensor switches that turn lights on when someone enters a room and turn lights off after there is no movement in the room. 3. With some multi-bulb light fixtures, you could remove one or more of the bulbs and not even miss them. 4. Consider replacing higher watt bulbs with lower watt bulbs if you don’t really need as much light in an area.
  • Do an Energy Inventory on your monthly lighting cost. Okay, this one takes a clipboardlittle time, but if you will make the time to do it,  I have no doubts you will discover how to save some money. Here is the procedure: 1. Count all the light bulbs you use. Don’t forget the bulbs outside. 2. As you count them, make a note of the watts for each bulb (example – 40, 60, 100) and estimate how many hours per (24hr) day that bulb is on. 3. Add up the total watts of all the bulbs. 4. Add up the total hours of daily usage. 5. Multiply the total watts by the total hours of daily usage. 6. Multiply this number by your electric rate (located on your monthly bill – note that this is the rate for 1000 watt hours or 1 kilowatt hour). This will give you your daily lighting cost. The number will not be very high (probably less than $10.00 – example: 20 bulbs x 75 watts = 1500 watts x 20 hours = 30,000 watt hours or 30 kilowatt hours x $.15 rate = $4.50). 7. Finally, multiply by 30.4 (average days in a month) to give you the average cost per month (in this example: $136.80 per month). 8. If you are considering using energy-saver bulbs, divide your final number by 4 to see how much less your monthly lighting cost would be ($136.80 with regular bulbs minus $102.60 savings from using CFL’s = $34.20 monthly lighting cost after changing bulbs). You could do this inventory on the total electrical consumption, but it is not always so easy to find wattage numbers on your stove, dishwasher, A/C, etc, and some items don’t display this information.
  • Electric Retailers are always competing. Even a few cents decrease in your electric rate can make a significant difference on your electric bill. If you are willing to commit to a six-month or a one or two-year fixed rate you can also save extra money. Some companies offer “average billing” to make your electric bill cost about the same every month.  This doesn’t save you any money, but it might make your budget easier by having a major monthly bill that doesn’t change with the weather.
  • Energy-Saver HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) units have an even larger impact on your electric bill. In the majority of cases the most significant percentage of your electric cost is heating and cooling. A comfortable indoor space costs some money, but it seems we are willing to spend it. Consult local companies or appliance retailers about a more efficient system. Some HVAC units have been awarded a tax credit incentive as high as $1500. Other incentives are available also, such as insulation, radiant barrier, attic ventilation systems, thermal windows and doors. When combined with the monthly savings of a smaller electric bill, these measures can sometimes completely pay for themselves in only one year.
  • Solar-Powered Attic Fans pull heat out of your attic on hot summer days to Solar_AtticFan01lower your need for air conditioning. They pay for themselves in only a few months. There is no wiring or switches. The fan turns on when the temperature in the attic reaches a certain level. It doesn’t turn on when the days are cooler and you need to retain heat in the attic to assist your indoor heating. Some of these also qualify for tax credits.
  • Instant Hot Water Heaters can also save you money. They are available in both electric and gas. They only use energy during the time you are using hot water, so they don’t keep warming the water when you’re not using it. You have to get informed, but some of them offer tax credits that are higher than the cost of the units themselves. Technological advances in this field have made these appliances as delightful to use as the savings benefit they offer. The nicest benefit is that you never run out of hot water.
  • Check your Refrigerator to prevent wasting energy and keep your food from spoiling. If your refrigerator is set below 37 degrees, it will use more electricity than necessary. In fact, a refrigerator set 10 degrees colder, will use 25 percent more energy. Dust off the coils on the back and underneath your fridge every six months. Dirty coils cause the refrigerator to use more energy and can make you think it is not working correctly. A full fridge retains cold better after the door has been opened, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the food cold.
  • Kitchen Appliances have undergone dramatic energy-saving changes as well. When shopping for countertop cooking units, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, washers,  dryers and other major appliances, be aware of the energy-saving green_Energy-Starfeatures they offer. For maximum energy saving benefits, you might consider an Energy Star appliance. Several brands carry the Energy Star label, signifying that it has been approved as an energy-saving appliance. With all the gadgetry and design built into appliances today, it is easy to overlook this aspect. The difference will save you the price of the appliance over a fairly short period of time.
  • Ceiling Fans can help you save money. They don’t actually change the temperature, but the air movement makes you feel cooler in warmer months so you can set your thermostat a few degrees higher. Effective circulation can make your room feel up to 8 degrees cooler and reduce your air conditioning bill by up to 40%. In colder weather heat rises and ceiling fans bring the heat downward to make the air around you warmer so you can set your thermostat a few degrees cooler. This technique has been proven to lower heating costs by as much as 10% by offsetting the work of your furnace. For maximum energy saving benefits, consider an Energy Star ceiling fan. Several brands carry the Energy Star label.
  • Energy Saving Gadgets that you can plug into a wall socket or mount next to your electric box could be money savers, but you have to know what you’re doing. These gadgets have different names, but basically they store electrical energy and then transfer that energy to a motor when it starts to absorb an energy spike. This prevents pulling extra power on start-up and reduces the electrical usage. First of all, not all of them work. Secondly, they don’t work on light bulbs or heating elements. They mostly work on things with electric motors, like your HVAC unit, your washing machine, your dryer, your vacuum cleaner. They have to be installed properly, so that the gadget is placed between the breaker box and the appliance. They have the potential to save you significant money and prolong the life of the appliance. Really do your “home” work on this one.green_world02
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