Saturday, April 24, 2010

Energy Saving Tips- Water and Water Using Appliances

In honor of Earth Week, I'm pushing myself to put up as many tips on greening your life as possible. Unfortunately, I'm a little late, as yesterday was the last day of Earth Week. But since I aim to practice these things year round, I figure it doesn't much matter when they get posted. Come on, with me or against me people :P And for the record, what's up with giving our home planet one measly week? Everything else gets a whole month! Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Black History Month, both very important, National Poetry Month, Jazz History Month- but is our Earth not important? Sheesh. Heck, May is National Salad Month (and National Running Month)! Salad gets a month, but the place where the salad grows only gets a week? Oh, um, sorry....didn't mean to start this out with a rant.

Where was I...Oh, yes, energy saving tips.

I am not perfect. Really. I'm sure that comes as a tremendous surprise to all of you dear readers. I leave my laptop on most of the time. There are lights in our house that never get turned off. I leave the water running while I wash the dishes. I'm sure my list of sins doesn't end there, but those are the ones that jumped into my mind. For someone who thinks it's a shame to fire up the grill and not have enough food lined up to keep cooking until the coals are no longer hot enough, you'd think I'd toe the line better in other areas of my life. But sadly, I'm only human. I make mistakes.

But I'm trying to correct them.

Interestingly, or maybe conveniently, many of the things that we do that waste energy also waste our money. In fact, as those of you who have read my early entries know, nearly all of my first attempts to do more myself were spurred by financial motivation, and less for environmental reasons. At first it was just a happy side effect of my greening activities that the earth benefitted. So, if you're wanting to start being more ecologically minded, but are having trouble getting other members of your household on board, start with the pocketbook argument. If your significant other is grumbling and dragging feet, then point out that you potentially could save several hundred dollars a year, in some cases even more if your house is particularly rooted in the dark ages energetically speaking. Kids fussing about having to rinse their soda cans and separate the cereal bag from the box? Tie their recycling efforts into their allowance. And its adaptable. If you're one of those parents who thinks that a kid should earn every penny of their allowance, then tell your kid they stand to earn an extra dollar a week (or whatever you deem appropriate) for certain recycling activities, and another extra dollar for taking shorter showers, walking to the bus stop instead of insisting on a ride, turning off the lights, electronics, whatever attempts you are going to try to make to green-ify your household. I advise that you take baby steps. By making one change every week or so you wont' feel that you're changing every aspect of your life, and you'll quickly get to where you feel like you've done these things forever and can't imagine not doing them.

I've tried to make a list of the things that I have specifically done, things that I do that I think make a difference even though I've never read about them in an energy saving tip guide, and things that everyone should strive to do.

I've only really started getting really gung-ho about saving energy recently. The problem was brought to my attention about a month ago when suddenly our water bill jumped up by about $20 a month. I was horrified. And what was worse, I had no idea what would have made it do that. In retrospect, I should have known. At our old place, DH had taken the water miser out of the shower head. Our water bill was about $65 a month. At the new place, we decided to use the lovely rain shower head that came with the place. And lo and behold, our water bills were only about $42 a month. Then about 2 months ago, DH wondered aloud if the water miser was still in the shower head. I told him if it was to leave it there. Fast forward 1 month...water bill comes and is $65. We finally puzzled it out. He said he'd taken the miser out. I asked him to please put it back LOL- $240 a year is nothing to sneeze at! That really hammered home the point to me about how something so small could save you so much.

You can install low flow shower heads, or just pop a water miser in the one you have. You can also add water misers (or low flow aerators) to your sink faucets. A leaky faucet that drips 30 drops of water a minute can waste up to 50 gallons of water per month. Unfortunately for me, the water heater is the second largest energy consumer in most homes- 13% of energy usage. They tend to never get maintenance, and as a result they tend to get large deposits of minerals in them- which reduce their efficiency. Again, you have to pay for the water, and then pay to heat it. Not much I can do about the state of my water heater as I live in a rental. When we moved in, DH did turn the temperature down from 140 to 120 degrees. Turning your water heater down just 20 degrees will save you between 6-10% on your energy bill according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It also prevents scalding. (once again, doing one thing has an unexpected benefit!) If the temperature is warm enough that there is no risk of freezing, and you're going on vacation, you can turn the water heater off altogether. Just don't forget to turn it back on! Also, if you have a small family, get a smaller water heater. Why pay to heat water you don't need? Obviously, shorter showers will cost you less money, but shorter showers are also better for your skin. Long, hot showers strip your skin of vital minerals and oils, resulting in dry, flaky, sensitive skin. Showering every other day is even better for you. Same deal with washing your hair. Personally, I really can't wake up without a shower, but I've found that if I only wash my hair every other day, it's healthier, more vibrant and less prone to split ends. If I color it, washing every other day instead of every day makes the color last twice as long.

The other day I found someone giving away a water cooler for free. I've wanted one for years, ever since the first office I worked in that had one. But they're not cheap. And I was afraid that I might not use it enough to get my money's worth. And really, buying some places I've lived it was necessary because the water was just gross. But Olathe has some of the highest quality water anywhere in the US. I don't need to buy water. But I was getting tired of having a half dozen liter bottles of water taking up room in my fridge, and I really just didn't have the room in there for a gallon jug or two of water. So hubby and I drank water out of the tap most of the time. And of course, we'd let the water run for a minute to get good and cold. Well, my faucet puts out 2 gallons a minute- so if we really did let it run for a minute to get cold, times about 6 glasses of water a day for each of us- that's 24 gallons per DAY that we were wasting. The cooler does take some electricity to cool the water. It's not a huge energy hog, and DH and I love having cold water on tap! I'm hoping that 24 gallons a day really adds up in a way I can see on my water bill!

I did a little research: The average home divides their energy dollars up about like this: Space heating- 35.2%, Water heating- 13.1%, Space cooling- 10.8%, Lighting- 9.7%, Refrigeration- 6.6%, Electronics- 6.5%, Cooking-4.5%, Clothes dryers and dishwashers- 4.3%, Computers- 1%, Other- 8.4%. (2007 US DOE) You can save money on your bills by making your home more energy efficient. Taking steps toward becoming more energy efficient means you will get the most use out of every unit of energy you purchase, use energy wisely, and eliminate the ways your home wastes energy. Making your home more energy efficient will not only save you money, but will make your home safer and you more comfortable.

It recently came to my attention that simply turning of your dishwasher's heated dry cycle and opening it to dry the dishes cuts down its energy consumption by approximately half. I immediately switched off the heated dry cycle on my dishwasher. Of course, it probably goes without saying that you should only run the dishwasher when it is full- partial loads waste a lot of energy. You have to pay for the water, pay to heat the water, and pay for the electricity needed to run the dishwasher. A full load costs the same to run as a partial.

And now that I am paying attention, I run a bit of water into the sink, wash the dishes and then rinse them. I don't leave the water running. Yeah, sure I do still wash some dishes by hand- we just own some things that can't be put in the dishwasher. And I know that handwashing uses more water. But we do what we can. I do only run the dishwasher when it's full. We also don't leave the water running when we brush our teeth. I also make sure that I double check the washing machine before I walk away. I've always washed mostly in cold as it preserves your clothes from undue wear and tear. Hot water is really only necessary for VERY dirty clothes. But now I make sure that if I'm washing a small load, that "small load" is selected. Maybe it doesn't make a big difference, but a difference is a difference. Someday I'll buy a brand new washer. Someday. And when I do, it will be an energy efficient machine. I also make sure to not water my garden when there is rain in the forecast, my faucet doesn't leak, and I water early or late. I do use a sort of firehose attachment with an adjustable nozzle and a shut off when a drip hose would be better, but my drip hose idea just didn't work out....I had a grand ambition of burying a leaky old hose around my garden so that I could then just turn on the water and the buried hose would water my plants directly at their roots. But it didn't work out. Maybe next year. We also sweep our walk and driveway instead of hosing it down. I don't remember the last time I washed my car- probably NOT a good thing. But when I wash the car, I usually use a bucket instead of the hose. I could care less about my yard. I figure that the important part of my yard is the garden- which gives me something back in return for my time and money. The grass- well, if it can't survive on its own, it can just die. I'd rather have some creeping groundcover instead of grass anyway- you almost never have to mow it, it survives just fine on its own, and it smells nice. Still soft on your bare feet too, if you happen to be lucky enough to not live in a place that the former tenants used as a landfill. Barefoot in the yard is a luxury I do not have at present thanks to the wonderful tidy people who lived here before we did. If I were to water my lawn, I'd make sure to check the sprinkler so that I wasn't watering the driveway or walk. I don't have landscaping, but if I did I would pick drought resistant, semi-native plants. I've always wanted to convert my yard to native tallgrass prairie, but I have a feeling the neighbors wouldn't approve. That and my dog is very short, and doesn't much care for tall grass :P

So, writing down a list of everything I can think of that we are doing right makes me feel pretty good. Sure, we still do "bad" things- like leaving the light on in the basement. But overall when I look around, I can be proud of the efforts we are succeeding at.

No comments:

Post a Comment