Use Less, Pay Less, Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

I'm sure most of you consider yourselves at least somewhat diligent in the conservation of electricity in your homes. You know, turn off a few lights here and there, try to avoid messing with your thermostat (unless somebody else already messed with it, and it needs correcting).

But we've also all been conditioned to accept our monthly light bill as a necessary evil, and write our checks to the power company with mostly stoicism with a dash of regret, with possibly some vague determination to "be more conservative" in our daily switch-flicking.

But don't feel like you're out of touch with everybody else. Far from it. On average, we're not only using more electricity per person, there's a lot more of us doing it. We have electric outlets on nearly every wall of every room, but that's still not enough, right? Gotta get some of those power strips with eight plug-ins, and occasionally unplug one of those eight things to make room for something else that's hungry for power.

Anyway, you get my point. We're power-hungry devils, and the only thing missing from our repertoire of electric/electronic gizmos is an artificial intelligence, and it would probably lock us out of our house the first chance it got. Which...might not be a bad thing.

Well, the whole point of this blog was to get the following energy efficiency ideas in front of you, so here you go:

Tip #1 -- Replace your most frequently used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only a third as much electricity as a standard incandescent bulb. Because a compact fluorescent will usually last ten times as long as a regular bulb, which means it is will easily pay for itself. If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it would prevent enough pollution to equal the removal of one million cars from the road.

The only thing I would add to this is the fact that incandescent bulbs create light by releasing pure electricity into the air via an open filament, and they generate a lot of heat in the process. Heat that your air conditioner has to get rid of.

Tip #2 -- Replace outdoor lighting with a motion-detector equipped bulb or fixture.
Outdoor lights that are left on all night can add unnecessary waste energy and disturb wildlife. You can safely and efficiently light the outside of your home by installing light fixtures that are activated by motion sensor or a timer. These devices will keep areas well lit when you need them to be while reducing your energy bill

Not to mention they can scare the crap out of door-to-door salesmen and people trying to save your soul by banging on your door right when you set dinner on the table.

Hot Water shouldn't be a drain on your wallet.
Over 10% of your energy bill goes to heating water for your dishwasher, shower, and faucets. You can cut this energy use, and your energy bill, by implementing these easy steps.

Tip #3 -- Lower your hot water heater to 120 degrees and drain any sediment.
Though you need to keep your water heater above 120 degrees to prevent bacteria from building up, many hot water heaters are set too high. Draining some water a few times a year reduces sediment and increases efficiency.

Tip #4 -- Add insulation to your hot-water heater.
The standard hot water heater is on all the time, adding extra insulation will save more energy than you think. Most hardware stores sell pre-made insulator "jackets" that can be easily wrapped around one's water heater. Adding insulation to your water heater and any exposed pipes can knock up to 15 percent off the costs of heating water.

Tip #5 -- Install a low-flow shower head.
Low-flow shower heads are also a worthwhile investment (especially for renters, because you can take them with you) that will reduce the amount of hot water you use and hence the energy needed to heat it.

I'll be back at some other time to discuss our dwindling fresh water resources. Until then, please plug your sink and wash your dishes the old-fashioned way.

Heat your home - Not the planet.
Heating and cooling your home is the single largest expense on your energy bills. But taking steps to weatherize your home, you can make keeping your home a comfortable temperature easier and cheaper.

Tip #6 -- Check for and seal any cracks or gaps.
Heating one's home is the single largest use of energy for the average customer. Tiny gaps and cracks in an older home are roughly equivalent to a one-foot square hole punched in your wall, which means that sealing gaps with caulking and weather stripping makes a big difference in keeping the heat inside your home and saves you money.

Tip #7 -- Tighten Windows and Loosen Your Budget
If all windows were as efficient as the best products now widely available in the marketplace, the average household would save $150 a year, and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by about 4,300 pounds per year. A cheaper and easier method than replacing windows is to insulate your windows during the colder months with transparent film that keeps the heat in and the cold out.

Tip #8 -- Heating Ducts: Keep the air flowing
If just one in ten households used current technology to upgrade their inefficient heating systems, we could keep 17 billion pounds of pollution out of the air. You can also save money and cut pollution by having your heating vents and ducts cleaned regularly, and having your furnace serviced.

Tip # 9 - Sweaters are in this season, so lower your thermostat!
Besides insulation, you can make a big difference in your heating bill by keeping your home at a slightly lower temperature. Lowering your thermostat one degree can cut as much as 10% of your heating bill.

Being an ex-Army guy, I can tell you the best way to stay comfortable is wearing a good pair of socks. You can set your thermostat at 85 degrees in the winter, but if your feet are cold, you're cold.

Tip # 10 -- Replace old appliances with more efficient models.
Though buying a new appliance isn't cheap, replacing an old appliance, like a refrigerator, washing machine, or furnace -- with a new, energy-efficient model can significantly cut your energy bill. Look for the Energy Star label as a minimum; some models can be even more efficient. And though buying a new appliance is a major investment, many states and utility companies offer substantial credits or other incentives to replace an outdated appliance with a more efficient one.

Tip # 11 Defrost your Freezer
The frost and ice that builds up in your freezer over time does more than make it hard to get to your ice cream - it also causes your freezer to work harder to keep the freezer at a cold temperature. By routinely defrosting your freezer, you can keep your ice cream cold and the planet cool.

Tip # 12 - Dirty Clothes, Clean Planet
Modern washing machines and detergents can clean clothes effectively in cold water - which means you don't have to waste energy by using hot water. Another way you can save energy in your washer-dryer and your dishwasher is to always wash full loads.

Alright, that's it. You can go now, but hurry up and shut the door—you're letting all the cool air out.


Thank you sir!

I've recommended to keep this up on the top of the page.

Thank you, James.

One thing I did forget to mention was the importance of air movement in both cooling and heating your home.

Keep air filters clean. A dirty air filter reduces air flow, causing your system to run much longer than necessary. You can vacuum dust off the filter a few times before having to replace it, but no matter how clean it looks, if the surface of the filter becomes concave, that means the air is struggling to get through. Time for a new one.

Ceiling fans blow down (counter-clockwise) in the summer, upwards (clockwise) in the winter.

my favorite is the "sprinkler" treatment

Thanks for the good tips.

You recommended:

Not to mention they can scare the crap out of door-to-door salesmen and people trying to save your soul by banging on your door right when you set dinner on the table.

Usually we see these people coming from up the street, so in the spring and summer, I just set up the sprinklers on the sidewalk close to the front door.

Excellent Tips.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

the careful shopper...

...will find compact flourescents dirt cheap or free with a bit of efffort, but don't forget... most cases these lamps do not work with dimmers, and unexpected sparking and odd smells are the hints that you've done something really wrong.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965


I'll be back at some other time to discuss our dwindling fresh water resources. Until then, please plug your sink and wash your dishes the old-fashioned way.

I am pretty sure a full dishwasher uses less water and cleans dishes better than handwashing.

Unfortunately, a lot of people

rinse their dishes off before they put them into the dishwasher, so they're wetting them twice. And they're using super-heated water in the dishwasher.

But you're right—the newer, more efficient models don't use nearly as much water as the older ones.

Progress on Energy

From NC, Citizen-Times:
Sustainable Energy Council grows out of grassroots concern

From the U.S., "Rachel's Democracy & Health News" #921:
Carbon-free and Nuclear-free: A Detailed Energy Plan for the U.S. - by Peter Montague:

Rachel's introduction:

A new report offers a blueprint for a U.S.
energy system with no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and no nuclear
power plants, achievable within 35 to 60 years. The blueprint
provides a solid platform for climate justice activism. Has your
favorite Presidential candidate taken a position on this report yet?

Candidates for other offices can be asked to take a position on the report, too. :)

Reduced footprint + sustainable blueprint = two pronged solution.

I like it a lot, but

unfortunately we don't have 35 years left before emissions reach critical levels. More like 15 maybe, depending on who you talk to.

While we're researching technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and cold fusion, we need to already be using stuff that works (even if it is expensive) like Solar, Wind, plug-in hybrid cars, etc.

"The People" act.

We do the best we can in the time we have to work with.

OK, make that a three pronged solution - adding Solar, Wind, etc as the intermediate steps (instead of coal and nukes).

1. Reduce Footprint (Great potential. Volumtarily or involuntarily is the question).

2. Solar, Wind, etc. for intermediate needs (even if expensive; not coal and nukes).

3. Sustainable Blueprint (Encouraging steps:).
A grassroots group tackling the issues on the state level, and a scientific study (which appears to be free of corporate manipulation) on the national level: two encouraging developments towards "putting the brakes on climate chaos", and developing solutions that do not "prioritize economic growth over the future of our planet".

At Camp for Climate Change at London's Heathrow airport earlier this month, camp activist Leila Harris told reporters before Sunday's march,

"This week has. . . shown that people have had enough. We've had enough of the prioritization of economic growth over the future of our planet. . . . We are the only people who can put the brakes on climate chaos."

Emphasis mine.

After recent state and federal examples of industry writing environmental legislation, it is good to see these actions from "the people".

Absolutely correct.

This struggle has been hampered by economic guidelines for too long. False economies, actually, because relocating hundreds of millions of people from coastal areas that are going to be flooded by rising seas will cost a hell of a lot more than the money saved by continuing to burn fossil fuels.

After recent state and federal examples of industry writing environmental legislation, it is good to see these actions from "the people".

I think it's the only way to force our elected officials to stop allowing/relying upon the utilities to determine public policy. Which is a shame, but I'm not above using shame to save our future.

False economies ...

Toxins in the water, air and soil from nukes and burning fossil fuels may substantially undermine our physical and mental health long before the need for relocations from coastal areas ... and at a far greater "cost".

I'm cooking today so here's an energy saver for pasta


1. Boil lots of water, enough for at least one inch above the pasta.
2. When boil is reached, add your pasta.
3. Turn OFF the heat, add a lid, and REMOVE the pan from the burner.
4. Set a timer for 15 minutes and THEN drain off water.
5. Makes perfect pasta every time.
6. I do this with frozen ravioli, too, but it only takes 10 minutes or so.
7. What's funny is that this seems to work for most types of pasta I prepare, without adjusting the timing.
8. I rarely do angel hair or other fine varieties, but they would probably take less time.
9. Play with it and set your own timings.


Have you called to support H. Res 333 Impeach Cheney Today? call 202-224-3121 & ask for your Congress member by name

That's cool! (Literally, I suppose it's hot.)

I will try it! We eat a lot of pasta in this house. You'll know it from my Olde-Worlde figure as soon as you meet me. :)

A couple of things I've tried - mostly out of desperation, or trying to conserve my own personal energy, not electricity. When I think about it, though, they would also save a little water, and a little energy. And a little bit here and there helps, yes? Anyhow - here they are:

Lasagna noodles cook quite well if you simply layer them in the pan with the other ingredients. You don't have to pre-cook them. Pasta like penne, ziti, etc. cooks pretty well right in the sauce. It takes longer, but if you're already simmering the sauce, and you know you want all of it coated, well. . . just dump the pasta in the sauce pot. It takes a little testing to see when the pasta is done to your taste, and you've got to be sure it's stirred well, but it works.

And yes, several generations of my Italian ancestors are rolling over in their graves as I type this.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Now you're cookin' ...

... sustainably!

We're learning from each other, except maybe for that to dishwasher or not to dishwasher thing.

Progress, one pot of pasta, one light bulb (preferably off), etc. at a time ...

Plus pressure on industry to "make the widgets sustainable, sustainably".