What’s the best way to help cut our impact on the planet from carbon emissions? Use less energy. Did you know that up to 20% of the electricity* that is produced in America is lost before it ever arrives to your home, office or church? Yep, it’s a well-kept secret that energy prodcuers don’t want you to know. Some of it is coal or natural gas lost in transit to generation stations. Most of it is the transmission of the electricity or natural gas to the end-user. You don’t get charged for the loss directly. It is built into the rates everyone is charged. But waste is waste, and we can all take part in reducing waste.
So, what’s the answer? Reduce your use. There are many ways to reduce your usage. Number one use? Air-conditioner. No, I am not telling you to turn off your air-conditioner. I live in Hotlanta after all and the rest of my family lives in even hotter places.
Here are a few tips to reduce your air-conditioning use. You can use the money you save on family vacation! When you are not at home set the thermostat to 80. Studies show that the myth that your air-conditioning unit will work harder, and you will use more energy to cool back down is false. So, when you leave the house adjust. If that seems too complicated, then install a programmable thermostat. Some of them will allow you and your hubby to both change the temperature from your phone. Plus, there might be a rebate from your local utility if you install a programmable thermostat. Also, in the morning you don’t really need to have your air-conditioning set to 72. Set it for 76 in the mornings and listen to how frequently it comes on. You will be surprised how little it does.
Often when I talk about shifting temperatures up when not at home, the question of pets comes up. Don’t worry cats and dogs have survived for millennia without air-conditioning and remember I am not saying shut it off. Just adjust when you are not at home. If you have a really shaggy pet, get them a shave. It will mean less shedding too and your pets will be fine.
Replace the light bulbs as they burn out and switch to LEDs. The cost of LEDs has dropped dramatically. Most LED’s last over 10 years now. Just think your children might never remember you having to replace your bulbs. The other thing LEDs help with are reducing heat in your home. There’s a reason a regular incandescent bulb was used in the Easy Bake oven. They produce enough heat to bake a miniature cake. Think about how much harder your air-conditioning is having to work when you are heating up your house with incandescent bulbs.
Do you know most appliances draw energy by simply being plugged in? If they stay plugged in the wall they are probably drawing some energy. This is called vampire energy because it is just sucking energy even when it’s “off”. The easiest way to stop this is unplug the appliances you don’t use every day. The blender, the food processor, the mixer, are all probably sitting on your counter not used every day. Maybe even the microwave, toaster oven, and toaster are sitting somewhere sucking up energy. The solution is so simple unplug them. Seems like too much trouble? Don’t worry plug them all into an electric strip and just flip the switch when you leave the kitchen. Still too much trouble? Plug the strip into a timer. Set the timer according to your schedule. Most people don’t use their appliances between the hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. That’s 10 hours of energy savings every day and 36,500 hours a year. See small things add up. Please note: I left the coffee maker alone!
Teach the kids to turn off the lights when they leave the room. This seems to be a chronic problem among American youngsters. If necessary, turn it into a game or give them a penny every time they remember to shut off a light when they aren’t in the room.
Here are other ideas. Seal and caulk windows and doors. Don’t seal your emergency exit windows but seal everything else. Put a hot water heater blanket around your hot water heater. It can reduce your energy use by up to 12%. Plant a tree next to the air-conditioner unit or move to a shady spot around the house. The unit will not have to work as hard because of the shade. Curtains can help block heat in the summer and clean windows help bring the sunshine in during the winter. Close vents in rooms that aren’t used as much. They will still get circulation, but they don’t need as much air because no one is in the room. It will also allow the air-conditioner to serve the rooms with open vents better.
Share the Energy Efficiency Love
Now that you are an energy efficient expert, why not share that energy savings love? If you are a member of group who is looking for a mission project, then why not distribute energy efficient kits to your elderly and shut-ins at church? Here’s a sample list of what the kit can contain:
- 10 LEDs – use an assortment of wattages
- 2 LED night lights
- One electrical strip
- One roll of weather striping and/or tube of caulking
- Hot water heater blanket
- A list of energy efficient tips
Here’s how this works. Get a list of members who might benefit from the church. Do the visit in a team of two. The average house has 45 light bulbs. We are not trying to replace every bulb. When visiting a home, just replace the bulbs that are most used. You may not even use all 10. The bulbs you replace can be saved for the homeowner to use in the less used fixtures. Night lights that are LED are another way to help. If you don’t use all the bulbs, that’s okay you can use the leftovers at the next home. Use the strip where the most appliances are and explain why you are doing it. Get trained on how to seal windows at your local hardware store. Remember don’t seal the window that will be used in case of an emergency but seal all the other windows. Sometimes that includes individual window panes. The hot water heater blanket should be installed if it’s easy to reach. I would never ask anyone to install it on a hot water heater in a crawl space. If the hot water heater is accessible in the basement or a closet, then you can install a blanket. Once again you don’t need one for every house you visit. Finally, have a list of energy efficient tips and go over them with your recipient. You might be thinking this is starting to add up but depending on how many you do you can buy in bulk. Also, your local utility company might be able to make a donation of materials or even have a grant available. If you get to a home that really needs help, suggest the homeowner check into the federal weatherization program or Habitat for Humanity. Many Habitat chapters are now doing energy efficiency retrofits.
If you could save an elderly or shut-in member of the church $15.00 to $20.00 a month, wouldn’t that be worth it? Plus, you are showing love for your neighbor and God’s creation.
Images are used with the Creative Commons license. Air-conditioner - By Dayna on Flickr.
* Energy data varies. Here are four studies that discuss loss. Lost In Transmission: How Much Electricity Disappears Between A Power Plant And Your Plug?, How much electricity is lost in transmission?, Reduce Losses in the Transmission and Distribution System, How much electricity is lost in transmission and distribution in the United States? (Please note EIA only reports from information provided by utility companies.)