Upgrade Appliances For Energy Efficient Ones

A great way to lower your home energy bill and your personal carbon foot print is by updating your old appliances with new ones that are energy efficient. This is a great way to go green, assuming that your old appliances actually need replaced. Do not just replace everything because you want to be energy efficient because that will be wasteful, which is counter productive to the whole going green and reducing your carbon footprint movement.

You would be surprised to learn how little it costs to run these energy efficient appliances compared to your old ones that were not energy efficient. In fact, I recently got a new chest freezer for home and the little yellow energy efficient tag showed me that it will cost less than $100 in electricity for the year. Yep, that’s right, the entire year.

Check out the image below to get details on the optimal ways to make your entire home energy efficient – not just the appliances!

Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home

Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home created by Homes.com

Lower Your Carbon Footprint With Bike Commuting

If you are looking for some easy ways to lower your carbon footprint, then look at one of the least eco friendly things in your day to day life. That would be your vehicle. Obviously, you could trade in your vehicle for an electric or hybrid car to reduce the emissions and your carbon footprint. However, the most beneficial thing that you can do for the environment is to ditch the vehicle all together!

That is correct. You should consider using a bicycle for your transportation. That way, you will not be releasing any toxic emissions. Plus, you will end up getting in some exercise while you are two wheeling yourself from place to place.

According to Randy at Rowing To Fit, riding a road bike to and from work and other places is a great form of exercise. In fact, he recommends it after using a home rowing machine because of it’s great workout. And according to a recent article on Business Insider, there are about a dozen benefits to bike commuting.

In addition to helping save the environment, riding a bike instead of driving a car also means that you won’t be wasting time sitting in any traffic jams. This both saves you time and means that you are not contributing to the car emissions in the traffic jams.

Likewise, you will no longer have to worry about finding a good parking spot cause you will not need a parking space at all! If you have a folding bike, then you can just take it inside with you. Otherwise, you will just need a place to chain up your bike. And that’s it.

I want to take a moment now to remind you that you do not even need to own your own bike in order to get rid of your car and make bike riding a thing. In fact, many cities across the USA have bike share programs where you can basically rent a  bike only for the periods that you need one. So, it is very cost effect and affordable for pretty much anyone who is interested in making the switch.

And finally, think about how great this is for your health too. You will be getting regular exercise and inhaling less harmful car emissions. So definitely consider making the switch from vehicles to bikes and you will not only be helping the environment but also yourself. Definitely a step in the right direction for the future.

 

Eliminating BPA From Your Life

If you are looking for ways to remove toxins and other harmful substances from your life, and that of your family, then eliminating BPA is a good place to start. While it may seem like targeting BPA for removal is a fairly easy thing to do, that is not entirely true. In fact, you might be surprised by just how many things have BPA in them.

For most people, BPA is associated with water bottles. And yes, most water bottles do have potentially harmful BPA in them. So, getting rid of any BPA water bottles is an excellent first step in getting BPA out of your life. But it is just one step among many.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical compound that has been in use since the 1960s. Primarily, BPA has been used in the creation of various resins and plastics. Some of the things that contain BPA include toys, food containers, thermal paper products, baby bottles, food can liners, dental sealants, bottle tops and water bottles.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive consensus on the safety of BPA. If you ask the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services or the FDA, they say that there is “some concern” in regards to BPA and the effects it may have on the brain as well as infant, children and fetuses. However, the American Chemistry Council maintains that there is no health risk from BPA exposure.

Regardless of what the experts say, some people (like me) still want to limit exposure to BPA simply because there is a possibility of adverse health effects. If you are also one of those people, then the internet is the perfect place for you to get more information on getting BPA out of your life.

Is BPA Hiding In Your Food?

When you eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, are you unknowingly consuming a side of BPA with your food? A recent article on All Things Healing seems to think that may actually be the case. According to the article, our food containers, bottles and other packaging may be leaking BPA into the food that we actually eat. This is some potentially alarming information since there may be a link between BPA and prostate and breast cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society points out that there is some concern regarding BPA and its effects on the human body.

Since the entry point for the BPA seems to be food containers, that makes it incredibly important to choose food that is in BPA-free containers when possible. This means no plastic wrap or actual plastic containers. Avoiding using a microwave to heat or cook food is another great way to lower your exposure to BPA.

In order to reduce your normal BPA exposure from food on a day to day basis, then keep these important tips in mind:

  • use glass or ceramic containers to store food
  • use stainless steel pans to cook your food instead of non-stick pans
  • use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap to cover your food and dishes
  • only use canned foods that are BPA free

Utilizing these tips will help you prevent BPA from taking up residence in your lunch!

France Bans BPA in Food Packaging

In December 2012, the French parliament took a major step in the health and welfare of its citizen by banning BPA in baby food packaging and all other food containers.

As a result of this new ban, no baby food containers can have BPA in them starting in 2013. And food companies get until 2015 to remove BPA from food containers. This means that by 2015 there will be no food containers in France that have BPA in them at all.

What made the French parliament make such a decision?

Some studies utilizing lab animals showed results that pointed to toxic effects on the nervous system and brain as a result of the BPA exposure. Other studies that played a part in the decision show a link between reproductive disorders, coronary heart disease and BPA exposure.

France actually banned baby bottles containing BPA back in 2010, so it is really not all that surprising that they took this move. Many other countries have also banned BPA in baby bottles.

For more on this story, check out this NY Daily News article.

Tips on Conserving Water at Home

With the state of California, as well as a few others, experiencing extreme drought conditions this year, it is a good time for everyone to take a look at how they are using – and possibly wasting- water at home. After the popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS this summer, it seems like we are wasting more water than ever, which is true even for the people who are living in the areas that are experiencing the drought. So, with that in mind, let’s think about some of the ways that we can change how we are using water at home so that we end up using less of this precious resource in our normal day to day activities.

Bathroom Water Saving Tips

Your bathroom is probably one of the areas of your home where the most water is wasted. Often, this is the result of leaks that you might not normally notice or care about. For instance, does your bathroom sink drip a little or does your toilet run for longer than it should when you flush? Or maybe your toilet runs water by itself during the day? Looking for and fixing these leaks can save not only a lot of water but also some money on your water bill.

Now look to your shower. Yes, we all like those long, hot showers but they are very wasteful. So, get yourself a low-flow shower head and either a timer for it or strictly limit shower times so that they are short except for every so often when you just need a long shower.

If your toilets are old, then upgrade them to a model that has better efficiency so that it takes less water to flush each time. This is a super easy way to conserve water at home.

Kitchen Water Saving Tips

After bathrooms, the kitchen is probably the next place where the most water is wasted.

If you have a dishwasher, then use it for your dishes instead of hand washing them. Why? Because the dishwasher is more efficient and therefore requires less water than hand washing. And if your dishwasher is an older model, upgrade it to one that offers high efficiency.

When you want to run the dishwasher, only do so when the appliance is full. Otherwise, you are just wasting water!

On your kitchen sink, put a low-flow faucet aerator to cut your water usage in half! This is a very cheap and easy way so conserve water in your kitchen.

Other Home Water Saving Tips

Like with the dishwasher, only do your laundry when you have enough for a full load in the washing machine. And, if your washer is an older model, then consider upgrade it to a more efficient one that uses less water when in use.

If you have not already done so, insulate your hot water pipes to keep them warm. This reduces the time that you spend with the tap on waiting for the water to warm up ( and wasting water since it is not warm initially).  This is also a cheap fix that saves on water.

And if you are building a new home, you can place the hot water heater closer to showers, the washing machine and dishwasher to shorten the distance that the hot water has to travel, which keeps it warmer for you.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Believe it, or not most tests show indoor air quality to be at a lower level than that of outdoor air quality. Basically that means poor air quality inside is more of a risk to our health than it is outside. There are straightforward reasons for this apparently illogical situation. That is the surprising news, yet on the plus side most of us are in a position to remove pollutants from interiors of buildings.

So why is air pollution worse inside than outside?

The declining quality of air indoors to a large extent is due to the ways modern homes are insulated to conserve both energy and heat. Essentially air is trapped in the majority of buildings by insulated wall cavities, insulated attics, and double glazed windows. In the sense of keeping fuel costs down that makes perfectly good sense, in terms of safe air quality not so much.

Why is poor indoor air quality bad for our health?

Poor indoor air quality means that there is a higher risk of pollutants getting into our lungs. If there is little, or no ventilation in a building then pollutants have nowhere to go other than our lungs. Poor air quality is most likely to harm people with existing breathing problems, pregnant women, the old, and in particular the young. Children take in an extra 50% air than adults so are more likely to be adversely affected by poor air quality. Outside pollutants are not so concentrated due to unrestricted air flow. Exercising indoors makes indoor air quality a hundred times worse than it would be outside.

Can we tell if the air inside our homes is a health risk?

The simple answer to this question is no. Aside from smoke most pollutants in your homes cannot be seen, or smelt. The symptoms cannot always be traced back to poor air quality in general, or any specific pollutant in particular. Minor symptoms might not always be linked to poor air quality, for instance there could be other causes of breathlessness, dizziness, and headaches.

If you have any doubts about air quality just open some windows to disperse the concentration of any pollutants. Also smokers should smoke outside, to avoid the risks linked to passive smoking. If you pets then vacuum your home frequently.

Are children most at risk?

In a word, yes. As already mentioned children take in larger gulps of air, increasing the damage that pollutants could do to them. Asthma, is probably the most common illness children get that results from poor air quality. Roughly 4.2 million children in the United States suffer from asthma, research suggests that up to 65% of cases developed due to exposure to pollutants as well as tabacco smoke. Asthma cases decline drastically in homes with clean air, no smoke, and that are kept clean.

Top Eco-Friendly Habits To Adopt

Some habits that people have are more eco-friendly than others are, and some should be used by as many people as possible. Now a lot of people may believe that only big and drastic steps can help the environment.

However that is not strictly the case, there are some seemingly minor eco-friendly habits that if everybody used could improve the environment yet also be friendly to our bank balances. Now that is definitely a win – win situation.

The following tips demonstrate that it is easy to change our behavior to help our planet and help our often stretched budgets at the same time.

1. Eat at home more frequently, as takeaways can use an unbelievable amount of packaging. With the exception of pizza boxes most of that packaging cannot be recycled at all. You may use slightly more gas or electric by cooking at home but the savings in money, packaging, and the weight around your waist will be worth it. Your wallet will be fuller of dollar bills, and your weight could drop by a few pounds minimum.

Those people that usually drive miles to collect their takeaways could use less gallons of gas, further lowering their carbon footprint, and spending less on filling their fuel tanks.

2. Replace paper napkins with cloth ones. Although cloth ones cost more to begin with, in the end you will save money. More importantly you reduce the amount of paper paste getting dumped into landfill sites as napkins cannot be recycled.

3. Start using reusable bottles for drinking water. Sales of bottled water have risen drastically over the last 20 years or so, and therefore so have the number of bottles going to the trash dump. Although most bottles could be recycled people do not often bother to do so. The authorities in San Francisco decided to help the environment by insisting bottled water could only be sold in reusable bottles.

4. Change your light bulbs. Traditional light bulbs waste an unbelievable amount of electricity. Switch to the energy efficient bulbs and the amount of electricity used in your household will drop markedly. Low energy bulbs do cost more than traditional ones, yet the cost is soon recuperated from lower electricity bills. Energy use drops roughly by a third after switching, and the bulbs can last up to ten times longer.

5. Hang your toilet paper differently, no seriously this bit has been proven by environmental researchers. It is a very simple way of saving paper, you hang the toilet paper over the cardboard roll. In some circles there has been contentious debate as to whether over the roll was better than under the roll. From an ecological viewpoint there is only one winner, over the roll. People apparently use less toilet paper when it is hung over the roll, as they have a clear view of how much they are using.

6. Everybody should use less water. It is a scarcer resource than most people would believe, and it should not be wasted. People that are metered will also tell you that it is an expensive resource.

Saving water can be really easy. For instance do not leave it running while you brush your teeth.

Always take a shower instead of a bath, making sure you only have quick showers. Switch to using a low flow showerhead, they are easy to install, and to take out if you have to replace your shower, or at some point move house.

Remember if you are not using things switch them off.

Five Important Benefits of Green Buildings

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, buildings in the U.S. account for more than 35 percent of total energy use; more than 65 percent of total electricity consumption; more than 35 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions, and more than 10 percent of the total water consumption.” With this kind of effect on the environment as a whole, building “green” has become a necessity. Building sustainable (“green”) structures reduces their overall impact on the natural environment by using water, energy, and other natural resources efficiently and reducing pollution, waste, and environmental deterioration and destruction, but that’s not all. Here are five important benefits of building “green”:

1. Green Construction is Cost-effective

The bottom line is that green buildings are more cost-effective than traditional ones.The costs for sustainable construction are less than 13% higher than the cost of traditional construction. This minor difference in overall expenditures will be covered by significantly lower operating costs of the building. In addition, a report entitled, The Business Case for Green Building (World Green Building Council, 2012) detailed the cost benefits of Energy Star and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified sustainable buildings. This report combined data from a number of sustainability studies. It was reported that since 2001, there has been a steady decrease in the cost of sustainable buildings due to improved green construction methods and better supply management of sustainable materials. Both have brought overall costs down. This report also stated that the pool of green building professionals has increased, and the resources needed to learn about sustainable construction are more abundant and readily available.

2. Green Buildings Are Worth More Money

Market studies have shown that both residential and commercial buildings that are certified sustainable can draw over 25 percent higher prices than traditional buildings. In addition, the more “green” a building is, the higher the price will be (LEED certification in increasing order: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum). In other words, an LEED Platinum building would potentially command a higher selling price than a LEED Silver building. Also, occupancy rates have also been found to be more than 20 percent higher for LEED certified buildings which leads to an increase in rental revenues.

3. Green Buildings Save Energy, Water and Money

Most people know that green buildings use less energy than traditional buildings, but the question is: how much? Studies of LEED structures have shown that these sustainable buildings use up to 35 percent less energy. These energy savings increase with each LEED level of certification. In fact, energy-efficient net zero structures supply electricity back into the utility grid, resulting in no energy costs at the end of a year. Additionally, green buildings with incorporated water-saving methods (water-efficient plumbing fixtures; water recycling systems; irrigation control systems, etc.) use about 38 percent less water than comparable non-sustainable buildings. From the start, owners and tenants will see savings in their energy and water bills.

4. Tax Incentives for Green Buildings

Since 2005 federal tax incentives have prompted the construction of both residential and commercial sustainable buildings. Additionally, many state governments have also enacted tax provisions to encourage energy-efficient construction. Consult a tax expert for more information about the current tax incentives for building green or making sustainable home improvements.

5. Health and Productivity: Less Obvious Financial Benefits

Sick building syndrome is a problem that has afflicted the American workforce for decades. This “epidemic” costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars in lost work hours and absenteeism. By default, sustainable buildings are much healthier than traditional buildings. They have cleaner air, more suitable light, and are made of safer, non-toxic materials. These factors have an enormous impact on workers’ overall health and welfare. For example, a research study found that absenteeism was reduced by 40 percent in thirty-one of Seattle’s sustainable office buildings (sponsored by the City of Seattle) when compared to absentee rates in conventional buildings. A number of other research studies have found that natural daylight and window views (of nature) are two of the most important elements for reduced stress levels which in turn, lead to increased productivity in employees. Also, additional studies have linked better ventilation with more than a 10 percent gain in productivity; a direct result of improved outside air rates, committed delivery of fresh air to work areas, and lower levels of pollutants. Increased productivity translates into increased revenues and is a driving force for many corporations to go green.

By reducing energy and water consumption, employing green materials and strategies, and supporting a healthier, happier workforce, green design and sustainable construction not only benefit architects, owners, and tenants of green buildings but society as a whole, economically and environmentally. With dwindling natural resources and escalating energy and healthcare costs, going green may be the key to a brighter future.

Living Greener: Ten Tips to Help You Go Green

Making simple and easy changes in your home will help conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions, and best of all, help you save money! need some suggestions? Here are ten ways to “go green” around your house and in your daily life.

1. Replace Your ordinary Light Bulbs with Energy-saving Alternatives

Get rid of your old incandescent bulbs and switch to compact florescent lights (CFLs) or LED bulbs. CFLs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and wattage to fit any light fixture. They may cost more than regular light bulbs, but you will make up the difference with the energy saved (translating into a lower utility bill). Their longer life spans also mean less replacement costs. In addition, think about using LED bulbs, especially during the holidays. These are real energy savers and will not need changing for as long as you live in your house.

2. Don’t Forget about those High-watt Floodlights!

Speaking of lighting, an average floodlight (100-watt), used for six hours each day, will use more than $39 of electricity over one year. It will emit over 375 pounds of carbon dioxide gas (depending on where you live). Easy fix – replace all your floodlights with CFL versions – they use 25% less energy. In addition, use LED bulbs in your landscape lighting. They will last for at least 10 years and will reduce energy usage by more than 75%.

3. Wash Full Loads

Dishwashers and clothes washers use lots of water and energy, so make sure you run full loads each time. If you need to do a partial load of clothes, adjust your water level accordingly. Also, skip rinsing your dirty dishes. Scrape any leftover food off your plates and place in your dishwasher. Today’s dishwashers can handle most food residue left on dirty dishes. Buying an efficient dishwasher detergent will help, too.

4. Change Your Shower Head

A low flow, high-efficiency shower head will save over 2,500 gallons of water per person per year. They are specifically made to conserve water while still maintaining good water pressure. This simple change will save you more that $40 in energy costs. Also, putting aerators on your sink faucets is an inexpensive way to save water.

5. Conserve Water in Your Bathroom

Keep a bucket in your bathroom and fill it with the cold water that comes out before the hot water starts. Use this to water your plants. Change your old toilet to a new, water conserving model which uses less than half the water to flush, or place a brick or full plastic jug inside the tank of your toilet to displace some of the water.

6. Adjust Your Hot Water Heater

By making simple adjustments to your water heater set-up will save money and reduce your carbon footprint by more than 25 percent. Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees, protect it with an insulating blanket and wrap insulation around the first 3-6 feet of your water pipes.

7. Make your Own Compost

Turning your food scraps and lawn waste into mulch will reduce your overall trash production, and you will have nutrient-rich compost for next spring’s plantings.

8. Take Advantage of your Energy Provider

Tap the resources available from your local electric company and take advantage of any special incentive/rebate programs. Go to your energy provider’s website to learn more about their energy conservation programs.

9. Drive Smarter

You can improve fuel efficiency by more than 20 percent by making little changes in your driving habits . Driving close to or at the speed limit, keeping your tires at the recommended pressure, making sure air and oil filters are clean, and stepping on the gas and the brakes carefully will help reduce your emissions and improve your fuel economy.

10. Use those Travel Mugs and Reusable Bags

Little efforts, like bringing your own coffee mug to your favorite coffee shop will help save money and help conserve resources. Take along reusable shopping bags whenever you go to the grocery store. Ask for paper instead of plastic if you forget your bags at home, and reuse the bags at home. Paper bags make great book covers and are easily replaced.

Making your Life Greener: Energy Saving Tips for Renters

Do you rent your home or apartment? Don’t think you can save energy like a homeowner? Think again! Here are energy-saving tips that will help you become energy efficient, save some money, and reduce your energy footprint.

Lighting

Changing the way you light your home is an easy way to start saving energy. By changing all your ordinary light bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) you will use three-fourths less energy, which saves you money on your electricity bill. They also last almost ten times longer than regular incandescent bulbs, so you also save on the cost of replacing bulbs over time. In addition, by replacing your five most used light fixtures with ENERGY STAR qualified lights, you will save more than $65 a year. Furthermore, if you turn off just one incandescent (60-watt) bulb that you normally burn for eight hours a day, you will save up to $15 per year!

Heating and Air Conditioning

If you purchase a room air conditioner, make sure you buy an ENERGY STAR qualified model. They use 10 percent less energy than regular models. During winter protect room air conditioner from the cold with a tight-fitting cover. You can also opt to remove the window unit during the winter months to prevent energy losses.

Clear all furniture from vents and registers so that air can circulate freely, heating your home more efficiently.

Does your home have radiators? If you place heat-resistant reflectors between walls and radiators, this will help warm the room more effectively by directing the heat into the room and away from the wall.

Use natural sunshine to help warm a room by opening drapes during the day in the winter. Close drapes and/or shades to keep out the heat during summer months.

Electronics

About 15 percent of all household electricity use is consumed by electronics. Many electronics use energy even when they are turned off. Using ENERGY STAR qualified electronics helps save some of this energy. You can save more energy by unplugging power adapters and/or battery chargers when not in use. Also, use a surge protector strip as a central “off” switch when you finish using electronic equipment.

Electronic equipment often uses a small amount of electricity even when not in use. This amount can range from a few watts to as much as 20-40 watts for each piece of equipment. Using a surge protector strip as an on and off switch for your computer and peripheral equipment will allow you to completely disconnect from the power source, eliminating this energy usage.

Water Usage

Cutting down your shower time to ten minutes uses less water than taking a bath. When using a new low-flow shower head, a 10-minute shower will use about 25 gallons of water, saving five gallons over an average bath. A new shower head also saves energy — up to $145 each year. Reduce the humidity in your bathroom by running the fan during and 10-15 minutes after showers, but remember to turn it off!

Use cold water to wash your clothes whenever you can. Using cold water can save you more than $40 each year. In addition, run only full wash loads or, if you have to wash a smaller load, use appropriate water levels.

Pre-washing dirty dishes before stacking your dishwasher consumes quite a bit of energy and water. Instead of pre-washing, just scrape leftover food from your dishes before placing them into your dishwasher. Most of today’s dishwashers can efficiently clean dishes with residual food on them. The detergent and wash cycle will remove any remaining food residue. Also, run the dishwasher only when it is full. This will make the most efficient use of your dishwasher’s water and energy consumption. In addition, washing full loads can save you more than 3,400 gallons of water per year. To help save even more energy, turn off the heated dry option, if available on your dishwasher.

Drying Your Clothes

Don’t over-dry your clothing. Most new dryers have sensors that will automatically turn off a dryer when the clothes are dry. Make sure you use it to avoid over-drying. If you don’t have this option on your dryer, try to match the cycle length to the weight and size of the load. Operating your dryer at least fifteen minutes less per load can save you over $30 per year in energy costs.

Cleaning your dryer’s lint trap before every load is a very simple and easy thing to do to save energy and money. This is the reason: dryers work by blowing hot air through wet clothes, thereby evaporating the water, and then venting the water vapor to the outside. A full lint trap will prevent your dryer from providing enough heat, or won’t allow air to move sufficiently through the clothes, taking them longer to dry, using more energy, and costing you money! Cleaning the lint trap will allow your clothes to dry more quickly and efficiently.

Using just a few of these energy-saving tips will help you save a significant amount of money and will help make the planet little bit greener. Share these tips with friends who rent and talk to your landlord about making some energy saving improvements. Any little change is making a change for the better.