Home
 

Green Living Ideas

Syndicate content Green Living Ideas
Green Living Ideas provides ideas, tips, and information to help you improve the environmental sustainability of every aspect of your life: home energy, green building and remodeling, cars, food, waste recycling—and everything in between. Green Living Ideas is the most comprehensive green living website ever assembled, with information on how to live greener in over 200 different areas of life! We’ve assembled the world’s top green living authors and experts to bring you the latest info on green and sustainable living.
Updated: 17 hours 55 min ago

2 Diaper Recycling Solutions Offer Hope for Our Landfills

Tue, 2014-09-30 11:57

If you’re an environmentally-minded parent, you know that disposable diapers are a big problem. They are piling up in our landfills where they don’t biodegrade. Diaper recycling would a long way toward leaving our kiddos the clean, healthy planet that we want them to inherit.

I recently came across two really interesting diaper recycling solutions that might just help reduce waste without parents giving up the convenience of disposables.

Obviously, the most sustainable solution when it comes to reducing diaper trash is to not create any in the first place. And you can certainly go that route! You can purchase or make your own cloth diapers. You can even make your own baby wipes.

Here in the Striepe house, we do a combination of disposables and reusables. We get cloth diapers from a diaper service, but we use paper diapers for overnights and nap time. My son sleeps a LOT longer in a paper diap, and any new parent will tell you that sleep is a priority for both you and your baby.

I feel guilty every time I toss one of those paper diapers into the trash, so these diaper recycling schemes gave me a little bit of hope.

1. Diaper Composting with Mushrooms

No, for real. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at our sister site Sustainablog recently wrote about a team of researchers in Mexico who “sterilized diapers containing only liquid waste, ground them up, and added lignin to create a substrate for growth. They then added commercially-prepared mushroom spores. Over a 2 1/2 – 3 month period, the mushrooms reduced the diapers’ weight and volume by about 80%. The resulting mushrooms are also – technically – edible, though the researchers don’t see this as a viable means of growing the fungus for human consumption.”

2. Diaper Recycling Plant

Over at Ecopreneurist, Priti Ambani talked about a UK recycling plant for diapers that opened in the UK in 2011. She says that, “Knowaste’s recycling process is the world’s first, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective solution to meeting the global challenge of disposing Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs): diapers, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products.”

Of course, neither of those solutions is available to me here in Atlanta right now. But it gives me a little bit of hope that maybe our kids won’t be digging themselves out of a future made of diaper trash.

I’d love to hear from other parents out there! Do you use cloth diapers? Paper? A combo? How much would you love to find a diaper recycling plant for the disposables that you use?

photo credit: Flux=Rad via photopin cc

The post 2 Diaper Recycling Solutions Offer Hope for Our Landfills appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

5 Energy Saving Tips For Washing Your Dishes

Sun, 2014-09-28 06:11

Hot water is a triple whammy for your utility bills. First, it costs money to get the water (water bill). Second, it costs money to heat that water (electricity or gas bill). And last, it costs money to dispose of that water (sewer bill). All together, that’s a lot of potential savings with some small adjustments. Washing your dishes more efficiently can save you thousands of dollars during your lifetime, and help significantly reduce your carbon and water footprint. So to get started try implementing some of the following energy saving tips:

1. Use your dishwasher effectively. Setting dishwasher settings correctly is one of the easiest and fastest ways to save. Many dishwashers will have a heated dry setting. What this does is basically bake your dishes with hot air after they’re done washing and rinsing in order to dry them quickly. Since dishes will air dry on their own (just takes a little longer), this is a big waste of money.

So check your dishwasher and change the settings so that the heated dry option is turned off. If you want to help expedite the drying of your dishes, just open the dishwasher door when the dishwasher is done and leave it open a crack. Dishes will dry relatively quickly.

Different models of dishwasher will have different listings, but if you can find a way to turn off the “heated dry” option, your dishes will still dry and you’ll save a pile of money.

But what about streaks? That has a lot to do with how you stack dishes in the dishwasher. So….

2. Practice good habits with your dishwasher. If you stack dishes incorrectly and with excess food, you may end up doing the load twice….and that’s pretty inefficient. Scrape your dishes of excess food and other debris, but don’t pre-wash them. It’s unnecessary and wasteful. Plus, it’s extra work! Stack dishes facing inward. Just about all dishwashers are designed so that the spraying water and soap comes from the middle (both top and bottom), so if dishes are facing outward, they’ll not be as effectively cleaned.

*Health tip: try to find dishwasher detergent (tablets or liquid) that is chlorine free. Chlorine in dishwasher detergents quickly radicalizes, forming organochlorines, a family of chemical compounds that includes dioxin, a known carcinogen. Any steam that escapes from your dishwasher potentially introduces organochlorines into your indoor air, which your family is breathing. 

3. Only run your dishwasher when it’s full. Did you know that your dishwasher uses the exact same amount of water and energy whether it’s full or there is barely anything in it? It’s true. So to make your dishwasher as efficient as possible only run it when it’s full.

4. Hand washing? Follow grandma’s strategies. Your grandmother probably had a little bin in her sink, right? Turns out, your grandma was quite the conservationist. The bin had soapy water and was for soaking, and she might even have had another with clean rinse water in it. All dishes went into the soaking bin, where water and soap can help loosen up the caked on leftovers on your dishes. Once they’ve been in there for a short while, they’re remarkably easy to clean. You can take them out of there and quickly wipe clean with a sponge before giving them a rinse or dipping them into the rinse bin. The amount of time you spend at the sink will be decreased, and the amount of heated water you use will be, as well. Savings all around!

5. Extend the life of your sponges. Sponges aren’t exactly expensive, but over time, the money adds up. Many people just chuck a sponge when it starts to get discolored, assuming that it’s likely harboring bacteria. That may well be true–damp sponges are bacteria havens. But, you can get more life out of your sponges by popping them in a pot of boiling water for just a few seconds, or dampening them slightly and then microwaving them on high for 10 seconds or so. This also happens to be a terrific way to clean the caked on splatters in your microwave, by the way–the steam escaping from that sponge will loosen food splatters and make the walls of your microwave a one-wipe cleaning job. 

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons (Soaking tupperware, dishwasher settingheated dry off,  loaded dishwasher, full dishwasher, soaking dishes and sponge in microwave) and Pono Home.

The post 5 Energy Saving Tips For Washing Your Dishes appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

7 Energy Saving Tips For Efficient Cooking

Sat, 2014-09-27 06:19

You can save energy, and therefore money on electricity bills, when you cook, simply by adopting a few easy habits. These will not only save you money directly by making your cooking more efficient, they’ll keep you from spending extra money on cooling your home, since you’ll avoid excess heating in the cooking process.

7 energy saving tips for efficient cooking

1. Match your pot size to the coil size. When you’re cooking on the stovetop, match the size of the pot or pan you’re using to the size of the coils on your stove. If you cook a small pot on the large coil, you’re wasting 30-40% of the electricity needed, and you’re also putting a lot of extra heat in your house that may need to be offset by A/C or fans. Even if it’s cold out and you like that extra heat, it’s an inefficient way to generate that heat, so best bet is just to match coil size and pot size.

The difference is subtle, but note that the pot on the right doesn’t touch all the coils—that’s wasted energy…and money.

2. Use the right appliance. Choose your cooking implement that’s most appropriate for what you’re cooking. You can save energy by cooking with the device that’s most suited to the food you’re cooking. For instance, there’s no need to turn on your oven to bake one little potato, right? Rightsize your appliance for highest efficiency. Here’s a handy chart:

3. Check your reflectors. The metal “drip trays” underneath your stove burners serve two main purposes. First, is what most people understand it to be: a place to catch spillover drips from your cooking. But, it serves an energy efficiency service as well by reflecting heat back up to the pot or pan you’re cooking in. So, if your drip tray is caked over in previous drips, or if it’s degraded to the point of having holes and rust, it’s not doing as effective a job of reflecting heat. Therefore you’re using extra electricity to cook with. Depending on how much you cook on the stovetop, it may be worthwhile to replace these — they typically cost a few bucks each at a local hardware or housewares store. If you don’t cook often, you can just plug in a temporary solution by wrapping your existing (degraded) drip trays with aluminum foil, which also reflects heat. Note, however, that aluminum foil is a lot harder to keep clean than new drip trays.

4. Use your oven effectively. If you do some baking or other cooking with your oven, there are some things you can do to most efficiently use the heat it creates. Taking advantage of the oven light is a tremendous energy saver, as opposed to opening the oven door to check on your food. Checking brownies with a fork for gooiness may be an exception. But, if you don’t have to open the oven door and let all that heat escape, just use the light to look at your food, and you won’t waste all that heat in the oven. Your oven will just have to use a lot of extra electricity to recreate that lost heat. Just to be sure, you can put the pan you’re going to be using into the oven prior to heating it up so that you can check whether it’s in the right place so you can see it when you turn on the oven light. 

You can be more energy efficient by using the oven light to check your food creation (left, above). Opening the door makes the oven work harder to reheat itself (right, above).

If you use the self-cleaning option, use it right after you bake something else. This way, you’ll reuse the heat you have built up in the oven!

5. Consider cast iron. Cast iron cookware is a healthier option than many other types, and additionally has some energy efficiency benefits. When you scratch a Teflon pan, for instance, it begins a slow, steady, and inevitable process wherein Teflon chips off and enters your food while you cook with it. MMM…Teflon seasoning…zesty! (see “How Toxic is Teflon?“, also on Green Living Ideas).

Using a cast iron skillet, on the other hand, takes away the possibility of getting Teflon in your diet! Additionally, you can cook on a lower heat setting with cast iron than you can with nonstick or stainless steel cookware, thus saving you money. If you get a piece of cast iron cookware, simply try cooking the same way you did before, except lower the heat down one or two notches. The results should be the same, minus the Teflon “seasoning,” of course. Check out this article to learn more about how to cook with cast iron pans.

6. Pre-measure your water for boiling. If you make tea, use a French Press for coffee, or boil specific amounts of water for a recipe, pre-measuring how much you’ll need. This allows you to boil exactly the amount of water needed for your beverage and not a drop more. Heating water is energy intensive, so if you can avoid boiling extra water, it’ll save you electricity and money, while reducing the amount of needless heat you release into your kitchen from the range (as we mentioned, even in a cold winter, this is a very inefficient way of heating!).

To brew the perfect cup, just fill the teapot or French Press with the water you’ll need, pour it into your heating device, and, easy as that, you’ve boiled just the right amount, guaranteeing you’ll be faster, and use less energy.

7. Cover foods while cooking. Putting a lid on your food while you’re cooking is a great way to make your kitchen more energy efficient. Not only will it reduce your foods overall cook time, it will help to limit the amount of heat being introduced into your home (which keeps your A/C from working harder). So the next time you’re cooking some food, “put a lid on it”. 

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons (boiling pot, reflector, automatic oven cleaningcast iron skillet and covered boil)   and Pono Home.

The post 7 Energy Saving Tips For Efficient Cooking appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

The Basics Of HVAC

Fri, 2014-09-26 06:38

When it comes to keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are a great at doing just that. However, they can be costly to operate, especially if they aren’t maintained regularly. So to help you save money and get a better understanding of how these systems work we’ve come up with the following guide to the basics of HVAC.

The Basics of HVAC

Heating

One of the best ways to keep your home warm and comfortable during the winter months is through a central heating system. Not only will this system keep your home warm and dry, it will also prevent your home’s water lines from freezing or bursting which could cost thousands of dollars to repair. To get a better idea of how this system works, take a look at the diagram below:

As you can see, fresh, cool air gets drawn into the home and delivered to either a furnace or boiler where it will be heated. After the air has been heated by either a furnace or boiler it then travels through a series of ducts and filters throughout the home and is delivered into your home’s various living spaces. One of the best ways to ensure that this system is working efficiently is to regularly check and swap out it’s air filters. Check out the following video to find out just how quick and easy it is:

However, this system wouldn’t be very effective if it wasn’t paired with a home ventilation system. After all, a big part of keeping your home comfortable is ensuring that it gets a steady supply of fresh air, so let’s take a look at how home ventilation systems work.

Ventilation

The ventilation system in your home is what’s responsible for providing it with fresh air as well as disposing of old, stagnant air. These systems are paired with either a central heating and/or air conditioning system and are vital to keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. To get a better idea of how these systems work, take a look at the following diagram:

As you can see, fresh air enters your home and is passed through either your home’s furnace or A/C unit and is heated or cooled to the desired temperature and then distributed throughout the home. After the air has been delivered to your living spaces, the ventilation ducts located in your kitchen and bathrooms pull the air up to an exhaust vent and out of the home. Thus providing your home with a constant supply of fresh air, while disposing of old stagnant air.

Air Conditioning

The air conditioning system in your home is what’s responsible for removing moisture from the air and making it easier to either heat or cool. However, these systems are primarily used when it comes to cooling your home. Take a look at the following video to get a better idea of how your home’s air conditioning system works:

 

Now that you have a better idea of how the air conditioning system works in your home, try implementing some of these easy maintenance tips for your A/C unit. They should help to reduce the amount of energy your system uses, and thus, save you money on your monthly electric bill!

If you’re looking for ways to save money and make these systems more energy efficient, take a look at some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of The Content Farm, David Darling, Passipedia,

The post The Basics Of HVAC appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

5 Money-saving Sustainable Food Strategies

Thu, 2014-09-25 06:59

What do you store your leftovers in? I’m sure, like most people you place them into a plastic tupperware container, however you may be surprised to learn that some food storage options add their own special “flavor” to your leftovers. That flavor may be bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, antimony, or any number of other chemicals that, well, shouldn’t really be in your food. It’s called “leaching” and some of your favorite food containers may be leaching chemicals into your food. So to help you save money, food and some sanity, we’ve come up with some simple sustainable food strategies:

5 eco-friendly tips for your food

1. Stop petrochemical additions to your food. Plastic is made from petrochemicals (derived from crude oil). It is usually labeled on the package somewhere with little numbers: #1 through #7. Some of these are safer than others. The worst offenders are: #1 (which can leach antimony into your food), #3 (phthalates), #6 (a cornucopia of chemical flavors), and #7 (BPA). Plastic #5 seems to be the safest among the plastic family, but why risk plastic at all? Glass storage options are the new norm, either Pyrex glass with silicon lids or glass jars with fitted clamps or screw on lids. And glass is basically as safe as it gets, chemically, so it won’t leach anything into your food.

Plastic is made from petroleum based chemicals. Why risk having those chemicals leach into your food during storage or reheating? Just get rid of plastic altogether and use glass storage options!

2. Be careful with microwaving your leftovers. Microwave safe? The jury is still out on this one, but when a plastic food storage item is marked as microwave safe, all it really means is that the plastic itself won’t melt if you put it in the microwave. The “designation” of microwave safe (pictured below) means NOTHING in terms of whether it will cause the plastic to leach chemicals into your food. Microwaving in glass containers (as long as you don’t put the lid in with it) is a safer option than microwaving in plastic of any kind, even if the plastic is marked “microwave safe”.

Is it safe to microwave food? There is no conclusive proof that microwaving food changes its chemistry so radically that it becomes toxic for you. There is a growing movement of people who do not use a microwave at all, however, preferring food that has been warmed externally versus heating by irradiating the molecules inside the food. As far as radiation goes, if the door and seal of the microwave are not compromised, radiation is not supposed to be harmful to people standing next to the microwave while it’s cooking. If you’re concerned, you can be doubly safe by not standing close to the microwave while it’s in use. Radiation from a microwave diminishes with distance, so just go hang out in the next room while the microwave is in use, if you’re concerned.

3. Save money by decreasing food waste. You can also save money by doing a few simple things that will help you avoid food waste. The average American household (4 person) wastes over $2,200 a year by letting perfectly good food get tossed.

The absolute first thing to know is that the “expiration date” printed on most packaged foods is not usually an actual expiration date: it’s usually more of a “best by” date. In other words, crackers may not be *quite* as crunchy after the expiration date printed on them, but they’re more than likely perfectly edible. At the time of this writing, there is no federal standard on this. States have a patchwork of regulations, so there’s really no telling whether food is expired just by a date printed on a package.

Further reading on food waste:

4. Save money with smart food storage habits. You can also save money and save energy by thinking about how you store food. After you’re done cooking, let your food cool on the stove (or on the windowsill like Mom always did) before sticking it in the fridge. This will keep the heat out of the fridge and prevent extra humidity. If you are defrosting something, take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge so that when it thaws out, it helps the fridge stay cold, saving energy.

No matter what food you make, let it cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge, otherwise, hot food placed in your fridge will make it work harder to cool it off.

5. Use re-usable grocery bags/re-purpose your plastics. Plastic bags, like the ones given out at grocery stores, are derived from petroleum and if improperly disposed of can contaminate waterways and pollute aquifers. Not to mention all the carbon emissions from making them in the first place. Our recommendation is to switch over to re-usable grocery bags. In many places, stores give a 5 or 10 cent refund if you bring your own bag. In our house, that adds up to about $50 a year.

By implementing some of these techniques, you could save upwards of $2,200 per year! Those savings would mainly come through the reduction in the amount of food you throw away, but either way, you’ll save money, food and reduce your carbon footprint.

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons (food in bins, glass food storage, food waste, food cooling and re-usable shopping bag/plastic bags) Photobucket and Pono Home.

The post 5 Money-saving Sustainable Food Strategies appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

7 Energy Efficiency Tips For Your Fridge And Freezer

Thu, 2014-09-25 06:28

 

Refrigerators and freezers represent one of the best opportunities in your home to achieve both energy and money savings. After all, your fridge and freezer account for roughly 16% of your monthly electric bill. So to help you start saving energy and money around your home we’ve come up with the following energy efficiency tips for your fridge and freezer:

Energy efficiency tips for your fridge and freezer

1. Practice the 2/3rds full rule. Your fridge and freezer will use a lot of energy to replace all the cold air that flows out every time someone opens the door. By keeping the fridge and freezer at least 2/3 full, only 1/3 or less of that air can leak out. This is especially important if you and your family frequently open the doors. Check out the image below to get a visual sense for what the 2/3rds rule looks like in practice:

2. Clean your condenser coils 2-3 times per year. The condenser coils, which keep your fridge air cool, are usually either below or behind the fridge. If they’ve got a bunch of dust and other gunk built up on them, they’ll impede airflow around the appliance, and force it to work harder than it has to. Estimates are that you can save 15% of your electricity that the fridge uses if you keep the condenser coils clean. According to the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the average monthly electric bill is $207 in Hawaii. So, if 16% ($35.00 per month) of your bill can be accredited to your fridge/freezer, and if by cleaning your condenser coils you can make it 15% more efficient, that can mean a savings of up to $5.18 per month or $62.22 per year!

Cleaning your condenser coils is a relatively easy process. You’ll need a long wire brush or something similar, a vacuum, a dust mask and some safety goggles. To learn how and see just how easy it is, check out this article from The Inspired Economist on how to save money to save the planet.

3. Make sure there’s airflow around your fridge. If you store a bunch of stuff on the top and sides of your fridge, it’ll keep your fridge working harder to get rid of the hot air that is created by the cooling process. So keep it clearer, and it’ll work more easily and use less electricity.

4. Keep an eye on frost build up. If the frost building up in your freezer is 1/4” or thicker, it’s time to thaw and get rid of that frost–it’s making your appliance work harder than it needs to. Don’t ask me how this works. The explanation would require a PhD in quantum physics, but lacking that, all you really need to know is that nerdy engineers have done the calculations, and 1/4” thick frost seems to be the tipping point at which you should defrost.

5. Don’t store uncovered liquids in your fridge. Doing so will add moisture to the interior of your fridge, which in turn will make your compressor work harder. Not only that, it could cause additional frost to build up, which will also make your compressor work harder, thus causing your fridge to use more energy and cost you more money. So be sure that all liquids, and food for that matter, are covered with a lid before placing it in your fridge.

6. Peek, grab and close. Roughly 7% of the energy used by your fridge can be attributed to the door simply being open and closed. So to help save energy and money don’t leave the door the fridge open longer than it needs to be.

7. Strongly reconsider whether you need a second fridge. In most cases, we’ve found that having two full sized fridges in your home is a bit excessive. We recommend that you consider switching to a mini-fridge or better yet, just rid of the second fridge all together. After all, even mini fridges can use upwards of 500 kWh of energy per year and cost you hundreds.

By implementing these tips not only will you save money on your monthly electric bill, you’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and help to make the world a greener place! If you’re looking for more ways to save money around your home, check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons (Lego fridge, full/empty fridge, frost build up, covered liquids and peeking into fridge) and Pono Home.

The post 7 Energy Efficiency Tips For Your Fridge And Freezer appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

Amps, Volts and Watts: What it means for energy efficiency

Wed, 2014-09-24 06:47

If you’ve ever purchased any sort of electronic device for your home, odds are you’ve come across the terms amperage (amps), voltage (volts) and wattage (watts). But what exactly do all these terms mean, and why do they matter? In short, having an understanding of amps, volts and watts can help you save money on your monthly electric bill and be a more informed shopper. Check out the following guide to get a better understanding of what these terms mean and how they can impact your monthly electric bill.

A guide to understanding: amps, volts and watts

A good analogy for understanding what these terms mean is to think of them like water flowing through a hose. With that in mind let’s review the definitions for each of these terms.

Amps - This is the measure of how much electricity is flowing through an electrical line, which is like the amount of water flowing through a hose.

Volts -  This is the measure of how strong or the force of electricity flowing through an electrical line, which is like the pressure of the water flowing through a hose.

Watts - This is the result of multiplying amps and volts together (amps x volts = watts), which is the working capacity of the electricity.

Check out these videos to get a better idea of how amps, volts and watts work:

Now let’s take a look at how these three things are used around home and how they impact your monthly electric bill:

Every month your electric company sends you a bill for the amount of electricity that you use, and this is determined by the amount of kilowatts (1 kilowatt = 1,000watts) your home consumes. Therefore, the more amps and volts your electronics and appliances require to operate, the higher your monthly electric bill will be. It’s just that simple.

It’s important to note that even when some of your appliances and electronics are “turned off” they could still be drawing a small amount of power (watts). This is referred to as either vampire power or a phantom load, and these extra watts will add money to your monthly electric bill. It’s a good idea to go around your home with a watt-meter and identify which of your appliances are drawing this phantom power. Once you’ve identified them, try installing a smart strip or unplugging them all together when they’re not in use. This will reduce your home’s phantom load and save you money every month!

If you’re curious about other ways you can save energy and money around your home, check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Atomic Toasters.

The post Amps, Volts and Watts: What it means for energy efficiency appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

6 Easy Ways to Green Your Laundry

Tue, 2014-09-23 20:45

One of the best ways you can save money, water and energy is to green your laundry, and it’s actually easier than you might think. By simply tweaking a few settings on your washer and dryer and switching to more energy friendly alternatives you can save thousands over the course of your lifetime. So to help you out, we’ve come up with the following tips to green your laundry:

1. Your washing machine 

There’re hundreds of dollars to save. What are you waiting for? Your parents may have washed everything in hot water, but that was back in the day before detergents were formulated to work in cold water. Now, just about all detergents, even if not labeled as such, work perfectly well in cold water. Hot water also fades your clothes and therefore significantly shortens their useful life.

Here’s what it costs you to do laundry with hot water, warm water, and cold water.

So…to save money and reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Wash in cold water unless there is motor oil or some other really thick grease on your clothes. ALWAYS rinse in cold water. Anything else is seriously just a waste of your money.

If your washer has different settings (based on fabric type, perhaps), simply run a load and use your finger to test the water temperatures for the different settings. Then, in the future, let everyone in your household know that if they do laundry, to choose the setting that corresponds to the cold water.

Health tip: make the switch to a chlorine-free detergent. They’ve gotten better and better in effectiveness over the years, and hey, why put those kinds of chemicals on the clothes you and your family are going to be wearing for 16 hours at a time? Or, in the air of your laundry room as they get volatized? 

2. Wash full loads not partials

Did you know that your washing machines uses virtually the same amount of energy regardless of how full you stack it? It’s true. So to help reduce the amount of energy your home consumes, be sure to wash full loads instead of multiple smaller ones. You’ll save not only energy and money, you’ll save water as well!

3. Drying your clothes

Your clothes dryer represents thousands of dollars in savings…just waiting to be had. If you have one of those utility meters with a spinning wheel in it, go watch it the next time someone is using the dryer…the site of that wheel spinning around like a wheel on a Tour de France bike should be enough to convince you that there must be a better way.

The first thing to do is embrace a really awesome clean tech innovation: solar powered clothes dryers. Brace yourself, I’m referring to clotheslines (and in-house clothes drying racks, for folks who don’t have the outdoor option). The average family, switching to hanging clothes to dry, can save more than $500 per year. If you’re in need of a either a drying rack or clothesline, you can snag one or both of them from the Pono Home Store!

 

4. Set the dryer setting to “auto dry”

if your dryer has one. That will assure that when your clothes are dry, the dryer will turn itself off and not spend a bunch of extra electricity to continue drying your already dry clothes. If you don’t have an auto dry setting, set the dry time to less than you’d expect it to need, and turn the buzzer on so you can check it when it’s done. Turn it on for a few more minutes if need be. Make sure the setting you choose is for the appropriate fabric (otherwise you will damage your more sensitive clothes).

But, seriously…get a drying rack. Indoor, foldable drying racks take up little to no space and pay for themselves in no time. And use no energy whatsoever, and therefore, help you reduce your carbon footprint.

5. Clean your lint screen between every load

Be sure to clean out the lint from your dryer’s lint screen between uses. This will help to ensure good airflow and keep your dryer working efficiently. Clogged lint can be a fire hazard in your home, as well as a general health challenge for people sensitive to dust, so do it for the earth, and do it for yourself.

You can save about 10% of the overall cost of running your dryer by making sure the lint screen, lint trap, and lint vent are cleaned out regularly. Check out this article from The Inspired Economist to learn how.

6. Dry for less time than you think you need

While clotheslines and foldable drying racks can save you a ton of money, if you still want to use the dryer, there are ways to reduce the amount of money it’ll cost you. Using the auto-dry setting will ensure that the dryer kicks off when clothes are dry. If your dryer doesn’t have an auto-dry setting, try drying your clothes for less than a full cycle. We suggest roughly 40 minutes, odds are this should be long enough to completely dry all your clothes. If not, just pop them back in the dryer for another 10 minutes or so and repeat till they’re dry. You can always add drying time, but you can’t take it away.

The following photos are courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (clothes on a clothesline, clothes in a washer, dryer settingslint screen and clothes in a dryer)  and Pono Home.

The post 6 Easy Ways to Green Your Laundry appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How To Read And Interpret Your Monthly Water Bill

Tue, 2014-09-23 20:43

Every month home owners and renters alike receive a billing statement from their local water utility, and if you know how to read it, it can be a great place to start when it comes to saving money. However, reading and understanding the information on your monthly water bill isn’t always easy. So to help you out we’ve come up with the following guide to reading and understanding your monthly water bill:

How to read and interpret your monthly water bill

First, let’s begin by reviewing the most pertinent pieces of information that you’ll find on your monthly water bill:

Amount Due - This is probably the most straightforward of all the information presented on your billing statement. It’s exactly what it sounds like, the amount of money you owe to your utility company. However, what all makes up this amount is a different story, so let’s take a look at the various types of charges you can expect to find on your bill.

Charges: Typically your monthly water bill is comprised of two main charges, sewer and water.

Sewer - This is the charge for all the water that get’s pumped away from your home and off to a water treatment center. This includes all the waste water from the activities in your home like washing dishes, showering, flushing toilets, laundry etc. Your utility company usually charges for this “removal service” with a flat rate based on the type of customer you are. However, it is possible that some utilities will charge you a rate per 1,000 gallons of water “removed” from the home.

Water - This is the charge for all the water you actually have pumped into your home from the water treatment center. So every time you water your garden, clean your dishes or was your clothes you pay a rate which is measured in 1,000 gallon increments.

Miscellaneous Fees - These types of charges will vary from one utility company to the next, but it’s quite likely that you’ll find these on your bill. These fees are often put in place to cover the costs of maintaining the sewer system and water treatment plants and can be labeled in a wide variety of ways. However, a common charge you’ll find in this part of your bill is an electrical charge. This is to cover the cost of the electricity used to actually run the pumps that deliver and take water from your home. (See our article on the energy-water nexus for more on this).

Usage Habits - Just like your monthly electric bill, your water bill should give you some sort of history demonstrating your usage habits from month to month. This is probably the best section to look at when it comes to saving water and money. Is there a month in which you had a spike in your water bill? Or has it remained high after a given month? These types of spikes in your water bill can be contributed to lots of things, but one of those is leaks, meaning you’re paying for water you aren’t even using! If you see a slow steady rise in your water consumption that doesn’t correlate with a new person moving into the house, or a new water hog (i.e., new grass), it may well be that you have a leak (one that could potentially be getting worse, even).

Understanding how to read and interpret your monthly water bill is the first step to achieving water, energy and money savings, but let’s take this one step further. To actually start saving on your monthly water bill, try implementing some of these water saving ideas and habits in your home today:

If you’re looking for more ways to save around your home, take a look at our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Desert News.

The post How To Read And Interpret Your Monthly Water Bill appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How To Read And Interpret Your Monthly Electric Bill

Thu, 2014-09-18 15:57

When it comes to saving money and energy around your home, your monthly electric bill is one of the best places to start. After all, it can provide you with a wealth of information like your usage habits and your current energy rates. However, these monthly billing statements can be a tad bit tricky when it comes to reading and interpreting the information. To help you better understand your monthly electric bill we’ve come up with the following guide.

How to read your monthly electric bill

First, let’s review some of the different information you might find on your bill. Check out this video from a typical public utility (in this case, Hawaiian Electric) to see what’s included in their monthly billing statements:

Now, not all monthly electric bills will look like the discussed in the video, but they will all contain the same basic information. With that in mind, let’s review the most essential elements of any monthly electric bill:

Current Charges - This section of your bill will show your current account balance, or how much you owe to your utility company and when that amount is due. The way your utility company determines this amount is by taking two readings of your electric meter. One at the start of the billing period and one at the end. They then take the difference between these two amounts and multiply it by the current energy rate.

Billing Period - This part of your bills explains when your energy company takes both the first and second readings of your electric meter each month. The dates for these readings should be roughly the same each month, though there does tend to be a little variation.

Energy Rate(s) - This part of your bill will show you what your current energy rate(s) are. Depending on where you live your energy company may have what are known as peak and non-peak hours. Generally speaking, the price per kWh will be cheaper during the non-peak hours than during the peak hours. This is because the energy utilities grid is being less taxed during the non-peak hours, and they’ll charge a lesser rate to their customers in order to encourage the use of electricity during that time. If your utility employs this type of pricing structure (often referred to as time of use pricing), you may be able to cut your utility bill quite a bit by adjusting some habits–running laundry or other appliances at night, and avoiding using energy during peak demand times (typically right after the 9-5 work day when a lot of people get home and start cooking, playing video games, and the like).

Average Monthly or Daily Usage - This part of your billing statement will demonstrate what your average energy use is and this is typically done as either a monthly or daily average. It’s this section of your bill where you’ll gain the greatest insight into your energy usage habits. Generally speaking, energy bills are higher in the winter and lower in the summer. Take a look at your latest billing statement, which months tend to be the most expensive for you and your household? Do they coincide with using more AC or turning up the heat on your thermostat? The answer to these and similar questions should help you come up with a few areas where you can find ways to save energy.

Miscellaneous Charges - Every utility company is different and will have their own unique set of miscellaneous charges on their monthly billing statements. If you have any questions regarding what a charge is and why it’s appearing on your monthly electric bill, give your local utility a call.

If you’re looking for ways to save money on your monthly electric bill, try installing a water efficient shower head. Also, be sure to check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Soda Head.

The post How To Read And Interpret Your Monthly Electric Bill appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How To Insulate Your Hot Water Heater Tank

Tue, 2014-09-16 06:36

Did you know that by simply insulating your hot water tank you could save anywhere from 4%-9% on your water heating costs? If you go one step further and insulate the hot water pipes as well, you’ll save even more! Luckily, insulating your hot water tank is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward task that doesn’t require much in terms of technical training. Just follow these easy steps to insulate your hot water tank and start saving money:

Things you’ll need for the job:

  • Tank Blanket
  • Sharpie
  • Vinyl Tape
  • Scissors or Box Cutter
  • Dust Mask
  • Gloves
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Rag
Instructions: how to insulate your hot water tank

Hot Water Tank: Be sure to don your gloves, protective eye wear and dust mask before working with the tank blanket. The microfibers of the insulation can irritate your skin, eyes and lungs if they come into contact with it.

1. Turn off the power to the hot water tank. To do this, open up your home’s circuit breaker and find the switch that controls the power to your water tank, this should be clearly labeled. Once you’ve found the switch, turn it to the off position.

2. Clean the top of the hot water tank. Take your rag and wipe any dirt or debris off of the top of the hot water tank. This will help your vinyl tape to adhere properly.

3. Wrap the blanket around the hot water tank and mark where you’ll need to cut. Simply take the blanket and wrap it around the outside of the hot water tank. Take your sharpie and mark where the blanket overlaps on itself, this is where you’ll want to make your cut. Also, be sure to mark where your tank’s thermostats, panels and water lines are as well. Odds are you’ll need to be able to access these at some point during the life of the hot water tank. You’ll be making cuts for these as well.

 

4. Make all the necessary cuts. Lay the tank blanket with the vinyl side facing up and take your scissors or utility knife and make all the necessary cuts.

5. Wrap the blanket around the hot water tank and secure it in place. By now your tank blanket should be trimmed to the proper size and is ready to be installed. Wrap the blanket around the outside of the hot water tank and secure it to the top of the tank first using strips of vinyl tape. The blanket should have “tabs” on one side of it, be sure these are on the top side of the blanket. Once that’s done, place a strip of vinyl tape along the seam of the blanket.

6. Turn the power to the hot water tank back on. Now that your hot water tank is insulated and ready to go, walk over to your home’s circuit breaker and flip the switch that controls the power to the tank back on.

Check out this video to get an idea of what it should look like when you’re done:

If you’re looking for more ways to save energy and money around your home, check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Energy.gov,

The post How To Insulate Your Hot Water Heater Tank appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How To Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes

Mon, 2014-09-15 06:40

One of the best ways to save money and energy around your home is to insulate your hot water pipes. It will allow you to lower the temperature on your hot water tank by 2°F–4°F, saving you a lot of energy and money. Luckily, this home improvement project is inexpensive and easy to do. Just follow these easy steps to start saving money and energy today. 

Things you’ll need for the job:

  • Pipe Insulation (both 3/4″ and 1/2″)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Sharpie
  • Silver Tape or Zip Ties
  • Scissors or Box Cutter
  • Dust Mask
  • Gloves
  • Protective Eye Wear
  • Rag
Instructions: how to insulate your hot water pipes

Piping: It’s important to note that when you’re insulating the pipes leading to and from your hot water tank that the insulation shouldn’t come flush with the tank. Instead, you should leave roughly a foot of space between where the pipes connect to the tank and the start of the insulation. Having them flush with each other can create a potential fire hazard.

1. Turn off the power to the hot water tank. Simply open up your home’s circuit breaker and find the switch that controls the power to the hot water tank. Once you’ve found it, turn it to the off position.

2. Measure the various lengths of piping insulation needed. Take your tape measure and measure all the varying lengths of pipe you’ll be insulating. While you’re doing this be sure to take note of any angles you’ll need to cut as well as the diameter of the pipes (either 3/4″ or 1/2″). Also, remember the classic adage: measure twice, cut once.

3. Cut the insulation to the various lengths needed. Now that you’ve measured all the necessary lengths of insulation you’ll need, take your box cutter, utility knife, or scissors and cut the necessary lengths. Again, be sure to account for any angles and connections in the piping and leave your cuts a little long to start off.

4. Place insulation on pipes. Pick a starting point along the piping and begin putting the pieces of insulation in place. As you’re doing this you’ll need to trim some of the pieces to ensure a snug fit. Also, be sure to double check that you’re using the proper sized insulation. Leaving space between the pipe and insulation will make the insulation less effective.

 

5. Remove the adhesive tape from the seam of the insulation. One by one, remove the pieces of insulation from the pipes and take off the adhesive tape from the seam. Now, simply put the piece of insulation back in place around the desired pipe and press the seam together. This will help to ensure you have a good seal around the pipes.

6. Use the silver tape to secure the insulation in place. Now, take your silver tape and place a strip around the insulation in roughly one foot intervals. Also, be sure to put a strip around any connections between pipes. Doing so will help to ensure that your insulation stays in place and that you have a good seal.

7. Turn the power to the hot water tank back on. Now that all of your pieces of insulation are in place and secure, simply walk over to your home’s circuit breaker and turn the power to the hot water tank back on.

Check out this video to give yourself a better idea of how your pipes should look when you’re done:

If you’re looking for more ways to save energy and money around your home, check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Dex Knows.

The post How To Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

Clean Technologies For Cooling And Heating Your Home

Mon, 2014-09-15 05:29

Today there are all sorts of different systems you can have installed in order to green your home and make it more energy and water efficient, but which ones give you the best bang for your buck? After all, your home is a serious financial investment and making it as energy and water efficient as possible could mean a lower overall cost of ownership and a higher resale value down the road. So to help you get the best value when it comes to greening your home, we’ve come up with the following list of clean technologies for heating and cooling your home:

1. Passive Solar Home Designs

One of, if not the, best ways to ensure that your home is energy and water efficient is through the use of a passive solar home design. These designs will orient and lay out the floor plan of your home in such a way that you can use the angle of the sun to both cool your home in the summer, and heat it during the winter. To get a better idea of how this works, check out this diagram and video on how passive solar heating and cooling works:

 

Note: This video was produced in Australia for homes in the southern hemisphere, however, the design principles will apply to all homes regardless of latitude.

2. Solar Powered A/C and Hot Water Systems

Solar energy is a fantastic way to power all of the various heating and cooling systems in your home, and while they may be a little expensive up front, they’ll save you tons of money over the life of your home. We feel that the two best ways to utilize this renewable resource is through solar powered A/C and hot water heaters. Both systems will drastically reduce your carbon footprint! Check out the diagrams below to get a better idea of how these systems work:

Solar Air Conditioning:

Solar Hot Water Heaters:

3. Fans and Ventilation Systems

Utilizing either fans or ventilation systems is a great way to make your home both comfortable and energy efficient. There are lots of options to choose from, but we feel that passive home ventilation and whole house fans are the best bang for your buck. Check out the two videos below to see how these systems work and why they’re a good investment for your home:

Passive Home Ventilation:

Whole House Fans:

4. Swamp Coolers (Evaporative Cooling)

If you happen to live in an area that is both hot and dry, like the SW United States, swamp coolers are a great alternative to air conditioning. Not only do they tend to use less energy than their air conditioning counter parts, they’ll also introduce moisture to the air which will help to keep things from drying out completely. Check out this video to get a better understanding of how these systems work and why it might make sense for your home:

If you’re looking for more ways to save money and energy around your home check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Eco-Friendly HousesSpringtime Homes, Solar Energy For Homes, Pep Solar,

The post Clean Technologies For Cooling And Heating Your Home appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Base Types

Sat, 2014-09-13 06:49

As if there wasn’t enough to consider when it comes to picking out the right light bulb, being sure that you have the correct base type and size is yet another factor in your decision. Thankfully, this is probably the most straightforward of all the variables when it comes to purchasing a light bulb. To help you understand the four most common base types, we’ve come up with the following guide.

Modern Light Bulbs: Base Types

These are the four most common light bulb bases that you’ll encounter around your home:

  • Medium Screw Base
  • Candelabra
  • GU
  • Bi-Pin

To help you get a better idea of what these base types look like, take a look at the following image:

From left to right, Medium Screw Base, Candelabra, GU and Bi-Pin.

 

As you may have guessed, some types of light bulb shapes will often be paired with a certain type of light bulb base. This is because some styles and shapes of light bulb are designed with a specific use in mind, which will require that a certain type of light bulb base be used in order for the light bulb to work properly. For example:

It’s quite common for track lighting to feature halogen style light bulbs which come in an MR shape. In order for these bulbs to fit into the socket of the fixture, they will have either a GU or Bi-Pin style of base and will look something like this:

You’ll also find that light bulb bases will come in a variety of sizes, which is determined by measuring the width of the light bulb base in millimeters at its widest point. All base types, regardless of style, are measured in this way. The size of the base is expressed as number and will appear right next to the base style on the packaging. For example, a light bulb with a GU-10 base is 10 millimeters wide.

Take a look at the following image to get a better idea of how this measurement is taken:

If you’re looking for more ways to make your home energy efficient, try checking out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photos courtesy of Phillips, Lowes and eLightBulbs.

The post A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Base Types appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How Your Pool Pump And Filter Work

Sat, 2014-09-13 06:26

Understanding how your pool pump and filter work is a great way to get started when it comes to saving energy and money around your home. Fortunately, the system that pumps and filters the water for you pool is actually pretty straight forward. So to help you get started with saving energy and money, we’ve come up with the following guide to how your pool pump and filter work:

How your pool pump and filter work

First, let’s start by taking a look at the following diagram to get an idea of how your pool pump and filter work:

Essentially your pool pump and filter work in a “closed loop” system (some water will evaporate off the surface of the pool and will need to be re-added as needed). It starts by drawing water from both the pool and the skimmer and delivering it to the pump and motor. It is then passed through the motor to your pool’s filters which remove any debris and contaminants from the water. Next the water is passed onto your pool’s heater, where the water is heated to the desired temperature. After it reaches the appropriate temp, it’s passed onto a chlorinator (not pictured in the graphic above) where chlorine is added and then returned to the pool itself. Voila! To get a better idea of how this works, check out the video below:

Now that we have a better idea of how your pool pump and filter work, let’s take a look at some easy things you can do to make them and your pool more energy efficient:

  • Keep your drains clean and clear – The more debris that you have in your pools drains, the harder your pump and filter will have to work to move it through the system, thus using more energy. Clean them regularly to ensure your system is running efficiently.
  • Consider installing a pool cover – Installing a pool cover will go a long way to saving you money and energy. Uncovered pools can loose up to 20,000 gallons a year through evaporation, but by installing a pool cover that number can be drastically reduced. After all, this isn’t just water that’s evaporated, it’s heated water which your pool system uses energy to create.
  • Reduce your pool’s pump time – Most pool pumps are actually running longer than they should be. Your pool pump should only be running for approximately 6hrs a day, so if your pump is running longer, consider reducing the pump time to 6hrs.
  • Inspect your pool’s filters – Over time your pool’s filters will become caked with grime and debris making them both less effective at filtering contaminants from your pool’s water, as well as making the pump work harder. Check them periodically and change them when needed.

If you’re looking for more ways to green your home and make it more energy and water efficient, check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Swim NJ, How Stuff Works,

The post How Your Pool Pump And Filter Work appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How Your Fridge And Freezer Work

Fri, 2014-09-12 16:45

Knowing how your fridge and freezer work is a great place to start when it comes to making them more energy efficient. After all, fridges and freezers account for roughly 6% of the average monthly electric bill. So to help you get a head start on saving both money and energy, we’ve come up with the following guide to help you understand how your fridge and freezer work.

How your fridge and freezer work

Fortunately, both your fridge and freezer are cooled using the same style of system, so if you understand how one works, you’ll understand the other. To get started, take a look at the following graphic which will walk you through the basic process of the system:

Essentially, your fridge and freezer work by continually turning a refrigerant from a liquid to a gas, and then condensing that gas back into a liquid. The refrigerant starts in your fridge/freezer as a hot gas and is pushed from the compressor through a series of condenser coils where it is cooled and turned back into a liquid. That liquid is then pumped through a capillary which removes any moisture or contaminants before being sent to your fridge/freezers evaporator coils. Once it reaches your fridge/freezer’s evaporator coils it expands and turns itself back into a gas, thus drawing heat away from the system and cooling the items in your fridge. The gas is then returned to your compressor where the whole process starts again. Simple, yeah? Check out the video below to get a better idea of how this system works.

Now that you have a better understanding of how your fridge and freezer work, let’s look at three easy things you can do to ensure that’s it’s running efficiently:

  • Clean your fridges condenser coils - Over time lint, dust and debris from your kitchen can build up on the fridges condenser coils, by taking a stiff brush and removing the debris it will help your system to run more efficiently.
  • Set the temperature in your fridge/freezer to the appropriate level – Be careful not to under or overcool the items in your fridge or freezer. Over cooling will cause the fridge/freezer to work harder than it should and undercooling will cause food to spoil quicker than it should.
  • Be sure your fridge/freezer is at least 2/3rd full – The items in your fridge/freezer will act like thermal batteries and actually help to reduce the fridge/freezers work load.

If you’re looking for more ways to green your home and make it more energy efficient, check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of I heart Gum, Techni Ice,

The post How Your Fridge And Freezer Work appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How Net Metering Works

Fri, 2014-09-05 06:25

We’ve all heard about how about wonderful renewable energies can be for global warming and our planets energy future, but how does your pocket book feel about it? Odds are, it’s a little skeptical and that’s pretty understandable. After all, investing in a solar or wind power system for your home could potentially cost thousands of dollars, and the typical pay off period through savings can take as much as 15 years depending on where you live (though you should check in your area by getting a free solar report at Cost of Solar…it’s possible there are no-money down options that will yield savings from day one). Thankfully, energy companies are starting to offer credits and rebates to help their customers get into the solar and wind energy markets, but it doesn’t stop there. Now, many companies are starting to offer what is called net metering, and it will allow for your solar or wind power investment to both save AND MAKE you money for years to come. Sound too good to be true? I assure you, it isn’t, so let’s review what net metering is and how it works.

Let’s say that you have a solar or wind power system installed in your home. That system is generating power, and that power is converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) via an inverter so that it can be used throughout your home. However, while you’re away at work and the sun is strongest, not all the energy your home solar PV system generates is actually being used by your home, and this is where net metering comes into play. With a net metering system, your electric company will absorb all the extra energy your home generates and use it to power other homes. In exchange, your electric company will give you credits that will apply to your monthly electric bill, thus saving you money!

check out this graphic to get a visual idea of how the system works:

If at the end of the year your home uses less than energy than your system generates, and net metering is available in your area, your electric company will cut you a check for the difference based on either the retail or market rate for energy in your area!

If you’re interested in having a net metering system installed in your home, contact your local energy company to find out if it’s an option for you.

Looking for more ways to save money around your home? Check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Dominion and Ever Blue.

The post How Net Metering Works appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

Nuclear Power: The Facts & The Fiction

Thu, 2014-09-04 06:20

There are few issues in the environmental movement as polarizing as nuclear power. On one hand, nuclear provides a huge, baseload energy source that has no real carbon footprint. On the other hand, it’s easy to see why people are against it: just this week a senior nuclear expert advised that California’s nuclear power plant should be shut down, and the ongoing news about the effects of radiation in Fukushima is scaring people off using nuclear energy altogether.

Add to this all the pro- and anti-nuclear lobbying that takes place, and the topic becomes incredibly confusing, so I’ve broken down the key facts for you here.

1. Is nuclear power safe?

There is no clear answer to this question because we can only speculate on how probable or improbable it is that an accident with nuclear technology will occur. It’s true that increased safety regulations and monitoring and modern technology make nuclear power safer than it has been in the past, however even the most stalwart pro-nuclear proponent has to admit that there is still a risk involved with using nuclear power. The problem is that this seemingly small risk has the potential for extremely large and irrevocable consequences, as is currently being demonstrated in Fukushima in Japan, where a powerful earthquake in 2011 caused a nuclear meltdown.

Another thing to think about is seismic activity and the potential effects of this on nuclear power plants, particularly since fracking wells have been linked to increased seismic activity even in areas with no history of earthquakes pre-fracking. This is why Michael Peck, a senior federal nuclear expert, is urging regulators to shut down the last operating nuclear power plant in California until they can assess the potential impact of earthquakes on the facility.

In the same report Peck also states that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not been sticking to the safety rules it outlined for the plant’s operation.

Earlier this week the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved storing nuclear waste on-site for 160 years or more after a reactor has shut down, to much criticism from anti-nuclear activists and local residents, however in the absence of waste burial sites this is the only answer while the nuclear waste is being produced.

Is nuclear radiation harmless?

This is an interesting question because what people seem to fear most is a nuclear explosion, which is not a likely scenario at all. The main danger posed by accidents at nuclear power plants actually relates to radiation leaks, and pro-nuclear lobbyists argue that it would have to be a large or continuous, undetected radiation leak to cause tangible problems, since radiation in itself, in very small quantities, is considered to be harmless. However, according to research undertaken by the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud:

Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded, reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years. Variation in low-level, natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health.’

In May this year, Forbes reported that a small release of nuclear radiation that occurred on Valentine’s Day was probably linked to ‘the wrong kitty litter’ which was used to treat some of the nuclear waste that had been stored in WIPP, the world’s only underground nuclear waste repository which is based in New Mexico.

Whatever your views on the safety of nuclear power, it’s worth keeping in mind that as late as May this year four nuclear reactors in northern England had to be shut down due to faults. Granted, the faults were picked up on before disaster struck. But is that a risk we’re willing to take? Let’s look at the other issues in the debate to see whether the pros outweigh the cons.

2. Is nuclear power clean or sustainable?

This is the most confusing element of the nuclear energy debate because opposing parties can so easily use the term ‘sustainable’ to justify their own arguments. Again, the issue is more complex than that. Yes, nuclear power is more sustainable than coal, because nuclear reactors do not emit greenhouse gasses during operation, whereas coal is extremely polluting and there is wide recognition that we need to wean ourselves off it altogether.

However, nuclear energy is not sustainable in itself. There is a critical issue that determines the argument here which is that nuclear power creates radioactive waste that is highly toxic, and we currently have no long-term plan for dealing with it. Some of the waste is recycled and disposed of safely, but the matter that’s left over is worryingly dangerous and we still don’t have a way of safely disposing of it. What we currently do is lock it in cement or steel casks, and store it in pools for a few decades, or bury it underground and hope for the best. We don’t know what the effects of all this buried material might be in the long-term and we don’t seem to be any closer to finding safe ways of storing the leftover waste forever. Because of this issue of toxic waste, it cannot be argued that nuclear energy is sustainable, and it means that nuclear energy is the very opposite to the definition of clean.

Consider it this way–nuclear waste has a half-life that is longer than any language every known to exist. If we put safety warnings and handling procedures in English, Cantonese, and Spanish, but will any of those languages still be used in 10,000 years when future generations open nuclear storage facilities? The only answer we have to that question is that we don’t know.

3. Is nuclear power the key to energy independence?

Be wary of arguments claiming that nuclear power will make us energy independent. According to Michael A. Levi, senior fellow and director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations:

When people talk about energy independence, they’re thinking about oil, which we mostly use in vehicles and industrial production. When they talk about nuclear, though, they’re thinking about electricity. More nuclear power means less coal, less natural gas, less hydroelectric power and less wind energy. But unless we start putting nuclear power plants in our cars and semis, more nuclear won’t mean less oil.’

Thankfully there is another energy option available that could replace our need for oil. Read on.

4. Is nuclear power the only viable option?

As politicians continue the global discussion of attempting to stop or slow climate change they tend to loop from coal to nuclear and back again – even though neither is the truly sustainable option here. As some wise individual put it, there aren’t huge profits in ‘free’ energy, ie renewable energy that cannot be owned and co-opted by a single company. Once you invest in the initial equipment for harnessing solar, water or wind power, you don’t have to pay an energy provider for your “fuel” needs for the rest of your life, and some environmentalists argue that this is why governments deliberately choose not to invest in renewable technology. Certainly the question has to be posed as to why we discuss the nuclear option at all when we could be discussing the low carbon option of renewable technology. Renewable energy does not create hazardous waste material that we are unable to deal with, does not require mining, and it isn’t about to run out any time soon. Most importantly, it is the best option for the environment because of the low emissions involved with obtaining it, and 97% of scientists agree that we need to act on emissions now to help stop or slow climate change.

Since a third of Britain’s nuclear capacity went offline in the week that energy provider EDF found faults in its nuclear reactors, it’s clear that we need to switch to a safe source of energy that can, at the very least, tide us over in emergency situations like this one. It’s hard to see why governments around the world aren’t heavily investing more in renewable energy technology already – although some are doing so, the financial amounts are miniscule compared with fossil fuel subsidies that are already in place.

In the past the main barrier to solar investment has been limited battery energy storage, but this technology has come far in recent years – read up on the perovskite lightbulb and see for yourself. However, real investment is required to make renewable energy a viable contender for energy, and one has to wonder why we aren’t seeing more of that yet, when the need for fossil fuel replacement is so urgent.

Those are the basic facts.

As you’ve seen, there are no clear or easy answers in this debate, so I’ll leave it to you to decide what you do with this information. I will conclude by pointing out that even being pro-nuclear energy doesn’t mean that you have to be anti-renewable energy. Why don’t we start investing in renewable energy anyway? We have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

The post Nuclear Power: The Facts & The Fiction appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Color And Temperature

Tue, 2014-09-02 06:05

9

When it comes to modern light bulbs, being able to understand and choose the proper color and temperature is just as important as using the right style and shape of light bulb. To help give you a better idea of how to determine which color and temperature is right for you, we’ve come up with the following guide.

A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Color And Temperature

Most light bulbs today will come in a variety of colors and temperatures, and these are determined by measuring the light bulbs light by a unit known as a Kelvin. For practical purposes, this is best understood as an absolute measure of temperature, and is expressed as a unit of K. The following image will help to give you a better understanding of where the different colors and temperatures fall in the spectrum:

As you can see, the blue colors of light are the hottest and come in around 5000K, while the red colors are the coolest and come in around 2,200K. A good way to think about light temperature in this spectrum is to compare it to a flame. If you’re looking at a flame the middle of it should appear almost blue, and is the hottest part of the flame. The further out from the center you go, the color fades into yellows and reds, which are the coolest part of the flame. The video below will help to elucidate this seeming contradiction.

Check out this video to get a better idea of how this scale works, and where the different colors and temperatures fall within it:

Unfortunately, not all light bulb manufacturers will use the same terminology and measurement when classifying the color and temperature of their light bulbs. However, they will all use the same Kelvin (K) scale to measure their light bulb’s color and temperature, and this measurement will always appear on the packaging. For this reason we recommend that you go by the light bulb’s Kelvin rating, rather than its name, when selecting and purchasing your light bulbs. This will help to ensure you get the proper color and temperature of light.

Generally speaking, there are three different colors and temperatures you’ll find in use around your home:

  • Bright White (2700K-3000K)
  • Cool White (4000K-5000K)
  • Day Light (5000K and above)

All of these bulbs have different uses around your home and it’s important that the right color and temperature be used in the appropriate room. Generally, we recommend the following uses:

  • Bright White and Cool White (living rooms, home office, bedrooms and laundry rooms)
  • Day Light (security lights and patios)

If you want to learn more about light bulbs, check out this article on the various light bulb shapes and sizes. Also, be sure to check out some of our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photo courtesy of Super Bright LEDs, Bravo Light,

The post A Guide To Understanding Modern Light Bulbs: Color And Temperature appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living

How to Use a Light Meter to Set Appropriate Light Levels

Mon, 2014-09-01 20:14

Lighting in your home is among the top five energy users, alongside your fridge, HVAC, water heater, and clothes dryer. Most people know by now to swap out lights for more efficient LED models (or CFLs, if LEDs aren’t available, but CFLs are less efficient, contain mercury, and don’t last as long as LEDs). However, most people don’t think about the fact that the most efficient lighting may be no lighting at all. In many cases, areas of your home or business may be overlit, making it not only uncomfortable on your eyes, but also a complete waste of energy.

The process of rightsizing your lighting has been referred to as “delamping”. Effectively, if you have too much light in an area for the tasks that are done in that area, you can remove one or more of the bulbs and drop energy use substantially (and more importantly, infrastructurally, so that occupant behavior is less important…this is huge for small businesses where employees are busy, and for parents of children who like to leave lights on).

Check out this article on proper light levels, just to give yourself some background on the topic. Then, let’s get on to reducing your energy consumption by removing lights where appropriate!

Now, let’s review the proper way to measure the lighting levels in your home:

To do this you’ll need a light meter (if you don’t have one, you can bookmark this page and use that link to purchase a light meter). Here are the steps to assessing the lighting levels in your home:

1. Measure the ambient light in your desired room. Be sure that you have all the lights in the room turned off. Now take your light meter and get a baseline measurement for the room. You’ll use this baseline number when determining how much synthetic light is being contributed by the light bulbs in the room.

2. Turn on the lights you’d usually use while occupying the room. Give your lights a minute to reach full illumination, especially if you have CFLs which require a minute to power up fully. Now, take your light meter and measure the light level of the room again, you should get a reading that is higher than your initial baseline measurement.

3. Take the difference between your ambient and illuminated lighting levels and compare it to the guide above. By subtracting the ambient light level from your illuminated level you’ll get what’s called a differential or delta. Which is the amount of light being created by the light bulbs in your room. Or, the amount of light illuminating the room at night, when there is no ambient light. For example, if you measure the ambient light in room and the reading comes out to 100 lux, and after you turn on the lights you get a reading of 300 lux, the differential (or delta) would be 200 lux. If the differential (or delta) reading for the room is higher than is necessary for the tasks being performed in that room, odds are this can be remedied by simply removing some light bulbs. Conversely, if the differential is too low, you may need to add light bulbs to your fixtures or put a lamp in your room to reach the desired lighting level.

Next Step: Delamping

Now that you’ve determined the right amounts of light needed in a particular area, it’s time to start saving money. The process of rightsizing a lighting fixture is often referred to as delamping. It’s about what it sounds like…except more elegant, and scientific. A very common place in the home that delamping helps to save energy is in the bathroom, where vanity lighting fixtures are historically stupid bright. I took a reading on this bathroom with my light meter and found the lighting to contribute over 400 lux….way more than is needed even for high performance tasks that require precision.

Delamping (before): 400+ lux, 360 watts

In addition to it being too bright, it’s costing the occupant through high energy bills. This fixture had six 60 watt vanity bulbs in it, totalling 360 watts. Completely absurd. I delamped this fixture by simply unscrewing every other bulb, and replaced the remaining incandescent bulbs with high efficiency LEDs that use 1.7 watts each. Here’s the result:

Delamping (after): 200+ lux, 5.1 watts

Boom. Just like that, 355 watts less power, and a barely noticeable difference in light output. ROI? Huge.

If you’re looking for more ways to save money around your home, check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website! Also, see here for ways to reduce your energy on your:

  1. dryer (and also, tips for effective indoor line drying)
  2. refrigerator (how to clean your condenser coils)
  3. air conditioner maintenance tips for energy efficiency
  4. water heater

Photos courtesy of Small World Labs and Pono Home

The post How to Use a Light Meter to Set Appropriate Light Levels appeared first on Green Living Ideas.

Categories: Green Living