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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: 49 min 5 sec ago

How to Create Thermal Barriers to Save Money on Heating and Cooling

Tue, 2014-10-28 17:51

The importance of properly insulating your home should be quite apparent at this point. Creating so-called thermal barriers in the home to keep heat from moving from one place to another can save a lot of money on heating and cooling costs as well as help keep living and working spaces more comfortable

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Categories: Green Living

Green Jobs Are The Wave Of The Employment Future

Tue, 2014-10-28 17:09

For many of us who graduated from college within the last five years, finding a career job has been difficult. Not only were jobs becoming more scarce, the competition for those jobs was getting harder and harder by the day. We entered the workforce among people with years of experience (and sometimes master degrees) in

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Categories: Green Living

How Much Does Your Food Waste Cost You?

Tue, 2014-10-21 06:52

It seems like every month we’re adding more and more special holidays to our already busy calendars, for example, did you know that September 19th is “talk like a pirate day”? Yeah, me neither. However, not all of these holidays are a complete gimmick. Take for example October 16th which is also known as World

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Categories: Green Living

Water Is More Essential Than You Know

Mon, 2014-10-20 19:48

Water. It could be argued that it’s one of the most diverse substances on our planet. It can be found in all three phases of matter (gas, liquid and solid) and is the key ingredient to creating and sustaining life as we know it. Without water, we simply wouldn’t exist. By following that same logic

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Categories: Green Living

Whole Food, Plant Based Diet: Benefits of the Most Powerful Green Living Idea Ever

Mon, 2014-10-20 06:24

Green living is a terrific lifestyle. Not only do you get to save money, it’s usually very good for the planet (you feel better about leaving the world a better place for your loved ones), and it’s usually very good for your health. Biking? Better than sitting in a car inhaling fumes. Walking? Sure beats

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Categories: Green Living

Costume Swap: Save Money, Reduce Waste This Halloween

Fri, 2014-10-17 06:01

Host a costume swap this Halloween to save some cash and reduce your impact. Here's how to put one together

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Categories: Green Living

Automatic Ice Makers Aren’t Convenient For Your Wallet

Thu, 2014-10-16 06:26

If you’re like me, and don’t want to spend more money than you should on anything, than I suggest you take a good look at your fridge/freezer. Does your unit have an automatic ice maker built into it? If so, it’s probably a good idea to turn it off. After all, there is nothing convenient

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Categories: Green Living

3 Easy Ways To Make Your Computer More Energy Efficient

Tue, 2014-10-14 19:05

We live in the information age, where it seems that almost anything can be found by simply typing a few words into a Google search, but did you ever stop to think of how much that convenience might actually be costing you? The answer might surprise you. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) computers

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Categories: Green Living

5 Energy Saving Tips To Beat The Heat

Thu, 2014-10-09 14:59

Everyone knows how uncomfortable it can be to be stuck in a hot car, classroom, or home in the middle of a heat wave…it’s pretty tough! Fortunately, beating the heat and providing yourself with a cool, comfortable environment doesn’t have to be synonymous with spending money and using lots of energy. Just try implementing some of these

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Categories: Green Living

Going The Extra Green Mile For Eco-Friendly Driving

Thu, 2014-10-09 14:52

Have a gas guzzler? You could save thousands of dollars and large amounts of carbon emissions by having a more eco-friendly car. But you knew that, of course. But, did you know that how you drive is almost as important as what you drive? It’s true. So to help you save money the next time you

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Categories: Green Living

2 Diaper Recycling Solutions Offer Hope for Our Landfills

Tue, 2014-09-30 11:57

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

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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

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Categories: Green Living

9 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. By implementing these tips you could save up to $27 per year!

9 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”. 

8. Or….cold brew coffee and tea. A great way to save money and still start your day with a cup of coffee or tea is to cold brew it. Just take a French press, fill it with water, put ground coffee or a tea bag in it for the next morning, and let it brew on your counter overnight. Check out this article from FeelGoodStyle for some cold brew coffee ideas.

Let’s see just how much money cold brewing your coffee could save you: A burner on high on an electric stove top uses, on average, 1.25kWh. Assuming it takes 8 minutes (8/60 or .13minutes) to bring the water needed for your french press to a boil, you’ll be using .163kWh per boil. If you make coffee everyday, that adds up to 59.9kWh per year. Factor in the energy rate ($.3448 per kWh) and that coffee costs you $20.45 per year to enjoy it hot. Switch to cold brewing, and you’ll save that money instead of spend it.

9. The pasta principle. Here’s a nifty trick, the next time you’re cooking some pasta, rice, oatmeal, or other grain, use what we call the “pasta principle”! Basically, just turn off the burner after only boiling for a few minutes and put a lid on the pot. The grains will absorb the residual heat and soften up, and it should only take a few more minutes than if you were to leave the burner on the entire time you were boiling. Doing so will reduce the amount of energy used to prepare your meal and you’ll still get the same results.

Let’s take a look at just how much the pasta principle can save you: Assuming you boil your noodles on a medium heat (which uses .625kWh) and you boil for 15 minutes (.25hr), that’s a total of .156kWh per boil. Multiply that by, lets say 120 meals per year, and then factor in the cost per kWh (which on Oahu is $.3438) and those noodles are costing you $6.44 per year. Now, if you follow the pasta principle, and boil those noodles for only a minute, those noodles will only cost you $.43 per year. Which is a savings of $6.01. Not bad.

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons (boiling pot, reflector, automatic oven cleaningcast iron skilletcovered boil, cold brew coffee and pasta principle)   and Pono Home.

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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,

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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.

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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: By adopting these tips you could save upwards of $104 per year!

7 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 $5.25 per month or $62 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. The door being opened and closed on your fridge can cause your unit to use an extra 50-120kWh per year! So to help you save nearly 7% of your fridges total energy usage, be sure to open and close your door quickly. To see how much money you could save simply multiply your hourly kWh rate by the number of kWh outlined above, if you live in Hawaii it could save you anywhere from $17.19-$41.26 per year.

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. According to Hawaiian Electric the average second fridge uses 2,000kWh per year! Multiply that by the hourly rate and that second fridge could be costing you as much as $688 per year.

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 liquidspeeking into fridge and ice box) and Pono Home.

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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.

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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? 

Curious how much you could save by switching your wash temp? Let’s take a look: First, let’s assume that your water tank is set to 120 degrees. According to HECO the average family of four does 392 loads of laundry per year. If all of those loads are done using the Hot/Cold setting (which uses 3.4kWh per load) that amounts to 1,332.8kWh per year (392 loads x 3.4kWh per load) factor in the current energy rate ($.3438) and you’ll be spending $458.22 per year on laundry. By switching to the Cold/Cold setting your annual energy usage drops to 156kWh (392 loads x .4kWh) factor in the cost of energy and you get an annual cost of $53.91, or $404.31 in savings!

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!

Let’s take a closer look at the potential savings from only washing full loads: According to HECO the average family of four does 392 loads of laundry per year. Let’s assume that the washer setting for these loads is the Hot/Cold setting (which uses 3.4kWh with the hot water tank set to 120 degrees). That makes our baseline for savings (392 loads x 3.4kWh = 1,332.8kWh) factor in the cost per kWh ($.3438) and that’s $458.22 per year. Now, let’s also assume that by only washing full loads of laundry you can reduce your total number of loads by 25%. Your new loads per year becomes (392 loads x .75 = 294 loads of laundry per year). If you continue to use the same Hot/Cold setting outlined above, your new annual cost of laundry becomes (294 loads x 3.4kWh per load = 999.6kWh per year x $.3438 = $343.66 per year for laundry) or a savings of $114.56 in savings!

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 $363 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!

 

A closer look at the savings associated with line-drying: According to HECO the average household dryer consumes 1,056 kilowatt hours per year, which when multiplied by the energy rate on Oahu ($.3438) comes out to $363.05 per year. Which is money you could be saving if you switch to a drying rack or dry line.

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.

Let’s take this one step further: So if by keeping your dryer lint free you can save 10% on its energy usage, and according to HECO the average dryer consumes 1,056kWh per year, your new annual usage by keeping the lint screen clear is (1,056kWh x .9 = 950.4kWh per year) factor in the cost per kWh ($.3438) and that’s an annual operating cost of $326.75. Which when compared to the cost of not cleaning the lint screen ($363.05) means you’ll be saving $36.30 per year!

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.

Let’s take a look at how much you could be saving every year by drying for less time: According to HECO the average family of four uses 1,056kWh per year for drying clothes. Let’s assume that they’re over drying their clothes every time, meaning they’re drying them for a full hour (1.0hr) vs 40minutes (.67hr). By adopting the tip above the total power consumption for drying clothes per year becomes (1,056kWh x .67 = 707.52kWh per year) factor in the energy rate ($.3438) and the new cost per year for using the clothes dryer becomes (707.52kWh x $.3438 = $243.25) compare that to the original cost of over drying ($363.05) and that’s a yearly savings of $119!

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.

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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.

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Categories: Green Living