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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: 46 min 9 sec ago

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

13 hours 45 min ago

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 trying to find parking, spending money on gas and getting speeding tickets. Hiking? Way cheaper hobby than going to the mall and buying a bunch of plastic junk.

There is one green living idea, however, that rises to the top in terms of benefits to you, to the world, and for your wallet: going vegetarian….or at the very least, eating less meat.

The environmental benefits of vegetarianism and the catastrophic environmental destruction of the livestock/factory farm industry are well documented. But for the 95% of the world that is not hard-core green, the health benefits of vegetarianism are perhaps a bigger draw. Recently, I attended a lecture by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, about the linkages between animal product consumption and personal health. As someone who’s studied this for over 20 years, I was still blown away by how convincing the evidence, particularly with regard to cancer, that eating animal products is absolutely terrible for our health.

T. Colin Campbell gives a lecture in Honolulu to a packed house about the benefits of vegetarianism in disease prevention and general health

Among the mind-blowing findings that Dr. Campbell showed during his talk:

  • As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. spends more than any other country in the world on health care, about double the next biggest spender. The results? A terrible life expectancy, and levels of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other epidemics that are higher than the global average by wide margins. We also use double the amount of pharmaceutical drugs as other countries…in fact we lead the world in pharmaceutical use.
  • Funding for nutrition research is virtually non-existent…roughly 3% of total medical research.
  • Animal products are completely lacking vital nutrients that help our bodies–antioxidants and complex carbs are only found in plant foods. In addition, vitamins are virtually non-existent in animal products.
  • The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is roughly 10% of calories. But the study that that number was derived from was a study of young men (who likely need more protein than other demographic groups), and showed that the minimum protein needs for this group was 6% of calories. The problem, according to Campbell, is that the USDA then adds two standard deviations, just to err on the “safe” side and ensure that people get more than they likely need. But even if you add those two standard deviations to the protein needed by the most protein hungry demographic in our species, it’s only about 10%. Plant-based foods contain about 9-11% protein. Animal products contain about 15-20%.
  • There is a very strong correlation between the amount of animal products eaten and rates of cancer. Dr. Campbell’s 30+ year history of research in the field has shown an exceptionally clear result with both human and animal studies that ties overall disease (specifically, but not limited to, cancer) with animal product consumption. And protein, which everyone thinks they need more of, is the culprit! In one experiment, rats that were fed a diet of 20% protein got tumors 100% of the time (30 out of 30 test subjects). Rats that were fed a diet of 5% protein got tumors on their livers 0% of the time (0 out of 12 test subjects). Further, researchers were able to “turn the cancer on, and turn the cancer off” by manipulating levels of protein intake. When rats with cancer were switched to a plant based, 5% protein diet, cancer was literally “turned off”. When they then returned those same rats to the 20% protein regimen, it turned the cancer back on.

This slide shows Campbell’s research “turning cancer on and off” by manipulating animal protein intake. At 20% protein, cancer cells multiplied and tumors grew. At 5% protein, cancer growth was virtually eliminated.

Want to know more about Dr. Campbell’s work, but don’t want to spend the time to read the 1000 page plus tome on all the medical science? No worries…just make sure to catch Forks Over Knives, if you haven’t seen it already.

Photo from Shutterstock

 

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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.

At some point, Halloween changed from a primarily kid-focused holiday to one in which adults get wildly hammered and challenge each other to out-sex-ify each other in creative costumery. Last year, I even saw a sexy Jesus costume. I mean…nothing is sacred anymore. But preserving life on this planet and saving money is on everyone’s lists these days, so here’s Green Living Ideas’ best idea for fixing up your Halloween costume routine.

If you’re a guy (or gal) who enjoys partying like a rock star in a costume (like some of us, ahem), you probably have a box full of costume accessories: everything from wigs to outfits to fake weapons. But you wore those last year or the year before, so you’re not likely to wear them again this year. At the same time, you don’t want to give them up. After all, they’re awesome! So what to do? Host a costume swap!

Costume swaps

The idea of a costume swap is not new. In fact, clothing swaps – aka naked lady parties – are pretty common, especially among 20 and 30-something women who face the incredible price of clothes shopping. At a naked lady party, you bring clothes that either you don’t want or don’t fit you anymore. You try to give them to someone who’d look great in them and hope for the same in return.

The costume swap is a bit different, though. Instead of just giving your old costumes away, think about it as a free rental for a friend for Halloween this year. You bring out your box of goodies, and someone finds accessories that will match whatever theme they’re thinking this year. No more paying $30 for a wig! No more wasteful plastic packaging! Why go through all of the waste and expense when a friend probably has what you need lying around somewhere? You borrow the wig (for the short term) for free! After Halloween is over, just return the items to their rightful owners, and wham—you’ve got a very low budget but super awesome Halloween costume. And a fun way to spend some time with friends.

Find out more about Halloween costume swaps here. You can either do it privately with your friends, of publicly organize your own costume swap here.

…also find more green Halloween tips here.

Witch Costumes via Shutterstock

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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 about spending more money that you have to.

Automatic ice makers will cause your fridge/freezer to consume anywhere from 14%-20% more energy and could cost you as much as $437.31 per year! Our advice is to run off your automatic ice maker and use ice trays instead. After all, the ice trays will act like an additional thermal battery and help to keep your energy costs down while supplying you with ice!

Let’s take a closer look at the energy savings identified above: According to Hawaiian Electric Company, ice-makers add 106kWh per month to your energy bill. So if you multiply that by 12 months in a year you get 1,272kWh per year, factor in the cost per kWh and you get $437.31 of extra spending per year! (this is the cost per year for residents of Oahu)

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

Photos are courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Ice-cube people)

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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 and consumer electronics are responsible for 15% of the worlds residential energy consumption! So to help you lower your monthly electric bill, we’ve come up with three easy ways to make your computer more energy efficient:

3 easy ways to make your computer more energy efficient

1. Put your computer to sleep.  Be sure to change your settings so that your computer will go to sleep, instead of staying idle when it’s not in use. Desktop computers will use, on average, 74w per hour when they’re idling and “not in use”. So if your computer idles for roughly 16hrs a day that adds up to 432.16kWh per year. Which, when multiplied by your energy rate (which is $.3438 on Oahu) that idle computer could be costing you as much as $149 per year! Do yourself a favor, put that computer to sleep.

2. Turn off that screen saver. The whole idea behind screen savers was to keep your computers monitor from getting images “burned into it”. However, computer technology has come a long way and this isn’t really a big concern for more modern computers, yet, they still have the screen saver function. Don’t be fooled. While it might be pretty fun to stare at the pipes wrapping around on your screen, paying for them isn’t. A desktop computer monitor that is running a screen saver will use, on average, 65.1w for a CRT monitor and 27.61w for an LCD. When you multiply that by the 16hrs per day they tend to idle, and factor in the cost per kWh, these screen savers could be costing you $130.71 (CRT) or $55.43 (LCD).  (These figures were determined using Oahu’s energy rate)

3. Turn down your monitors brightness. By turning down the brightness on your monitor you’ll make life easier for both your eyes and your wallet. On average, a CRT computer monitor will use 65.1w per hour while it’s on. If you turn your monitors brightness down to half, that will reduce it to 32.55w per hour, which when multiplied by an 8 hour day of use, 365 days a year, means you’ll be saving 95.05kWh per year! Or $32.68 if you live on Oahu.

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

The following photos were provided by Flickr Creative Commons (computer monitors,

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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 energy saving tips to help you beat the heat and spend less to do so.

1. Keep heat generating activities outside if possible

Activities like cooking and laundry will add ambient heat to your home, and thus cause your home’s A/C to work harder, making that hot lunch a double whammy on your monthly electric bill. For instance, you could BBQ/cook outside in the summer, start to cold brew your coffee or make overnight oats for breakfast.

2. Fans cool people not rooms

Fans are a great way to beat the heat, but they don’t actually cool your room, they cool people by what is known as the “wind chill effect”. As the breeze passes over your skin it takes moisture with it as it evaporates, thus causing you to feel cooler. However, if you leave a fan on when people aren’t in the room, you’re actually making it hotter in there. So turn ‘em off unless you’re right there to enjoy them!

Let’s take a closer look at how much money this could save you: According to HECO the average ceiling or oscillating fan both use 100w per hour. If you were to run your fans all day every day for an entire year that’s (100w x 24hrs x 365days / 1,000 = 876kWh per year) when you factor in the cost per kWh ($.3438) that’s an annual operating cost of $301.17. Compare that to the cost of only running your fans for 8hrs a day (100w x 8hrs x 365days / 1000 = 292kWh per year) or $100.39. Meaning you could save upwards of $200.78 per year!

3. Keep heat away from your thermostat

Your thermostat continually measures the temperature of the room it’s in relative to the temperature setting on the thermostat itself. If the room is warmer than the setting on your thermostat, your A/C kicks on to cool the room. However, if there are objects near the thermostat that give off heat it could cause it to have a false reading, which in turn will cause your A/C to work harder, use more energy and cost you more money. 

4. Orientate your blinds to properly deflect the sun

One of the best ways to keep your home cool on a hot day is to prevent the heat from the sun’s rays from entering it in the first place. By properly orientating your blinds you limit the amount of heat entering your home. While you’re thinking about it, if you live in a hotter climate, maybe plant a shade tree outside the windows where you get the worst of the afternoon sun.

5. Be sure your windows and doors are properly sealed

One of the best ways to ensure your home’s A/C system is working efficiently is to check your doors and windows for drafts. Drafts in your home’s doors and windows will allow warm outside air into your home while simultaneously allowing the cold air generated by your A/C system to escape. Check your seals on a regular basis to ensure that your system isn’t working harder than it has to.

If you’re unsure of how exactly to go about checking your seals, read this article on how to check for air leaks around your doors and windows. Want more ways to 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!

The following photos are courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Weather Forecast, food grilling, fan, thermostat, blinds and windows) and Pono Home.

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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 get behind the wheel we’ve come up with the following tips for eco-friendly driving: By adopting these tips you could save up to $288 per year!

1. Your Tires. Driving around on underinflated tires is unsafe. In addition, it’s kinda like walking through mud

Doing extra work to move your vehicle forward on flatter tires will force your engine to suck more gasoline from your tank and money from your wallet. According to the US Department of Energy, your car’s fuel efficiency will drop 0.3% for every PSI (pounds per square inch, a measure of pressure) each tire is underinflated. That can easily add up to a few hundred or even thousands of dollars a year, depending on how underinflated your tires and how much you drive. That, plus, did I mention, it’s really unsafe!

Many people make the mistake of filling their tires to the tire pressure on the tires themselves. The U.S. Department of Energy says not to do that, and instead to use the tire pressure recommendations that are in your vehicle’s owners manual or printed on the inside of the driver doorwell.

Your car will have a label on it (usually inside driver door) for the recommended tire pressure. Use that one, not the one on the tires themselves.

Testing your tire pressure is easy with a pressure gauge:

Testing your tire pressure is super easy. Just unscrew the cap and apply the gauge to the valve.

Let’s take a look at just how much money you can save be ensuring your tires aren’t underinflated: The average driver in Hawaii puts 7,907 miles on their car and tires per year, and there is a .3% drop in fuel efficiency for every 1 PSI your tires are underinflated. Assuming your car is getting 19 mpg, with underinflated tires, and the cost of gas is $4.27 per gallon, you’ll spend $1,776 on gas per year! Now, if those tires are properly inflated you could raise your average to 19.57mpg, which would reduce your annual cost of gas to $1,549 per year, a savings of $227!

Many gas stations and every car mechanic will have a hose with which you can fill your tires. It’s as easy as plugging it in and occasionally testing the pressure with your gauge to get to the right level. Don’t have a tire gauge? You can pick one up from the Pono Home Store!

2. Your EngineIf your car is not properly tuned, it’s like trying to exercise after eating fast food: not pretty

Proper maintenance of your car will help keep your car running efficiently. The DOE says that major maintenance problems, like a faulty oxygen sensor, can drop your fuel efficiency by as much as 40%.

No one expects you to tinker under your hood to keep your car running efficiently. The best idea for you is to have your mechanic do a fairly regular comprehensive check to inspect for potential problems that might cause your fuel efficiency to drop.  Regular maintenance is way cheaper than all of that money you’re losing by putting it off.

Let’s take a look at just how much having a properly tuned engine can save you every year: Assuming that by keeping your engine properly tuned you can increase your fuel efficiency by 4%, and you drive 7,907 miles per year, a car getting 19mpg on an un-tuned engine would spend $1,594 on gas per year (assuming the price is $4.27). Now, if that same car, has a properly tuned engine, it would get 19.76mpg which would add up to $1,533 spent in gas per year. A savings of $61 per year!

3. Slow down, Speedy Gonzales! Love to drive aggressively? You’re only costing yourself more in gas money

There is a concept called Eco-driving (there are even driving schools specializing in it). The main tenets of eco-driving can more or less be boiled down to a few basics:

  1. Accelerate gently. Gunning it uses a lot of fuel for the distance it covers.
  2. Drive the speed limit, not 5 MPH above it. When you see a red light or a “stale” green light a little ways up ahead, let the car coast rather than continuing to press the gas pedal.
  3. Driving with windows slightly open, as opposed to using the A/C, is more efficient.

4. Do not idle

It’s still a commonly held belief that idling is better for your car than cutting the engine off then back on. That hasn’t been the case for many years. There is no damage done to your engine by turning it on and off, but idling will continue to burn gasoline and pollute the air around your car, which you and the people around you, will be breathing. Check out this article from Gas2.0 on how Ec0-driving and low impact living can save you money.

Further suggested ways to save:

Check out Google’s online directions tool–there’s a button at the top with a train icon on it. If you click that you can get public transit directions to whatever destination you’re going to, and, in many places, the cost differential between driving and taking transit. It’s usually quite a bit cheaper to go by transit, and surely has less of a carbon footprint. Prepare to be shocked at the difference!

The following photos are courtesy of the Flickr Creative Commons ( green car, testing tire pressure, enginespinning tires and exhaust fumes) and Pono Home.

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Categories: Green Living

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

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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 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: By adopting these tips you could save as much as $72 per year!

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.

Let’s take a look at how much this could save you every year: According to Hawaii Energy, the heated dry setting on your dishwasher causes it to use an extra 110kWh per year. Which when multiplied by the energy rate ($.3438 on Oahu) means your spending an extra $37.82 per year! Which is money you could be saving.

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.

Let’s take a look at how much you could save by running your dishwasher only when it’s full: According to Hawaiian Electric, dishwasher use accounts for 490kWh per year per household. Assuming that by only running your dishwasher when it’s full you can reduce your annual usage by 20%, that could lower your energy usage to 392kWh per year. Multiply it by the energy rate ($.3438) and that adds up to a savings of $33.69 per year!

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.

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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.

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.

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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,

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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.

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Categories: Green Living