Keeping your home properly sealed is a great way to ensure that it’s using energy efficiently, and if you know where to look finding and sealing air leaks can be a quick and simple task. One of the best places to start looking for air leaks in your home is around your door and window
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When it comes to illuminating your home there seems to be an endless number of options available, but which one is the right one for you? By today’s standards, the answer would seem to be one of two choices (LEDs vs CFLs), however picking between two types of bulbs is only the tip of the
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I had just arrived to camp for the night, roughly 30 miles from the trailhead, and low and behold one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen was just starting to ignite in the early evening sky. It was as if any and every color I had ever seen was being brushed onto
If you’re looking for a way to spend a little less money around your home, try finding places where you can use 3-way light bulbs. Not only will they give you more control over the level of light in a given room, if used properly, they should save you money on your monthly electric bill.
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Clean water coming from the tap used to be a given but from severe droughts to industrial chemical spills, our water security is growing more questionable. For daily drinking, cooking, and washing or for emergencies, the EcoloBlue Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG) from Molecule New Water Technologies* may be an option worth exploring
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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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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
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
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
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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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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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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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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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
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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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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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
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.
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.
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!).
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 cleaning, cast iron skillet, covered boil, cold brew coffee and pasta principle) and Pono Home.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
- Check out this article from Eat Drink Better on tips for reducing your food waste
- The folks over at Eat Drink Better also came up with these techniques to keep your produce fresh
- This article from Vibrant Wellness Journal talks about what you can do with wasted food scraps
- Eat Drink Better is always keeping you up-to-date with the best ways to minimize your food waste and save money, just check out their Food Waste category for the latest news
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.
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.