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Being Green: 9 Ecofriendly Household Tips
From white roofs to LED bulbs, find out how you can save money and the environment
Being Green: 9 Ecofriendly Household Tips
Get Paid to Produce Power "Net metering" allows homeowners with wind turbines, solar panels or other energy-generating devices to sell surplus electricity to the local power grid. The arrangement is available in 44 states, although many programs are restricted to certain types of utilities. Learn more about your state’s rules at http://apps3.eere.energy.gov/greenpower/
markets/netmetering.shtml and about
's George Musser's experiences installing solar panels at
Laundry Hangout Except for refrigerators, the biggest energy hogs in most households are washing machines and clothes dryers. The good news is that it’s easy to dramatically reduce the energy these appliances use. By washing all clothes in cold water, you can reduce consumption by as much as 90 percent. Unless garments have oil or grease spots, cold water cleans fine and keeps colors brighter for longer (some home economics experts do recommend a cold-water detergent for best results). What’s more, by drying laundry on a clothesline or rack you can save $75 and 700 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year. The simplest fix of all: don’t wash your clothes until they look dirty or fail the sniff test.
Brightest Bulb in the Box Most people are now aware that compact fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescents. But how do they stack up against light-emitting diodes (LEDs), the newer kid on the block? Answer: LEDs burn brighter, last longer and contain no mercury, but they aren’t yet cost-competitive for everyday household use. Also, LEDs work best in fixtures that are specially designed to dissipate heat. So buy compact fluorescents now, and they should last long enough—several years at least—to light your way to LEDs.
Cost: Less than $1
Typical life span (hours): 1,000
Brightness (lumens/watt): 15
Cost: About $2
Typical life span (hours): 10,000
Brightness (lumens/watt): 60
Cost: About $80
Typical life span (hours): 50,000
Brightness (lumens/watt): 75
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Energy, EarthLED
Leading the Chargers Some cell phone chargers draw more power than others when left plugged into the wall but disconnected from the phone. In an effort to conserve energy, the world’s top five cell phone manufacturers (LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson) have launched a common system for rating that silent draw, on a scale of zero to five stars, with five being the least power consumed. Visitors to each company’s Web site can find ratings for all of that company’s chargers (search for “charger energy efficiency”). Ratings are based on the U.S. Energy Star and European Commission energy standards. Nokia claims that if every mobile device owner switched to a four- or five-star charger, enough electricity would be saved to close down two medium-size power plants. Just remember: unplugging any charger when it is not in use saves the most juice.
Bottle Picks Discarded plastic water bottles clog landfills, and bottled water typically is no healthier than tap water. You can avoid wasting materials and energy by carrying your own reusable bottle. Recently some colorful and durable polycarbonate plastic bottles have been discontinued because they may leach bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic hormone. Other options to consider are:
• Copolyester plastic bottle—similar to hard Lexan plastic but contains no BPA.
• Epoxy-lined aluminum bottle—not squeezable, can be slippery when wet, and can dent when dropped.
• Unlined stainless-steel bottle—similar to aluminum bottle but easier to clean; some people prefer the taste to that of aluminum contact.
Living Small Thanks to small heating bills and the desire to live simply, compact houses are the next little thing. Some are as small as 65 square feet. Others range in size up to 1,000 square feet. But all are designed as year-round dwellings and are not motor homes. Compact houses are usually wood-framed, and you can buy most of them ready-made or build them from plans. A sampling of vendors: Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, Cusato Cottages, weeHouses and PowerPods. It takes a special person to live in the smallest of these houses, but the shelters might also be ideal for starter homes.
High on White Roofs Painting your home or office building roof a light color or installing white shingles helps to reflect heat—and reduces cooling costs. According to Hashem Akbari of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, replacing a 1,000-square-foot dark roof with a white one can offset the emission of 11 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Roofs account for about 25 percent of the surface area in most cities. California has required heat-reflecting roofs on commercial buildings since 2005 and will require them for new and retrofitted residential buildings beginning in 2009. If white shingles aren’t your style, manufacturers also offer heat-reflective coatings in darker colors for shingles, tiles and metal roofs.
Are Scooters Polluters? Some people are turning to scooters to reduce their transportation costs. But even the cleanest gasoline-powered models typically emit more smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides than a car because so little pollution-control equipment fits on them. On the positive side, scooters can help ease traffic congestion, minimize materials used in manufacturing and lessen carbon dioxide emissions (because they get better fuel economy). The greenest choice may be a “maxi scooter” that is as powerful and expensive as a motorcycle but runs on electricity, although that energy may be generated at a fossil-fuel-burning power plant. Here’s a comparison:
Carbon dioxide emissions (gms/km): 396
Hydrocarbon emissions (gms/km): 0.079
Toyota Prius MKII
Carbon dioxide emissions (gms/km): 120
Hydrocarbon emissions (gms/km): 0.018
Piaggio Vespa GT200 gas scooter
Carbon dioxide emissions (gms/km): 72
Hydrocarbon emissions (gms/km): 0.300
Vectrix electric maxi scooter
Carbon dioxide emissions (gms/km): 36
Hydrocarbon emissions (gms/km): 0.064
SOURCES: EPA, U.S. Department of Energy, Ecolane Transport Consultancy