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Copyright © 2005-2012 by Zack Smith .
All rights reserved.
This is a list that I'm keeping on how to conserve energy
and therefore money, adding to it from time to time in the hope
that it will be helpful to people.
Many of these ideas are common sense and wisdom,
others are passed-down knowledge,
and a few are the result of my own creative problem solving.
Heat only rooms you really use. During the Winter,
close off rooms that you don't really need to have
Remember that every cubic foot of air
takes energy to heat, so you should minimize
the volume you're heating.
- Close off heating ducts for the rooms you're not using.
You can buy magnetic covers at hardware stores
that provide a better
seal than just closing the vent.
In an extreme situation like a blizzard when you've lost power, consider occupying and heating only one room.
Use small portable heaters instead of central heating.
Heat only the areas that matter.
The oil-filled electric radiators seem to do a good job,
but keep them on the low setting.
Use any residual heat in the house to hang wet clothes that need drying,
rather than using an electric dryer.
On a warm day, hang clothing outside.
Check that your water-heater is not over-heating the water, which is wasteful.
In some countries, it is common to see small electric water heaters
next to sinks and showers that only heat the small amount
that you will use. This is more efficient than a larger heater.
Use a timer or manual switch to switch off the
water-heater during the hours when you are not at home.
Some utility companies offer a reduced rate on the stipulation
that they install a device that does just that.
Save materials during Summer and Autumn for using in a
woodstove or fireplace in the Winter.
Some good burnable materials include the following.
- extra pieces of wood from projects
- wood chips; bark; twigs
- nut shells: collect them year round.
- clothing: if it gets ripped, remember, it's flammable.
- branches -- keep them on a rack outside to dry.
- stale bread
- non-glossy junk mail (use for starting the fire)
- leftover McDonalds french fries (full of flammable oils)
If you own your house, remove trees that obscure south-facing windows.
Use them as firewood.
Plant trees on the north side of your house,
to reduce the cooling effect of wind.
You can tape a layer of transparent plastic
from your local hardware store or Walmart over
windows to create an additional layer of
insulation over windows.
When it's cold out, raise the window shades to let in
sunlight to help heat your home.
South-facing windows are especially good for this.
During the winter, close off north-facing rooms if possible
and seal the heating duct vents in those rooms.
Occupy the warmer south-facing rooms.
You can turn down the heat and
wear more layers of clothing when it's cold.
Don't be afraid to wrap a blanket around yourself.
If you have a woodstove, don't be afraid to use it.
If you have a fireplace, consider getting a woodstove instead.
If you own your home, consider installing
which fiber-optic based lighting, which collects light in a reflective dish up on the roof and
sends it down a cable to the interior of your house.
This is better than a conventional skylight,
since you don't have to worry about heat leakage.
- Insulate your water heater.
Put insulating face-plates on your electrical sockets,
since these are spots where heat is lost.
Do a thermal analysis of your home.
While it can be expensive to hire someone to come in with an
FLIR (thermal infrared) camera,
and of course thermal-infrared camera film is no longer available
due to homeland-security paranoia,
you might consider using a hand-held infrared thermometer
(as used by professional cooks).
Take it outside the house during the Winter
and look for hot spots e.g. near windows.
(Mind you, I have not tried this, but logically it should work.)
Find a way to recycle used cooking oil for heating.
To conserve toilet water, put
bricks in the holding tank, so that less water
is used to fill it and therefore
less to flush.
You can also fill jars with water to the jars' rims
and put those in there.
To further conserve toilet water, use the motto
from summer camp:
If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow.
To conserve shower water, put an egg timer in the bathroom
to make it easier for you to limit your showers to 5 or 10 minutes.
- Every time you open your fridge's door,
cold air escapes, warm air rushes in, and as a consequence
energy will be needed to re-cool the air in the fridge.
This is wasteful.
One simple way to prevent this is to fill any unused
space in the fridge with bottles of water.
They serve in two ways:
- They reduce the volume of air needing recooling.
- They cool the air after the door closes.
Another way to avoid recooling of air in your fridge
is to fool the thermostat.
Buy a 3 inch piece of beeswax from your local health food store
or beekepper and warm it until it is flexible.
Then stick it onto and over the thermostat in the fridge
so that the thermostat becomes less sensitive to sudden changes
in air temperature.
Or check out a commercially available solution
In the Winter, put some items outside in the snow
or ice, instead of in a freezer -- if it gets cold enough.
Recycling and retention
While I've never been a hoarder of materials, in fact I'm more of a minimalist,
I do think that if I can recycle or retain
some material in order to avoid expending energy and money later
to get a new one, that's a great idea.
Have an "extras" box in which additional items that you may not use
for years to come can be stuffed, or good-quality items that have
fallen into disuse.
- Always buy the "loss leaders" at stores so that you can
store up basic, useful things. For instance
at Staples once or twice a year you can buy
plastic 3-ring binders for 25 cents each. I bought ten.
- Cardboard packaging such as cereal boxes
is very useful. Cut it apart so that the large
faces can be used as something to write
to-do lists or signage on. It's harder to misplace
a piece of cardboard than a scrap of paper.
- Cut up old shirts to use as rags.
- Use old socks to collect tennis balls.
- Use old socks to protect delicate ceramic and glass items
- Reuse old jeans by cutting long strips of denim from the legs,
using them to create coverings, blankets, and apparel.
For long highway trips, don't go faster than 55 miles per hour
or preferably 50. Wind resistance is 40% stronger at
65 mph than it is at 55.
I have gotten as high as 32 mpg highway in my Toyota
truck, which normally gets 25 mpg, by going 55 or less.
When driving a stick-shift car, i.e. with manual transmission,
don't be afraid to take the car out of gear and just
coast whenever possible. Your engine's RPMs go way down
and your fuel efficiency goes up when coasting.
When at a long stop light, if you'll be idle for more than
7 seconds then turn off the engine.
Gasoline used at a stop light is basically loss without any gain.
(Two exceptions: If it's hot out and you need
the air conditioning, or if it's cold and you need to warm up
Never floor it when going up a hill.
Your fuel efficiency goes way down when you do that.
In most vehicles (except diesels) remaining in lower gear
is also inefficient. So upshift to a higher gear
before you have to go uphill and then stay there.
If you plan your time and route well how you will run your errands,
you can save a lot on gasoline / bus tokens / etc, not to mention time.
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