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Sustainability Tips

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More sustainability tips: or How much carbon can you lose?

  1. The most effective way to bring down energy costs, and carbon footprint, is through insulation….attic, floor, walls, around pipes coming from your hot water heater. Six inches of all insulation around will reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to ½. There are also various forms of sprayed in insulation that work well also, especially in the ceiling. If you have a pier and beam house, insulate under the floor, and then cover the insulation with visquine or some kind of moisture barrier. Be sure the ducts for your heater are well insulated and tight!
  2. Check for air leaks around windows and doors and use weather stripping or caulk to plug leaks. There are professionals who can check this for you or you can use an incense stick. Leaks occur where there is a change in materials (e.g. between windows or doors and their frames). If you go around those places and the smoke from the incense goes any direction but up, you know you have a leak.
  3. In the summer, try opening your windows at night to get our cool panhandle breeze, then closing them tight and pulling down the shades in the day time. We can live very comfortably that way almost all summer here, and cut air conditioning bills a bunch!
  4. In the winter, try wearing a sweater and turning your thermostat to 68degrees…and even 55 at night. This alone can save reduce your heating costs as much as 20%.
  5. Cut phantom power. Phantom power is the power that you are using when you think you are not, i.e. when any device is not fully turned off. Whenever there is a little LED light on, there is phantom power…TVs, computers, chargers of all kinds, anything with a running clock, anything requiring a remote – all these rely on power to be “ready” for you to turn them on fully. The best way to cut this is to use power strips – one for your entertainment center, one for your computer, or any other system where you have multiple electronic devices. When you are not actively using them, turn off the power switch on the strip. And ALWAYS unplug the charger, not just the device being charged. A plasma screen TV uses almost as much electricity when it is “off” as when it is on.
  6. Insulate your water heater. A lot of heat is lost through the walls of older water heaters. Be sure also to insulate the pipes going to and from the water heater. Turn your heater down to 120degrees (that is between warm and hot on some heaters). Devices that heat things use the most energy. Probably the biggest is the clothes dryer. Try air drying, then put your clothes on the no-heat setting for a few minutes to fluff them if you like.
  7. Every few months, vacuum out around the coils of your refrigerator…(most are on the bottom and love to attract dog and cat hair. Some are on the back. Also every few months change filters on all equipment that moves air!
  8. Drive smart. UPS has discovered that if they set up their routes to only make right turns (or left-left turns) they save a lot of gas because they are not waiting on traffic lights. Plan your trips to be as efficient as possible. Practice energy efficient driving. Speed up and slow down smoothly.
  9. Slow down to enjoy the ride. A 2003 Subaru Outback averages 22mpg when driven at 70mph and 28mpg when driven at 60!
  10. The average meal that we eat has come from at least 1500 miles away. Growing or purchasing locally grown food not only cuts the fuel needed in transport, it supports local business and is healthier. There is a growing list of local growers. Check the farmer’s market.
  11. Next time you need to buy an appliance, get an energy efficient variety. It may cost a little more up front, but currently tax credits are available for many items, and the savings in electric bills will more than cover the cost over the life of the appliance.
  12. Practice water conservation.
    • Leaky faucets can lose 500 gallons/month.
    • Change out shower heads; there are inexpensive very good ones that aerate the water so it feels like a lot, but isn’t. These are widely available.
    • If you must water your yard, water at night! Check sprinkler heads to make sure they are not watering the street!
    • Use gutters, and a water tank under your downspouts. This can be as simple as a plastic trash can, or as complex as an underground tank. Use this water for as much of your landscaping as possible.
    • Practice Xeriscape gardening, (pronounced zeriscape) the practice of using drought tolerant plants in your landscaping. TXDOT, the County Extension Service, the Amarillo Botanical Gardens and almost all garden supply stores and nurseries can give you information about what to plant.
  13. Trees are great energy buffers. On the south side of your house the shade can cool your house 5-15 degrees. Siberian Elms are not good, however. Their roots love to get into your water pipes.
  14. Practice thinking sustainably…There are countless little things you can do to make your life more energy efficient. It can be fun and a wonderful thing to do as a family. Challenge yourself and your family to bring down your utility bills by 10% or more. You will be helping yourself and the environment as well!