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SAVE ENERGY - SAVE MONEY

Greening Neighborhoods promotes, educates, and supports
neighborhood efforts to conserve our natural resources, save
money, and reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s going to get cold.  And based on all the indicators I’ve seen it’s going to be super cold this winter.  The cherry trees at our house blossomed in October.  Normally they blossom in late November.  The same is true for holly – the berries have turned red earlier than normal and the wooly caterpillar is nearly all black instead of the normal black and brown.

And that brings me to the point of this warning — cold weather can freeze outdoor faucets and the connecting pipes can burst.  The last thing we want to happen is for cold water to run wild inside our walls causing more damage and headaches than we ever need to even imagine.  Here’s what we need to do to minimize problems.

Many newer homes have frost proof outdoor faucets where the washer is on a long stem that extends inside the wall and is protected by insulation or a warm room.  This type often (but not always) has a vacuum breaker above the faucet handle.

Hose Bibb w/ Vacuum Breaker

Hose Bibb w/ Vacuum Breaker

 

 

 

In many homes there is an indoor shut-off for outdoor faucets.  Shutting off this valve will take care of the freezing potential.

Hose Bibb Shut-off

Hose Bibb Shut-off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If there isn’t a shut-off, or if we’re not sure whether or not we have a frost proof faucet, hardware and home improvement stores carry faucet covers for about $1.00 that will provide freezing protection by forming an insulating shield around our faucet.

Cover In Place

Cover In Place

Cover Being Put On

Cover Being Put On

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little planning and a little protection can save hundreds of dollars in repairs.

 

The weather is getting cooler and we will start heating our homes again.  So, once again it’s time to change our furnace air filter.

Changing Our Furnace Filter
Here’s what to do:
1)  Our filter might be located behind a return air grill near our thermostat.  If this is the case click on this return air grill video.

2)  More likely our filter will be located in the furnace where the supply air leaves the unit.  In this case watch this video on changing a furnace filter.

Old FilterNew Filter

Old                                                                                                                       New

The importance of changing our filters at least twice a year (filter manufacturers recommend changing three or four times a year) is: 1) improvement in indoor air quality with less dirt particles to breathe and 2) increasing the life of our furnaces with less dirt particles to blow heated air through.

A few weeks ago I got to visit Glacier National Park for the first time, and I made it just in the nick of time.

The scenery was breathtaking as we wound our way up the shear mountain sides to tiny parking spots where the best vistas were had.  As always at national parks there were plenty of informative signs explaining the significance of what lay before us.  The information that stuck most firmly in my mind was that the glaciers will soon be gone.  Some glaciers will be around for another 5 years, and all will be gone in the next fifteen.

Certainly the park will attract hundreds of thousand visitors glaciers or not.  But what is most significant is how not having glaciers will impact the environment.  Glaciers store precipitation in the wet winter months and slowly release water in the dry summer and fall months.  Without glaciers excess water is released in the winter and spring causing flooding.  In the dry months there is no longer stored water to relieve draughts.  This condition is becoming evident from the Himalayas to our own Rocky Mountains.

As individuals it may seem hopeless to try to do anything about the glacier melt, but collectively we can reduce our personal carbon footprint by using less fossil fuel and by conserving water. Twenty-one percent of the national energy use that aggravates climate disruption is residential energy use.  We can reduce what we use.  On average half our water use goes to watering our lawns and gardens.  Stored rain water can replace municipal water for that.

 

 

 

I went to Home Depot the other day to buy a light bulb.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  A PAR 38, LED bulb, 1600 lumens, 3200 K was what I was looking for. PAR 38 is the size I needed, commonly called a down light. 1600 lumens is as bright as the old 100 watt bulbs and 3200 K is the color of the bulb, which is referred to as soft white sometimes.  I wanted an LED light because I want to die before I have to change it out again.

After rummaging through the bulb selection for about five minutes I came to the section where the bulb I was looking for is offered for sale.  I got it home, screwed it in, flicked on the switch and the room looked like an interrogation chamber.  I looked at the package and sure enough, in tiny print, was the color temperature listing –“screaming bright daylight”.  The bulb had been misplaced in the display, the packaging is not uniform, and I was in too much of a hurry to read every scrap of information on the box.  I had to go back, exchange the bulb and start my hunt all over again.

The solution to the light bulb dilemma is simple.

  1. Display similar bulbs in the same general location.  Things do get misplaced so
  2. Put uniform notations on the package – bulb type, lumens, color temperature.  I know that the proper notation is not what we are used to and we Americans couldn’t spend a week to learn the metric system, SO, make the proper notation in large type with the common notation in smaller type.  We will learn.
  3. Have a nice interactive display with pictures explaining the proper terminology plus a schedule of the amount of money purchasing CFL or LED bulbs will save us and, by the way, show how much we are reducing our carbon footprint by purchasing a “green” light bulb.

I’ll go talk to Home Depot about this right away.  Meanwhile here are some charts we can download and take with us to the store AND a web site for discounted LED coupons.

LED Flood Soft white coupon, LED Daylight coupon, LED Flood daylight coupon and LED Soft White.

Follow this link for a light bulb chart

0164-light-bulb-chart-full-size

We all know that trees help clean the air and act as natural coolers in the summer and reduce the heat island effect in urban areas. They even reduce our carbon footprint, which exists no how many practices we employ to conserve resources. And flowering trees and large stately oaks and hickories have great beauty. images0WZCSM66

However, in the summer thunderstorm season, we may begin to feel a little nervous about that shade tree that’s lowering ambient temps 5 degrees. Out on the lawn, not so much a problem. But where it’s doing its most important work, cooling the house, property and even lives can be at risk during a thunderstorm microburst. In fact, just walking or driving around can be a risk.

Such is life for those fortunate enough to live in an urban forest. We reap enormous benefits from an abundance of trees. But not without risks. We can consult with “tree services” about safety at our house, but remember, they only make their money by cutting trees. Many a panicky home owner has denuded their entire property and ended up impoverishing our environment and with higher cooling bills, added discomfort, and a neighborhood eyesore.

A qualified arborist who does not cut trees is the safest and most reliable resource for managing trees. The arborist is likely to be as interested in the beauty and environmental and economic benefits of trees as you are, and also experienced in any safety measures that may be required. Due diligence on our part can also help, making sure that our trees get the water and nutrients they need to stay strong during our increasing droughts. Trees Atlanta is one good resource for information at treesatlanta.org.

Nature gives us a magnificent resource for cooling, air and water cleansing, wildlife conservation, and beauty. Along with a bit of risk. Our part requires careful stewardship and encouragement of this invaluable resource.

 

In a story typical of technology in our lives: Once upon a time, there were no clothes dryers. Imagine! Then only rich people had the new clothes drying machines (for the help to use). Then, and now, almost anyone can afford a clothes dryer, or at least a trip to the laundry shop for coin-operated dryers. Whew! What did we ever do without those machines? PostcardMondayMorningInNewYorkCity1907

Hint: We hung wet laundry on a clothes line (cost, about $20.) and dried our clothes for free. We also did not need coal-fired or nuclear power plants to dry our clothes. We used a new/old concept, solar power and wind power. For free.

Our clothes also lasted longer (short fibers not removed by machine action), shrunk less, and naturally sun-bleached and smelled better. Unless you lived next to a coal-fired plant or the railroad. And once clothes dryers became affordable, clothes lines became a symbol of technological obsolescence, if not of  poverty and the lower classes. Many neighborhoods actually enacted covenants forbidding hanging laundry outside.

Clothes dryers are typically faster – no time needed to hang each piece, just throw it all in. They work better at drying when it’s raining or freezing outside. The tumble can help soften clothes. And they avoid the problems of birds or sooty pollution. Energy Star dryers also save money and resources.

Still, there’s something about free. And those fresh smells.

The clothes dryer isn’t going to go away, and we’re all thankful for that. A compromise might be: On a sunny or dry breezy day, tumble the clothes in the dryer for a few minutes, then hang out on a line or hangers to finish drying, softening, and wrinkle removing. It reduces dryer time and energy use tremendously, eliminates shrinkage, and produces much improved finished laundry. In truth, it works great for me. (I also use organic concentrated cleaning powders and softeners – no chemicals to leach out on me from “clean” laundry, and also saves money.)

Get Hip.

Technological hipness ain’t what it used to be. Clothes lines, including retractable ones, racks (can be used indoors on rainy days!), coat hangers, and clothes pins are all available at your favorite hardware or supply store or online. They must sense a market.

Save money and resources. Make friends with the birds.

Change your Furnace Filter
Yes, it’s time to change your furnace filter again.  Here’s what to do:
1)  Your filter might be located behind a return air grill.  If this is the case click on this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLpsZplJx8M

2)  More likely, if you have central air conditioning, your filter will be located in your furnace where the supply air leaves the unit.  In this case watch this video:
Changing a furnace filter.

Old Filter

Old Filter

New Filter

New Filter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old filter above was mounted backwards.  Be careful check the direction arrow printed on the filter to insert it properly.

Clean your Air Conditioner
The next task is to clean the fins on your air cooling unit.  The critical step here is to shut off the electric power to the unit.  Then the fins can be cleaned with a garden hose.  For details watch this Tim Gibson video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_kLEFrYdeU&NR=1

These simple cleaning steps will make your units run more efficiently and will lower your heating and cooling costs.  Just as important, your indoor air quality will be improved by filtering out pollutants in the air you breathe.

Cars for nothin’?–well, close to nothing.  My wife, Lorna,  and I leased an all electric Nissan Leaf late last year and were pleasantly surprised at how little it costs us to run.  We are paying $283.00 per month for the lease.  Lorna and I have home based businesses so we are able to write off car mileage for business related trips.  We do have a second car, which was Lorna’s former favorite car.  We now negotiate each morning over who gets to drive the Leaf and who has to drive the hydrocarbon fueled car.  We are also stagger scheduling our appointments so we trade off using the Leaf during the day.  Since December (that’s half a year) we have had to fill up the second car twice, which cost us $120.  The other cost is for the electricity it takes to recharge the electric car.  About $2.50 for a full overnight charge.

Our business related mileage is 535 miles per month, slightly below national average.

Tanking Up

Tanking Up

Here’s the math.

Cost of Lease $283 /month
Cost of Electricity to Recharge $ 17 / month
Total Cost $300 / month
Savings on Gas* $145 / month
Savings on Income Tax** $60 / month
Total All-Electric Savings $205 / month
Net Cost to Drive Electric $ 95 / month or $3.17 per day

I gave up my daily cup of coffee to make up the difference.

The other plus is that (except for the coal fired plant that produces the electricity to recharge the car) we lowered our carbon footprint to zero.

*   Based on our pre-Leaf gas costs for our business mileage

**Based on $0.56 / mile for business related driving and a 20% tax bracket.

 

The National Climate Assessment Report came out last week, strongly stating that our climate is warming and detailing the way the changes are already affecting us in the U.S., now and in the future. A Federal Advisory Committee of over 250 scientists and experts, the report was peer-reviewed by other scientists and government agencies, including twice by the National Academy of Sciences.

 Ten Indicators of a Warming World from the Climate Assessment Report

In announcing the report, President Obama said “We want to emphasize to the public this is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now.” The President cited increased flooding, severe droughts, more wildfires. In the future, we can expect more intense storms, loss of coastal areas, endangered wildlife species, and all of these conditions to worsen.

Still, It’s not too Late.

Thirty-eight percent of energy use is from our homes.

“It’s a good-news story about the many opportunities to take cost-effective actions to reduce the damage” commented White House science adviser John Holdren. (No doubt he was thinking of Greening Neighborhoods.)

Visit Greening Neighborhoods and click on “tips” to find things that each of us can do.

Howard and George

Saturday, May 10, is not only the day before Mothers’ Day (helpful reminder). It is also National Train Day (helpful reminder #2).

Palm Coast Sponsored by Amtrak and other corporate sponsors, National Train Day is a celebration of trains and why they matter. Carbon emissions for trains are 44%  that of  planes, 58%  that of cars, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Amtrak even allows passengers a way to offset their carbon footprint through a partnership with carbonfund.org. (Greening Neighborhoods members can offset carbon footprints at Sterling Planet.)

transportation-carbon-emissions-702733Emissions factors based on calculations from the World ResourcesInstitute (WRI) and Carbonfund.org. Calculations assume single-occupant car and the added impact of high-altitude emissions for air.

Amtrak carries 31.6 million people (non-commuter, intercity) per year, a 55% growth since 1997, or 3 train trips for every single airplane trip. Passenger trains return $3 for every $1 invested, employ 20,000 people, and serve hundreds of cities in the U.S. and 237 National Parks.* The National Park Service even puts rangers on many trains during the summer months with its joint NPS/Amtrak Trails & Rails program.

However, unless you live in the Northeast, in a major Midwestern city, on the West Coast, or in a proactive state like Illinois or North Carolina, you may not even see a passenger train or be aware service exists. If you live in Atlanta, your options are limited, but you can still get to Washington, D.C., overnight (with connections to the rest of the U.S. or continue to New York), or Birmingham or New Orleans as a day trip. In neighboring North Carolina, which has been investing in passenger rail for over ten years, multiple trains can take you to Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, or Raleigh. More are planned for Ashville and other destinations – swift, comfortable (including Business Class), and cheap.

Ironically, trains are often thought to be an expensive way to travel, and political ideologies and a cost-cutting management philosophy have been forcing up fares and the cost of dining, snack, and sleeping car amenities. After all, if the trains are full… But taking the train will still usually save money over flying or driving.**

National Train Day is celebrated in Georgia in Atlanta (Peachtree Station), Loganville, Toccoa; and in Cordele on the SAM Shortline, which offers short train rides to Veterans State Park.  Making transportation part of our life style is the best way to save the most money and natural resources. Have some fun. Take the train!

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/HomePage

http://www.bytrain.org/

*Amtrak

**Based on the national average of cost of automobile upkeep, depreciation and fuel of $0.50 per mile.