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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Low-cost ways to slow planetary decline

This is a list of things that every responsible person must undertake immediately to reduce our impact on the planetary system. We do not have to wait for politicians. If we take these steps to reduce wasteful energy use, we not only save a lot of money, but we also save an incalculable amount of suffering for ourselves and future generations. This is written for non-technical people and takes a few minutes to read, so please read it.
  • The single most energy intensive appliance for most people is the electric water tank heater. The energy intensive electric water tank systems is without argument the most wasteful appliance and also very easy to improve and reduce both the cost and use of electricity. This is inexpensively accomplished by the use of a water tank timer, that shuts off the heater element at bedtime and turns it back on an hour or so before you get up. These cost about $40 and are installable by a handy person or an electrician. A permit is not required so it is generally very inexpensive even if you have to pay someone for installation. You can save up to 12% of the energy use of an un-timed heating tank. For most people, the payback time is less than a year for self installation and less than two years for the cost of having it installed. These timers are available at most hardware stores such as Ace and True Value, and building suppliers such as Home Depot, Lowes as well as local building supply and electrical supply businesses. It involves the mounting of the timer and the hook up of an in wire and an out wire, so don't let anyone overcharge you to do the installation. Do this right away!!!!! You can save even more money although the payback is somewhat longer, by installing an instantaneous hot water heater that does not store heated water in a tank. It makes it only when you use it. There are both gas and electric models for any sized household. The most energy and cost saving hot water system is the solar hot water system. Usually pays for itself in 5 years in sunny places and longer in places with less sun. These systems typically last for 15-25 years, so represent an excellent investment, especially if you can take advantage of tax credits and other incentives.
  • The second most energy intensive appliance for most people is the refrigerator/freezer. You can also use a timer on your refrigerator. Turning it off at night when people are not opening and closing the doors will prevent the refrigerator from cycling unnecessarily during periods of low use. I am doing this with great results. No food spoilage or even excessive condensation requiring defrosting. The reason this works is because a considerable amount of cooling is stored in the contents of your refrigerator/freezer. If you don't have much in yours, you can just put in bottles of water to get the same results. You can buy a timer at the same stores as those that sell the water heater timer. You want to make sure you get an appliance grade timer with a rating that will meet or exceed the energy draw of your refrigerator. This information is often on the label that identifies the model. Sometimes the label is inside the refrigerator along the door frame and sometimes it is on the back. You are looking for a rating in watts or horsepower (HP). I am successfully saving significant energy use with a $12 timer from the hardware store. The installation only requires setting the timer, plugging it into the outlet that your refrigerator uses and then plugging the refrigerator into the timer. Your hardware store should be able to show you the right timer, when you tell them how many watts or what horsepower rating your refrigerator motor uses. If you buy a new refrig, make sure you get the one with the best energy rating for the size that you need. There is generally a yellow tag inside the freezer of the models being sold in stores. They give you an energy use in kilowatt hours per year. The lower the number the more energy efficient it is.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs where ever possible. Get the kind that have a white plastic globe and look like ordinary light bulbs. The plastic globe will contain the mercury in these bulbs if one should be dropped and break. At the end of the 5-10 year life of the bulb they should be recycled or safely stored until recycling becomes available. They use 1/4 of the electricity to produce light as incandescent and halogen bulbs do. This is because almost all the energy is converted to light instead of heat. These bulbs are just a transition phase on the way to a lighting revolution in the next ten years which will use LED, OLED and capacitive light sheets . Your next round of lighting purchases will be from these categories and will reduce energy use even more while providing lights that may last 20-50 years. But don't wait for these. The big retailers are selling compact fluorescents at rock bottom prices and you get your investment back in a very short time. And by the way you can buy dimmers for fluorescent lights, so that is no excuse.
  • Get power strips with on-off switches for all appliances such as TVs, stereos, computers and other electronic equipment so that you can defeat the standby feature that wastes untold amount of energy. There is virtually no benefit to the end user of these standby systems so why pay for electricity use that gives you no benefit? Power strips are widely available for very low prices in grocery stores, hardware stores, building suppliers, etc. Shop around. I have bought them for as little as a few dollars. They can be conveniently mounted on wall, under tables or desks and also help to organize your wiring. You can also get switched surge protectors which also protect your equipment from spikes in the electrical voltage. These are a bit more expensive but pay for themselves because your equipment will last longer.
  • For those in the financial position to afford solar electric power systems, properly installed, these systems will pay for themselves in under 10 years and continue producing electricity for up to 40 years. I have lived on such systems for decades and continue to be amazed at the fact that more people don't take this option.
  • Educate the children on the importance of not wasting energy. They must learn the importance of turning off lights, TV, computer, and stereo when not in use.They will be the main victims of the planetary climate crisis, and they need to be told in strong terms of the necessity of protecting the world and themselves.
If all the people of the developed world were to take these steps immediately an enormously large amount of CO2 and other pollution would be avoided, while at the same time saving money. Anyone who fails to undertake these steps once informed of the ease and cost-saving advantage is a threat to themselves, their families and the entire community of human beings. Be responsible, save money, DO These Things NOW!!!! And pass this on to everyone you know!