Ceiling fans: In summer, they: can reduce air-conditioning costs (in other words reduce your energy use) because the gentle air movement makes you feel more comfortable. This is less effective when the fan is attached to a high ceiling. University of Florida Cooperative Extension reports a ceiling fan can reduce one room’s cooling costs by as much as 8%. In winter, in some situations (most often when the room has a very high ceiling and is heated by a wood stove) running a ceiling fan counterclockwise can warm the room by circulating warm air near the ceiling down toward the floor. If operated on low speed it will not create an uncomfortable breeze.
Reducing water usage: turn the water off while shaving or brushing your teeth; Sharon and I keep a large basin in the kitchen sink and most of our dish water goes outside to water plants. Fix that dripping faucet. A faucet that loses one drip per second can waste more than 3000 gallons of water per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take 180 showers.
Turning off lights when you leave a room: Incandescent lights should be turned off whenever they are not needed. 90% of the energy they use is given off as heat and 10% as light. Turning lights off will also keep a room cooler. Because LEDs are not affected by switching on and off, they can be turned off when not needed. Halogen lights (more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs but far less efficient than CFLs and LEDs) should be turned off when not needed. CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs) are more complicated because their operating life is more affected by the number of times they are turned on and off. If you will be out of the room for 15 minutes or less, leave them on.
LED BULBS: Energy star rated products use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. LED lighting has the potential to have a huge impact on the use of energy in this country. By 2027 widespread use of LEDs could save the equivalent of the electrical output of 44 large electric power plants.
DISPOSAL OF BULBS: CFLs and fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury and should not be disposed of with your trash. They should be kept in a sealed container and if not broken, brought to The Home Depot or Lowes for recycling or look into the Pima Household Waste Program (http://cms3.tucsonaz.gov/es/content/household-hazardous-waste). Incandescent and halogen bulbs contain no toxic materials and can be thrown in with the regular trash but should be wrapped first to prevent inadvertent shattering. These are not suitable for recycling. LED’s (check the packaging) can often be thrown in the recycling bin.
Solar power: Sharon and I invested in solar panels in the middle of 2012. At that time the “best” deal was a leased system. We chose TFS (Technicians for Sustainability) with a single payment upfront. We’ve already recouped 40% of our initial cost. How many safe investments can you make that will return 40% in 4 years? Look into solar panels for your home. There are lots of affordable options available.