Tip: Water heating

Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 12% of your utility bill. There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient model.

Water Heating Tips
– Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads. If you haven’t done so already, this is the quickest easiest thing you can do to save water, energy, and money.

– Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 120°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.

– Insulate your hot-water storage tank. Electric and gas water heaters have different precautions for insulating so make sure you follow the manufacturerâ?Ts directions.

– Insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.

– When buying a new water heater, install heat traps on the hot and cold pipes at the water heater to prevent heat loss.

– Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer’s advice.

TIP: 7 Ways to Save Water, Energy, and Money

With the recent water crisis in Richmond Village, we thought it might be an appropriate time to provide some water saving tips.  Saving water not only saves a precious natural resource, it also saves energy.  It takes energy to pump and purify water and more energy to clean it up after it goes down the drain.

The average American uses over 150 gallons per day, twice as much as the average in France and nearly three times as much as the average in the UK.  There are many ways to save water, and they all start with you.  Here are 7 tips to help you save water in your home.

#1 Stop that leak! Monitor your water bill for unusually high use, which may indicate a leak. Faucets (indoor and out), toilets, garden hoses, and bathtubs are all potential leak spots. If you have a leaky faucet or shower, don’t let it drip – get it fixed!

#2 Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

#3 Save at the shower by taking shorter showers and making sure you have a low-flow showerhead. You’ll save not only the water, but also the energy required to heat that water.  If your shower can fill a 2-quart saucepan in 12 seconds or less, it’s time to get a new low-flow showerhead. If you tried one a few years ago and didn’t like it, give it another try – the new ones are much better.  You can save even more by turning off the water while you soap up.

#4 Toilets…  First make sure your toilets don’t leak – a common problem. If your toilet sounds like it’s filling when it hasn’t been used, it may be wasting thousands of gallons of water. Put food coloring in the tank and see if it seeps into the bowl without flushing. If it does, you have a leak.  Also make sure you have a low-flush toilet of 1.5 gallons. Older toilets use up to 5 gallons per flush and waste about 20,000 gallons per year for a family of four.

#5 Sinks… When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water. Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons.  Use low-flow faucet aerators that inject air into the water stream, saving water without compromising on pressure. Collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, then reuse it to water houseplants.

#6 Install a drip irrigation system in your garden to use a fraction of the water. Spread a layer of organic mulch around plants to retain moisture and save water, time and money.  If you have rain gutters, you can save thousands of gallons of garden water by simply diverting one of your drains to fill a barrel.

#7 Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and sidewalk and save water every time.

TIP: Reduce your carbon footprint by joining a CSA

Transportation represents one of our largest contributions to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It is not only our families that we transport however. The average item of food travels 1,500 miles before it gets to your plate, and twenty percent of our fossil-fuel consumption goes to agriculture – largely due to distribution. For example, in 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2. This is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road. These trends in our food economy have created direct links in between the food we choose to eat and our involvement in international petroleum markets.

Celebrate the arrival of Spring by joining one of the many local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) options. There are a wide variety of vegetable, cheese and meat options to choose from. In addition to supporting our local economy, you will enjoy a fresher product with a dramatically smaller climate impact. Here are a few great local choices:

Freedom & Unity Farm
Richmond, 434-4000

Jericho Settlers Farm
Jericho, 899-4000

Maple Wind Farm/Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC)
Huntington, 434-7257

Additional Chittenden County CSAs are listed at: http://nofavt.org/find-organic-food/csa-listing#chittenden

TIP: Bag the Bags!

Americans consume over 100 billion shopping bags each year. The production of these bags uses energy, most likely provided by fossil fuels, and puts significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The plastic bags never completely break down, creating problems for our landfills and oceans. But don’t think the paper bags are the answer… they take 4 times as much energy to make, and the paper production process releases almost twice the air pollution and 50 times as much water pollution as the production of plastic. Not to mention trees are cut down to produce them and we need trees to convert all that extra CO2.

Costco and some other stores have stopped offering bags altogether. They will gladly put your items into a clean, used cardboard box, and you can recycle it when you get home. Kudos to Costco for getting rid of bags. Hopefully other stores will follow their lead. There are currently two bills in the state legislature to curtail use of disposable bags – one that would charge people to use them, and another that bans them completely.

Every plastic bag you don’t use will keep about .1 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere and every paper bag you don’t use saves .3 pounds. On average, if you stop using disposable bags, you’ll keep about 6 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere every month! Now think how much we could save, if all or even just half the residents of Richmond would stop using disposable bags! Many stores will actually pay you to use your own bags, so it helps your wallet too. It’s clearly time to cut our addiction to disposable bags. Here are a few suggestions:

1) Reuse any plastic or paper bags you already have. You can also purchase sturdy reusable bags at most grocery stores, for very cheap (usually about $1). We’re told that the new Richmond Commons / Film Buzz (at the main intersection in Richmond) has some reusable shopping bags they’re giving away for free, so stop in there and grab a few before they’re gone!

It’s hard to remember to bring them with you, so why not put a bunch of bags into your car right now?

2) Go bagless. If you forget your bags, tell the cashier you don’t need one. You’d be surprised how much you can carry out in your hands (and don’t forget you have pockets too!)

3) If you bought a lot of stuff and forgot your reusable bags, take as few as possible. Tell them you don’t want “double bagging.” And you don’t need to put that gallon of milk into its own bag.

4) Recycle your bags. NEVER throw away a bag! The plastic ones can be recycled at most grocery stores. The paper ones can go in your blue recycling bin.

TIP: Stock up on light bulbs

Compact fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) save money and energy — they last ten times longer than a regular light bulb and use 1/4th the amount of energy. Many people have already replaced the old incandescent bulbs in most of their fixtures. One obstacle has been that dimmable and three-way CFLs can be hard to find and expensive.

Now Efficiency Vermont is sponsoring a special deal that makes ALL types of CFLs available for only 99 cents! This is a great opportunity for us all to replace the remaining inefficient incandescent bulbs in our houses.

Richmond Home Supply is working with Efficiency Vermont and is currently offering all types of CFLs in stock for just 99 cents, including dimmables and three-ways. The special won’t last forever so stop in and stock up!

For a more information on the sale and other locations to pick up the bulbs, visit the Efficiency Vermont website at http://efficiencyvermont.org

Tip: Energy Audits

Ever wonder how good your insulation is? Do you think your windows are drafty but not sure it’s worth the investment to replace them? Is your furnace operating efficiently? A home energy audit is a good way to get the answers.

An energy audit can help you identify the areas in your home where you could save a lot of energy and money, sometimes with just a simple and inexpensive remedy. There are different types of energy audits, ranging from filling out a form to having a site visit from a professional. Typically a professional energy audit will include some of the following items:

  • Evaluation of your home’s air-tightness and insulation effectiveness using a blower door to measure air leaks
  • Assessment of your heating system efficiency and safety
  • Recommendations for energy-saving lighting and appliances
  • Professional advice on ways to improve the comfort and durability of your home as well as solve moisture and ventilation problems
  • Assistance in prioritizing energy-saving home improvements
  • Information on rebates, incentives and ways to finance energy-efficient home improvements

Here are some of the energy audit programs available in our area:

  • Efficiency Vermont offers a “Home Energy Evaluation Form” that can help you to identify inefficient electrical appliances and key areas of heat loss in your home. Call Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 to begin your evaluation.
  • You can estimate the relative energy efficiency of your home just by knowing the square footage and how much fuel you consumed last year. Although this is not a precise account, the worksheet calculations do provide a rough gauge of whether there are important opportunities to improve its efficiency. Worksheet link.
  • If you are a lower-income household, you may be eligible for a free audit and free home weatherization services through the Vermont Weatherization Program. Click this link to see if you qualify.
  • Efficiency Vermont offers up to $2,500 in incentives per household to help Vermonters pay for energy efficiency home improvements completed by a certified Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor. These independent contractors are certified by the Building Performance Institute to perform energy audits, diagnose building problems such as moisture, mold and ice dams, and prioritize and install the recommended energy efficiency improvements. Click here for a list of certified contractors:.

For more information on home energy audits, visit the Efficiency Vermont website.

Tip: Refrigerators

Refrigerators account for about 15% of household electric use. Here are some tips on how to save energy and money with your existing fridge (we’ll have a separate tip soon on when it’s worth replacing your fridge):

– Thaw foods in the fridge – takes longer, but they cool the fridge while thawing.
– Don’t put hot foods in the fridge – wait till they cool down (or pre-cool outdoors in winter).
– Avoid holding the door open any longer than needed.
– Clean and check the seals around the fridge and freezer doors. A bad seal lets cold air flow out and should be repaired.
– Check and set the temperature to 36-40F for the fridge, and 0-5F for the freezer. Setting it colder wastes considerable energy. To test the fridge, put an accurate thermometer in a glass of water and leave it for 24 hours. To test the freezer, put the thermometer between two frozen packages.
– Use the “energy-saver” mode if you have one (often this turns off the anti-sweat feature, a small heater that reduces condensation on the outside of the cabinet, which is usually not a problem in winter anyway).
– Keep the evaporator coils (the small winding black pipe on the back or underneath) clean of dust, and make sure they have enough room for good ventilation.
– If you have a second refrigerator, it’s most likely an older energy-hog – unplugging it could same you over $100 per year and make a huge reduction in your carbon footprint.