Kids collect so many t-shirts and jerseys from their activities and sports. They wear them for a few months, then outgrow them or move on to the next sport. Save one or two special shirts by turning them into tote bags that you or your kids can continue to use.
Why: Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are 4 times more energy efficient and last 10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. CFL technology has improved in the last couple years. They now illuminate immediately without a flicker or buzz. These are not your mother’s CFL bulbs.
How to get it done: Choose the 5 most-used lights in your home, and figure out which type of bulb you need (e.g. 3-way for lamps, dimmable for the dining room). Check the package to figure out the right wattage (e.g. a 60-watt standard bulb is usually replaced with a 13 watt CFL bulb). Because of the small amounts of mercury in CFL bulbs, they do have to be recycled as hazardous waste. Hardware stores such as Lowes and Home Depot offer CFL recycling. To find the CFL recycling drop-off closest to you, check here. The bust the myths and get the facts about CFLs go here.
Cost to you: $2-$20 per bulb
$ Savings: Replacing your 5 most-used bulbs will save about $60/year.
CO2 Savings: If every household in the US replaced just 1 standard bulb, we would prevent CO2 emissions equivalent to 800,000 cars annually.
Family activity: A young child will enjoy going around the house finding and counting all the light bulbs. The average house has 45. An older child could do a study to help you figure out which bulbs you use the most, and thus should be replaced first.
Why? Many of our household appliances, are never fully switched off, but spend most of the time in a standby mode. Even though we are not using them, they use energy to power functions lights and remote sensors. The clever new name for this energy suck is vampire power. It can account for as much as 10% of a home’s energy consumption. Think about everything that leaves some kind of light on when you’re not using it: TV, DVD player, computers, video game systems, charging cell phones, e-readers, and iPads, even your electric toothbrush.
How to get it done: Unplug your devices when not in use. Make sure you are using the real on/off switch, not a stand-by switch. Buy a “smart” power switch for the devices you charge such as your laptop, cell phone, and iPod. These will automatically turn off once your devices are fully charged. iGo and Belkin both make these.
Cost to you: Unplugging is free. The “smart” power strips cost $30.
$ Savings: The Vampire Sucks website will estimate the money that you spend on vampire power each year. My households total was $80/year.
Family activity: Since kids are often big users of household electronics, they should certainly be responsible for preventing vampire power. Let them know they need to unplug video games and computers when not in use.
Why? A certified home energy auditor will analyze your energy bills and examine your house room-by-room, basement to attic, and perform tests to assess leakiness, insulation level, and heating efficiency. They may also check air quality and the efficiency of your water, lighting, and appliances. The auditor will then provide you with a report with suggested energy improvements, their estimated costs, and their potential for energy and climate impact reduction.
How to get it done: Many local governments and utility companies provide lists of certified home energy auditors. Some may even send their own auditors. Check with your local utility to see if they list recommendations. You may also visit the Residential Energy Service Network [link:http://www.resnet.us/trade/find-raters-auditors] to find a certified auditor.
Cost to you: Many local governments and utilities offer free or reduced prices on energy audits. For example, Seattle City Light offers a complete energy audit for $95. Without reduced pricing or rebates, a thorough audit can cost up to $300.
$ Savings: Once you make all the improvements suggested by an auditor, you can expect to save an average of 20% on your energy bill each year.
Family activity: You can also perform your own on-line home energy audit, for free and in your pajamas. Home energy calculators that take anywhere from 2 minutes to a half hour to fill out with details about your home, then make recommendations for improvements based on those answers, your climate, and local energy prices. I have done both: hired a home energy auditor and used the on-line calculators. While I appreciated the customization of having an auditor assess my house, about 60% of the recommendations on his list were also made by the on-line calculators. Here are a couple websites to try:
Home Energy Saver[link: http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/]: Created for the US Department of Energy.
Microsoft Hohm [link: http://www.microsoft-hohm.com/]: Asks for great detail, but gives back highly customized recommendations.