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Green Living Certification
Chapter 4 - Simple Changes
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4.2 Energy use

Much of the energy in our homes is sucked out without our knowledge. We think nothing of keeping things plugged in even when we're not using them and we think that the tiny bit of energy expended when a light remains on is inconsequential.

But it's all of consequence. As we learned earlier, the production and use of electricity damages our water, our air and our land. Any little bit of energy conservation is helpful and worthwhile.

The best part is, conserving energy - in the "simple" way - can be effortless. It's about small changes, being aware of your use and respecting the need to conserve and curtail.

Again, we'll be looking at ways to conserve in the home. The bulk of the efforts we can make individually, in those simple ways, are in our homes. It's here that we can control the energy output, the water use, and implement the Greenest measures.

Do you know that 18% of the total emissions through energy output come from our homes? While we often like to cite big business as the source of the greatest volume of emissions, we are responsible for almost 1/5 of it. That's a significant amount that we - all of us - can help to mitigate.


In the winter, there are many changes you can make to heat your house while saving energy. First, heat only the rooms you are in. You can close the vents in rooms you don't use often, or you can use space heaters to heat just the rooms you are in.

If you do use your central heat, there are many ways to reduce your emissions and save a little bit of money at the same time. Keep your thermostat low - in the mid-60s in the winter is excellent. Turn the heat off at night. If it's extremely cold and you're worried about your pipes bursting, you can keep your thermostat as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit (or 5 degrees Celsius) to prevent pipe damage. Invest in a good comforter and stay warm that way.

Generally speaking, you can work harder at keeping warm in the house so you require less help from the heater. If you have hard floors place rugs throughout the house. Once your feet are cold, the rest of you will follow and then you'll turn to the heater for help.

Wear more layers at home so you don't get so cold. It does seem ridiculous that we live in such an age of consumption that we think nothing of wearing short sleeves at home during the winter because we keep our homes so warm. Keep the house cooler, put on more layers and keep yourself busy to keep warm.


In the summer, use those ceiling fans, open windows and turn off the air conditioner. The air conditioners in homes - whether central or not - account for as much as 15-20% of the electricity used in a home. In the summer months, about 60% of your total energy bill can be attributed to the air conditioning system.

One tip many energy watchers use in the summer is to keep blinds and drapes shut on hot days, allowing the blinds and drapes to keep the heat out. Conversely, you can simply close the blinds as the sun moves throughout the day (for example, if the front of your home is west-facing, you will close the blinds right before sunset, so the sun can't heat up your house as it shines directly on it).

If you do run your central air conditioning, use a timer so that the air turns off when you are not home, at night and at cooler times of the day. If it's a programmable timer, set it so that it will turn the air on just before you arrive home for the day.


Let's look at how you light your house. You've probably heard a lot in recent years about the benefits of switching to low-energy light bulbs. They are more expensive, sure, but they also last longer. You might have thought of switching, but are unsure if the savings is worth it.

Ready? A regular light bulb uses 100 watts per hour, while a low-energy light bulb requires only 11. That's a huge benefit to the environment and - yes, let's go there - to your wallet as well. There's no shame in enjoying the monetary savings of being Green. You can benefit the environment with altruistic intentions, but also enjoy the personal side benefit of saving money.

Of course, the superior option is to light your home with natural light as much as possible. Whenever you can (i.e., when it's not a hot summer day when you want to block the light and therefore the heat) keep your blinds and curtains open to let the light in so you don't have to use your lamps and overhead lighting at all.

The Kitchen

Have you ever thought about the energy you use in the kitchen? Most of us think about the refrigerator (and maybe the stand-alone freezer if we have one) but what about other components in your kitchen?

There are many small, but significant changes you can make to how you use energy in your kitchen.

For example, if you need boiled water for something, boil it in a kettle rather than a pot, for which more energy will be expended. Pay attention as well to the size pot you do choose for cooking. You waste a good deal of energy (or gas, if a gas stove) heating a pan much larger than you need for a particular cooking job.

Do you have a convection oven? If so, use it. They use about 20% less energy than a conventional oven because they use the heat more efficiently and heat up faster as well.

Make cooking easier as well as more energy efficient by using pressure cookers and slow cookers, which use very little energy. Pressure cookers utilize very high heat to cook food very quickly, while slow cookers use a very small amount of energy to cook food slowly and tenderly throughout the course of the day.

Now, let's look at that big appliance in the kitchen - the refrigerator. You might think that your fridge uses very little energy, but often the refrigerators (and freezers) in your home can account for as much as 30% of your energy bill.

There are, of course, small measures you can take to reduce this cost. If you have an old fridge, maybe now is the time to replace it. If you purchased your current refrigerator in 1997, for example, buying a new one now will reduce your annual energy cost from an estimated $29 a year to as little as $9. And you'll be pleasing the environment at the same time as well.

Then there are the obvious tips - don't leave your refrigerator door open, don't forget to keep the condenser coils clean, and don't forget to keep your freezer full. If it's not full, add plastic bottles filled with water; your freezer runs more efficiently if it's kept full.


In the laundry room, one of the best changes you can make is to switch to high-efficiency washers and dryers. Of course, we already know how much less water these washers use, but they also use a lot less energy, as much as 30-50% less energy depending on the brand.

Now, dryers are particularly bad for the environment. If you stand outside while your dryer is on, and watch the amount of gas that is emitted into the air, you should understand why dryers are bad. They emit a great deal of gasses into the air and therefore contribute to global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer.

If your dryer is electric, then you have that conundrum of creating more electricity which creates more environmental problems.

The easy solution to the dryer issue is to hang your clothes to dry. Many people believe that it is not only better for the environment but that the natural sunlight drying can help to kill certain viruses and germs.

If you are unable or unwilling to give up the dryer, you have a few options - you can only dry full loads (even if it takes two loads of wash to fill your dryer so you can run it), and you can invest in a high efficiency dryer. They consume less energy by drying your clothes faster.

If you only have a small amount of laundry to do, don't use your washer. Do it by hand, which saves water and energy.

Other Energy Draws

There are other items in your house you might not think much about, thinking they don't take too much energy, but since we've already established that the old adage rings true - "every little bit helps" - it pays to give some attention to these items.

What kind of items? How about:

  • Your television
  • Your computer
  • Your telephone
  • Your small appliances, like the toaster and coffee maker

  • When you think about how our hunger for electricity has grown, you have to consider the fact that so has our reliance on all things electric - iPods, cell phones, computers. You name it, we plug it in.

    These smaller devices might not take as much energy as a large refrigerator, but they do take energy, even when we're not suing them.

    Items like televisions are left on stand-by even when not in use. That means that even when you're at work, your television is draining energy. There is a worldwide movement afoot to encourage people to unplug these items when not in use.

    Though you will find more tips in the many checklists we offer in this course, here are some ideas for reducing the amount of energy you consume with your small electrical items.

    First, find out if your city, county or municipality offers "Smart Meters" a new technology that gives you current information about your energy usage. At any given time you can check the meter to see exactly how much energy you are using, which allows you to make immediate adjustments to your usage.

    If you've been looking for an excuse to upgrade your aging desktop computer to a laptop, use this one - the laptop uses exactly half the energy that the desktop does (about 75 watts per hour for the laptop versus 150 watts per hour for the desktop).

    When not in use, turn off televisions, radios and the computer. Plus them all into power strips and simply turn the strip off when you are away from the house and won't be using anything for a while.


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      Green Living Discussion Board
    Write your commentsLanguage and Content Guidelines

     By: RAYMUNDA on Apr 8, 2008
     By: Randumb on Aug 12, 2008
     By: Melonie on Sep 4, 2008
      1) "Cardboard milk containers can’t be recycled. Look for milk in plastic jugs instead and recycle the plastic jug." This is actually incorrect; some municipalities have recycling programs that DO accept and recycle coated cardboard milk containers, juice boxes, and the like. Check with your local recycling/waste management company before assuming they can't recycle these! I have purchased aseptic "boxed" milk in individual containers for years and my waste management company takes them - they go in the bin with the regular plastic jugs. They simply request that you remove the straws and place *those* in the trash.
     By: Marilyn on Oct 18, 2008
      I know this might sound silly, but here is an interesting alternative to a lawnmower; a pet goat. They mow your lawn and naturally fertilize it at the same time. There is a family in my neighborhood with a fenced yard who own a little pygmy goat and their lawn is green and beautiful.
     By: rajavinoba on Nov 30, 2011
      By using 0 watts bulbs[actually it consumes less than 3 watts] in all the rooms, switch ON regular bulbs only whenever necessary. By this you can save electrical energy consumption by 15percent.
        By: Nichole on Sep 21, 2017
      Pizza boxes can be recycled. Just because something was used for food does not mean it is not recyclable.

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