April 20, 2007

More Conservation Tips

Use Low-Flow faucet aerators and shower heads, from "Installing Low-Flow shower heads and faucet aerators is the single most effective water conservation savings you can do for your home.

Inexpensive and simple to install, low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators can reduce your home water consumption as much as 50%, and reduce your energy cost of heating the water also by as much as 50%.

This conservation of water and energy is not only good for the environment, but the savings in your utility bills will pay for the cost of the aerators within a few months. From then on, you enjoy continued savings.

How to tell if you need one

Faucet: If an aerator is already installed on your faucet, it will have its rated flow imprinted on the side. This should read 2.75 gpm (gallons per minute) or lower. Replace if over 2.75gpm. If no aerator is installed, check to see if there are threads just inside the tip of the faucet. Most modern faucets are threaded to accept aerators.

Shower: Set a 2qt. saucepan on the floor of the shower and position it in the middle of the shower stream. With shower on full, count how many seconds it takes to fill the pan. If it takes fewer than 12 seconds, you could use a low-flow shower head. If you have a low-flow shower head installed, it should read 2.5 gpm or less.


There are two types of low-flow shower heads: aerating and non-aerating.

Aerating - mixes air into the water stream. This maintains steady pressure so the flow has an even, full shower spray. Because air is mixed in with the water, the water temperature can cool down a bit towards the floor of the shower. Aerating shower heads are the most popular type of low-flow shower head.

Non-aerating - air is not mixed into the water stream. This maintains temperature well and delivers a strong spray. The water flow pulses with non-aerating shower heads, giving more of a massaging-showerhead effect.

Cost: Low-flow faucet aerators usually cost $5 -$10. Low-flow shower heads range from $8 - $50 depending on features such as flow adjusting dials and designer styling. Hand-held models are more expensive than fixed models...

Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators are available at most hardware or plumbing supply stores. Many local utility companies give away low-flow aerators free, so it's worth a call to them before trying anywhere else."

Well, folks, I followed these instructions (on the website there are pictures as well) and so far as I could tell, I do not have an aerator, or at least not one that changes the flow as there were no markings on the side. Also no threads. As for the shower, what a disaster! Only half of the faucet water went into the shower, the rest poured away into the tub and out the drain, so my 15 seconds to fill the 2 quart saucepan was meaningless (it took all of 3 seconds to fill the pot from the running off tap water!). I would say, then that my shower definitely wastes water, since half of it is completely unused! What I want to do is measure Joe's and Karen's then research the availability of Low-flow heads and such and present the info to the building manager, with the facts and figures as to the savings. If he agrees, I will then send the packet to Boston to the building owners, with the suggestion that they implement some inexpensive changes, for the sake of their own savings, and as a gesture towards helping the planet (which is running out of fresh water even as we speak, and the fuel to heat it with that we cannot afford to burn).

Now for the kitchen, which is is the busiest room in the house, and the biggest energy user.

Again from "You can lower your monthly energy bill and contribute to a cleaner environment without making major changes or buying expensive energy-saving gadgets. Simple changes, and thought given to energy reduction, will make a significant difference.

~ If washing dishes by hand, fill one basin with warm soapy water and the other with cold rinse water. This saves much more water than leaving the cold water running for rinsing.

~ If you're using the dishwasher, pre-rinse dishes with cold water. Be sure machine is full, but not overloaded.

~ Turn off automatic air-dry switch, and let dishes dry by air. If your machine doesn't have an air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a bit so the dishes will dry faster.

~ If a small load, avoid using "Rinse-Hold". This uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time it's used.

~ Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature (115 degrees).

~ Microwaves use between one-fifth and one-half as much energy as conventional stoves.

~ Microwaves are most efficient at cooking small portions and for defrosting.

~ Food cooks faster when placed on the outer edges of a rotating tray rather than in the center, allowing more microwaves to interact with the food.

~ Food cooks faster in a microwave as the surface-to-volume ratio increases. When cooking potatoes, for example, thinner slices will cook faster than cubed or quartered sections.

~ During warm weather, microwave use minimizes radiant heat buildup from the kitchen.

Gas Stoves, Electric Ranges

~ Gas stoves with an electric ignition (piezo) will use 40% less gas than one with a continuous pilot light. Burner flames on gas stoves should be blue. If flame is yellow, the ports need to be unclogged or adjusted. Ports can often be cleaned with a pipe cleaner.

~ When using the oven, try to reduce the number of times you open the door while cooking. Each time the door is opened, the stove loses about 1/4th of its heat.

~ Burner size: Match pot size to burner size on your stove top. Heat is lost and energy is wasted if burner size is larger than pot size. Also, clean range-top burners and reflectors to better reflect the heat, and save energy.

~ Use pressure cookers. They use 50-75 percent less energy than ordinary cookware.

~ On electric stovetops, use flat-bottomed pans that make full contact with the elements.

~ If you cook on an electric range, you can turn off the burners or the oven before the cooking is finished, because it will take several minutes for the burners to lose their heat.

Induction Cooktops

Induction cooking uses 90% of the energy produced compared to only 55% for a gas burner and 65% for traditional electric ranges.
Induction cooking is based on magnetic fields: each ‘element’ (an induction coil) generates a magnetic field that induces heat in steel cookware placed on top of it. In essence, the pot becomes the element that cooks the food, so the cooktop surface doesn’t get as hot as other cooktops. Induction cooktops have the same instant control as gas and are the fastest of all cooktop types to heat and cook food.

Sun Ovens

Sun ovens are the most energy-efficient cooking appliance.These solar powered ovens require no fuel yet can cook anything you can cook in a conventional stove. Of course they must be used outdoors in the sun. For summer cooking they also save energy by keeping your kitchen from heating up.
Hybrid solar ovens are also available which have an electric backup which allows the oven to be used when sunlight is not available. Even when using the electric backup, these units use 75% less electricity than conventional electric range ovens.

Disposal Unit

If your sink has a disposal unit, use cold water when operating. This saves energy used to heat the water, and is more effective at removing grease. Grease will solidify under cold water and become more easily ground up and washed away. You can give it a quick final rinse with hot water.


~ Vacuum the coils on the back of your refrigerator twice a year to maximize efficiency. Leave enough space between your refrigerator and the wall behind, as well as space to either side, so air can circulate around the condenser coils. Trapped heat increases energy consumption.

~ Check the door gasket occasionally to be sure the seal isn't broken by debris or caked on food. Test by closing the door over a dollar bill so that it's half in and half outside of the refrigerator. If you can pull the bill out easily, the latch may need adjusting or the seal may need replacing.

~ Avoid frost build-up in the freezer compartment. Frost build-up should be less than 1/4 inch in thickness. Excess frost build-up reduces the energy efficiency of the unit.

~ Be sure the refrigerator isn't located next to heat sources such as heat vents, stove or dishwasher. Even direct sun will lower efficiency - block it if possible.

~ Check temperature settings. Recommended temperatures are 37 - 40 degrees for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees for the freezer compartment. Stand-alone freezers for long-term storage should be kept at 0 degrees.
To check the refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator and check the reading after 24 hours. To test the freezer temperature, place thermometer between frozen packages and check the reading after 24 hours.

~ A new, more efficient refrigerator can typically save you $70–80 per year and will pay for itself in about nine years. Older models commonly use an annual average of over 1,700 kWh, while equivalent models now use fewer than 700 kWh. This can reduce your carbon-dioxide emissions by over 1,000 pounds a year."

Oka-a-ay. So, what I do is I soak all my dishes in a dishpan first, right after I use them, before washing them by hand when the pan is full (no dishwasher, which I hear is actually more efficient than handwashing). I use a trickle of water when I need it, no more. Instead of a full pan of water for rinsing, as Eartheasy recommends, I trickle water over my dishes into a dishpan to rinse them until the dishpan is full, then use that for rinse water for the rest of the dishes, if there are any. That way I know I have used only a panful, but have gotten to use clean water for rinsing off the soap, rather than partially soapy water I don't trust to get the dish squeaky clean!

Most of my appliances I can't do much about, since they come with the apartment and are regulation size and make, so to speak. But I try to use the microwave and toaster oven when I can, and rarely use the stove's oven at all. I have used two burners at one time out of the four available but no more and usually make one pot meals. But I live alone and cook for two people at a time at most, usually just me, so my carbon emissions are naturally lower than those of a couple or family, or ought to be...who knows?

Another way to minimize one's carbon footprint on the poor earth is to buy used. I mean anything used cannot contribute further to global warming, having already done that once and for all. So it is essentially, one, new to you, and two, carbon-free to you as you are buying that instead of something new that took energy in the manufacture and materials and shipping. I like to buy my clothing used when possible and purses and even shoes. Used boooks are great, and used furniture too. Used dishes don't need to match, though you can get whole sets at Goodwill and other thrift stores and consignment shops. (BTW: I don't go to the Salvation Army because of their attitude towards our gay brothers and sisters). I have found planting pots and a picture frame and vases and baskets and a wonderful scratching arch for my cat all used at such places, and each was purchased for a dollar or two with an environmentally clear conscience. My twin sister is an aficionada of her local upscale consignment shop for their electrical equipment: she buys her espresso makers there!

You may fear that such things -- clothing, shoes, dishes -- will be dirty or broken, but most such stores go out of their way to sell only items in good condition and already laundered or clean. NEVER have I found myself with an item of used clothing that could not be worn immediately. You may want to wash them first anyway, but the point is, the clothes are clean and usually in great shape. Once I found a brand new suede skirt in my size, the tags still on it; you might also remember my poem about the three cashmere sweaters I found at that flea market...tags still on, new, from the 50's!

Enough for now. I've got a busy day tomorrow once again. If you have other hints or tips, feel free to share them in the comments section. TTFN

Posted by pamwagg at April 20, 2007 11:12 PM


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