How to save money (and the planet) during this economic downturn

Friday, February 13, 2009

One easy way to save energy: change this... this.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article on this subject, with a list of a number of good ways to change one's lifestyle in order to use less energy. Some of these are a bit more practical than others while others take a bit longer to save one money, and so are more of a long-term investment than simply an easy change one can make to use less energy. The article gives a total of ten:

1) High-tech thermostats: easy to do, pays off pretty quickly. These are good because they can regulate the temperature of one's house at certain times throughout the day when you yourself might forget or be asleep in bed (if you always sleep from 12 to 8 for example you can program the thermostat to reduce the temperature from about 1 to 7 when you don't mind)
2) Drain-water heat-recovery system: looks pretty expensive. It's an okay idea but it's expensive to start with and I doubt many people have rushed out to buy these as a result of the article.
3) Sealing air leaks - super easy to do. Most people concerned with energy usage though have probably already done something like that.
4) Low-flow fixtures - doubt people are going to be interested in this for the shower (nothing's worse than a weak flow of water from the shower). Perhaps for the sink.
5) Leasing solar panels - interesting idea. The article explains the concept better than I could.
6) Air filters - great idea, easy to do and often neglected.
7) Compact fluorescent lights - also a good idea but a lot of people don't like the atmosphere these bring. I can't say I'm a big fan of them myself either. Perhaps a combination between these and incandescent could work, so if you're 100% incandescent you could switch to 50/50.
8) Lighting motion sensors - These are okay outside but they often shut off too quickly and you have to wave your hand around to bring the lights back on if you're sitting outside. Maybe a good idea for a hallway that people often pass through but never stop in.
9) Window treatments - super easy.
10) Attic insulation - also easy.

I would suggest something else as well: one of these toilets, where the water that flows into the back of the toilet after a flush (perfectly clean water) first comes out a tap on the top where you can wash your hands without having to use water at the other sink. There's a hole in the top there so all the water goes right into the back of the toilet as with any other. There should also be a dual flush, where you turn the handle one way for a big flush (emptying the whole tank and filling it up again), but also where you can turn it the other way for a small flush, where the water flows around a little bit only as long as you have the handle pressed that way.

It's more expensive than a lot of the other options above but it's also a lot more fun, and makes the transition from a low-tech wasteful lifestyle to a high-tech conservational one more obvious.


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