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Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day – Energy Efficiency

Co-authors: Holly Abeels, Alicia Betancourt, and Dr. Ashley Smyth

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “climate action”. Climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces today. But it’s a challenge and issue we can solve together. Here are some resources and actions you can do to help combat climate change.

What You Can Do

Often the simplest things you can do are related to behaviors in your day to day life. Actions like reducing your water or energy use, reducing food waste, and cutting down on vehicle emissions all have an impact. This week we’ll take a look at actions you can start doing today. Yesterday we talked about water saving actions. Today we’ll talk about how you can save energy.

Part Two: Saving Energy

My Florida Home Energy through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a variety of resources on what you can do to start saving energy. There is also the Energy Department’s Energy Saver Guide: Tips on Saving Money and Energy in Your Home, which can be downloaded in both English and Spanish. The Florida Solar Energy Center also has a list of 12 simple steps to energy efficiency. Here’s a list of no to low cost behavior changes you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency.

  • Thermostat Settings: Keep your house at 78°F or higher in the summer and 68°F or lower in the winter for energy-saving benefits. Each degree setting below 78°F for air conditioning will cost you up to 8% more in cooling costs.
  • Shade Windows: Place shades or curtains on east and west facing windows during the warmer months.
  • Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans can improve circulation and make you feel cooler because they circulate the air more effectively. Use bath and kitchen fans sparingly when the air conditioner is running.
  • Exhaust Fans: Use bathroom exhaust fans to remove moisture from the room after taking a shower. Use kitchen exhaust fans while cooking to remove excess heat and humidity.
  • Lighting: Get in the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room.
  • Main Refrigerator: Check seals on refrigerator and freezer doors and clean cooling coils on the back or underneath the refrigerator. Locate the refrigerator away from heat sources and away from items or walls that block airflow to the coils. Set your refrigerator to 38-40°F.
  • Freezer: Set the thermostat between 0-10°F for frozen products, not air temperature. Keep the freezer full.
  • Dishwasher: Run only full loads of dishes. Use the air-dry setting or let dishes air-dry by propping open the door slightly instead of using the heated dry setting on the dishwasher.
  • Clothes Washer: Wash only full loads of laundry and use the cold-water wash and rinse setting. Using cold water reduces your washer’s energy use by 75%. If you don’t have a full load, adjust the water level to fit the size of your load.
  • Clothes Dryer: Clean the dryer filter/lint trap after each load. This can reduce energy use by 5-10% as it improves airflow. Clean the dry exhaust run periodically to prevent lint buildup. If possible, use a clothesline or drying rack instead of your dryer. Do not overload the dryer.
  • Standby Power: Unplug any appliances or electronics that have a standby mode or that have lights that remain on when they are not in use. Put small appliances and electronic devices on a switched outlet or power strip that you can click off when not in use. Many TVs, DVD players, computer peripherals, and chargers use electricity even while switched off. For instance, the “phantom load” from a TV alone can easily cost $100 a year, even if it’s never turned on. Anything with a light or a clock is using energy.
  • Lighting: Replace as many of your light bulbs with the appropriate compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or light emitting diodes (LED) lights. For example, a 14-watt CFL in place of a 60-watt standard incandescent light bulb can save you up to $30 a year per bulb. LEDs, especially Energy Star rated products, use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.
  • Air Conditioning Maintenance: Keep your system at peak performance by making sure you check air filters every month and clean or replace filters as they become clogged or dirty. Arrange for professional maintenance as needed.
Websites to Follow

These are just some of the actions you can take to help personally adapt to climate change. Download and read the Climate Change Handbook: A Citizen’s Guide to Thoughtful Action for more personal actions you can take. Follow these websites for the latest information about climate change in the U.S. and in Florida.

National Climate Assessment – 4th Edition

NASA Global Climate Change – Vital Signs of the Planet

NOAA Climate.gov

Florida Sea Grant Climate Change Resources

Florida Climate Institute

FDEP Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection

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