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Every Penny Counts: Saving Money While Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

With more and more people facing financial instability, it is important to remember that during these difficult times every penny counts. What if there was a way you could lower your monthly expenses, all while reducing your greenhouse gas emissions? With environmental threats like climate change and rising sea levels this to me sounds like a double win! As we embark upon the 50th year of celebrating earth day, what better a way to celebrate than by making a few minor changes that will benefit both our pocketbooks and mother earth!

Cooling your Home

Since the Florida Keys is particularly hot, let’s begin with the cooling of your home. The air conditioning energy saving setting is 78 °F or higher. Each degree lower adds 3% to your cooling bill, while each degree higher subtracts 3% from your cooling bill. Avoid blocking AC vents with furniture for better air flow. If you use AC window units, only cool the rooms you are occupying. Try cooling rooms with a fan instead of the air conditioner. Close curtains and blinds during the day to block sunlight and keep it from heating up your home. Don’t forget to check your windows and doors for air leaks. Air leaks are equivalent to leaving an averaged sized window open in the home! Try installing weather stripping, outlet insulators, insulating foam, window putty and door sweeps to save $222 per year and cut 2835 lbs. of co2 equivalent from your greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per year.

Water

Did you know that a ten-minute shower uses approximately 50 gallons of hot water? Heating this water alone emits 6 lbs of co2, not to mentions drives up your water and energy bills. Try aiming for a five-minute shower or possibly installing a low-flow shower head. Each of these options can save you $43 per year and cut 494 lbs. of co2 equivalent from your GHG emissions.

Heating water that is used in the household requires a lot of energy use and produces quite a bit of GHG emissions. Most heaters are programed at 140°F and can easily be decreased to 120°F. This can save you $14 annually and will cut 162 lbs. of co2 equivalent from your annual GHG emissions. You can also add foam insulation sleeves to the first 5 ft of your hot water heaters pipes. Consider turning your hot water heater off when you are on vacation. You can also install a timer switch that will turn the device off/on at night. A more costly option would be to install a solar water heating system. This can save a household 50-80% off their water-heating bill. As the prices for electricity or natural gas go up, the savings increases. Annual GHG emissions savings range from 2,700 to 4,320 lbs. of co2.

When it comes to water usage in the home, don’t forget to keep the simple things in mind, like turning the water off when you are doing the dishes, brushing your teeth or shaving. There is no reason to keep the water running, you are just sending clean water and money down the drain. For an increased savings, try to use cold water for these activities! And don’t forget to check your faucets, clothes washer and hot water heater for leaks!

Home Appliances

Home appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and dish washers can greatly increase our energy bills and GHG emissions, especially if they are not maintained properly and working harder than they should be.

Your refrigerator and freezer should always be kept full, even if you must place water jugs in it to fill the space. Solid mass stays cool more easily than air. Make sure to set the temperature of your refrigerator between 38-42°F and your freezer between 0-10°F. This can be verified by placing thermometer in the unit. Make sure to clean the vacuum coils and gasket on the appliance (unplug first). When they are dirty the fridge will turn on more often and will run longer. Also, the area around the gasket where the door seals can sometimes become compromised. If you can slide a dollar bill between the seal it needs to be replaced. Remember to fully cool food before placing it in the fridge or freezer, this will reduce the amount of work the appliance has to perform. And if all possible, get rid of that extra fridge or freezer that you own. It is an energy hog and getting rid of it can save you over $100 per year!

Clothes washers and dryers can also drive up energy bills and GHG emissions if not operated properly and maintained. The dryer lint trap should be cleaned every time a load of clothes is dried. This results in a 5-10% reduction in energy use. You can also replace your dryer vent cover with a louver type cover. This results in a 20-50% increase in airflow, using less energy to force air though. When it comes to drying clothes, saving money and eliminating your GHG emissions there is always the old fashion line drying method. Allowing the sun’s natural warmth to dry your clothes and save energy. For clothes washing try to do most loads on a cold-water cycle and minimize the amount of detergent you use. The washer’s motor works harder when more suds are involved.

The energy expense of a dishwasher can be eliminated by simply hand washing your dishes. If this idea does not interest you, try making sure you always run full loads. When running your dish washer use the cold-water rinse setting. Finally, instead of letting the machine dry the dishes, turn the machine off and open the door, allowing the dishes to air dry.

Electronics and Lighting

There are several ways you can reduce your electric bill and GHG emissions when it comes to your electronics and lighting your home. Switch off electronics and appliances at the wall or power strip to cut 5-10% of your electric bill that is spent on standby power. Clocks and lights on TV’s and stereos constantly use power unless unplugged. Power strips make it much easier to prevent this, but appliances and electronics can also just simply be unplugged when not in use. The basic rule of thumb is: if you can see it on (standby light, clock) or feel it on (heat coming from wall chargers), then it’s considered a “phantom power user” because it is constantly drawing electricity, even when turned off. For lighting your home, consider replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Each bulb can save 100 lbs. of co2 equivalent GHG emissions a year and will cut your lightening costs. Use them in almost any fixture and experience the improved quality of light. You can purchase them online or at any hardware store. Always remember to turn off lights when you leave a room and put outdoor lights on timers or a sensor. Try to use natural lighting or task lighting when possible. The more lights you have on the higher your electric bill will be and the more GHG emissions produced.

Although many of these changes may seem minor and may not seem like they would save you a great deal of money. It is surprising as to how quickly it all adds up. These are simple steps you can take, and easy money saved. With earth day in mind, we can feel good about making these changes and we may just end up with a little extra money in our pockets treat ourselves.

Written by UF-IFAS Extension Coordinator Brynn Morey, Developed from Climate Smart Floridian’s Program material.
For more information about the program please contact: Alicia Betancourt at abb@ufl.edu

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