As you may have realised, Forestmatic is on a mission to reforest the world. But we are well aware that this is only a small piece of the puzzle. To put it simply, we are barely playing our part.
This is far from being a sufficient action to completely counter the effects of climate change and restore the natural balance of our planet. More and more corporations and businesses are starting to acknowledge their responsibility and are on the way to enact change. But what about consumers? How can they start to mitigate their impact on the planet? In this series of Do It Yourself Sustainable Living articles, you will find easy-to-adopt tips you can start adapting to your daily routine to decrease your carbon footprint. Let’s have a look at how we can adopt very simple energy-saving measures.
Energy conservation measures (ECM), or simply put, energy-saving, is important and beneficial in various ways. Not only are you protecting the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, but you will also end up saving money and increasing your property value in the process! Let’s have a look to understand how to do so.
One of the simple pleasures in life is a nice home dinner with friends. Except, maybe, for the clean-up — thank goodness for dishwashers! In terms of water, a full load uses about 13 litres of water to clean an average of 144 items. Washing the same load by hand uses almost 10 times more water on average, according to a study by the University of Bonn. Dishwashers are great for lowering water consumption. But what about electricity? The electronics of a dishwasher require somewhere around 1200–1500 watts depending on the size and production year. This is more or less equal to what a blow dryer consumes. Great, right?!
Right-ish. The real reason for the low power consumption of dishwashers is that half of the power required to efficiently run a cycle is taken from the hot water heater. Things get even worse when using your washing machine. High temperature washing cycles are one of the most expensive energy consumptions you may require at home.
Using a 60°C wash cycle requires 3 times more electricity than a 40°C wash cycle. Reduce the temperature to 30°C to reduce even further the amount of electricity required — and the size of your electricity bill. Just make sure to only run the machine when you have a full load, especially if the machine is older and doesn’t allow you to use economy settings.
The chemicals found in typical detergents end up in our rivers, seas, and oceans, providing harm to the ecosystems within. You can start to decrease your impact by using natural detergents to minimise this negative effect. Most natural detergents work just as effectively even at lower temperatures.
What about lighting around the house? By replacing your home’s 5 most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with energy-saving ones, you can save an estimated €65 per year. Compared to traditional solutions, energy-efficient lightbulbs such as halogen, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), typically use 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. And they last longer too! On average, a traditional incandescent lightbulb lasts about 1000 hours, compared to the 10,000 hours of CFLs and 15,000 hours of LEDs.
But it’s not only about lighting. Every electronic device connected to your utilities has a dark side to it. So-called “phantom loads”, the electricity used by electronics when they are turned off or in standby mode, are a major source of wasted energy. About 75% of the energy used to power household electronics is consumed when they are switched off, which can cost you up to €180 per year. A nice way to avoid this is the use of smart power strips, which eliminate the problem by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
Some adjustments that may have the biggest impact on your energy savings are:
- Turning down the heat on your thermostat in the winter.
- Using your air conditioner less in the summer.
Heating and cooling costs constitute nearly half of an average home’s utility bills, so reductions in the intensity and frequency of heating and cooling offer the greatest savings. But, what can you do about it? The answer can be surprising: windows!
In colder climates, well-insulated windows can prevent heat loss, thus saving both energy and money. You can easily replace single-pane windows with double-pane products instead.
For households in even colder regions, opt for gas-filled windows with “low-emissivity” (low-e) coatings to reduce your heating expenses. Storm Windows have been found to reduce unnecessary heat loss by 10–20%. Consider them if you live in a region with particularly frequent and extreme weather events.
In warmer climates, low-e coatings can really help to minimize heat gain by reflecting more light and lowering the amount of thermal energy that enters your home. Depending on where you live, ENERGY STAR windows can save you €20–80 each year on your utility bills. Window shades, shutters, screens, and awnings can also provide an extra layer of insulation between your home and outside temperatures.
These are just some of the easiest tips you can start applying to your household. A comprehensive guide to start moving your first steps to reduce your energy consumption and start to have a positive impact on the planet.
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