Thursday, July 16, 2009

Opportunities to Recycle!

It may surprise you of how easy and environmentally conscious recycling can be.

Spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning when you clear out all those old electronics. Where do you put it? Do you throw it away needlessly or store it in a pile to take to a recycling center? We all have that guilt; throwing something in the trash bin when we very well know that we can take it elsewhere. But why don't we? Perhaps it matters in waste management. In other countries and cities like in Tokyo, Japan, there are several waste collection days and different waste categories. Not only do they have recyclables but they also have burnables, small plastics, bulk refuse, and more. This is a great way to think of recycling and being environmentally conscious.

With our world growing smaller and the human footprint bigger, it is part of our responsibility to take care of our homes. Chemicals and toxic waste has a detrimental effect on all living things, from green grass to the animals that graze on it, and to humans who rely on the milk and harvest of their labor. There are plenty more opportunities to recycle than you may previously believe! Consider these ideas:

1. Educate yourself, understand where you can recycle and what you can recycle. Earth 911 is a great resource.

2. Start with the smallest rooms first. Offices are perhaps the most time-consuming areas of your home, but a huge plethora of recyclables exist there. You can train your recycling knowledge here.

3. Bedrooms and living room. Do you know where your local donation store is? Many Goodwill and Salvation Army centers accept used furniture and clothing with a smile. Help someone pick out their next 80's outfit by giving away your plastic bangles and Doc Martens.

4. Bathrooms, kitchen. You might not be aware of the dangers of household cleaners or where to recycle or properly dispose of cooking oil.

5. Garage. You probably don't see many of these items or have put them there believing that you could take care of it later. Consider if you really need these items. If not, take the opportunity to recycle it!

So there you have it. Some ideas to help you recycle more and efficiently with the glamorous help of the internet!

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Green Roofing...What?

As we are building more urban areas, we are also losing green space. A great way to revitalize the urban landscape is to invest in green roofing. Green roofing involves high quality water proofing and root repellant systems, as well as a drainage system, a filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium along with plants. Some of you may be wondering, “Why a green roof? What can it do for me?”

Green roofs will typically last twice as long as conventional roofs because all the sun damage that reaches bare floors will be used to grow plants. There is a lot of energy saving potential as well, depending on the size of the building, climate, and type of green roof. In Ottawa, Canada, Karen Liu found that 6” of green roof reduced heat gains by 95% and heat losses by 26%. Green roofs also absorb sound pollution from airplanes and traffic.

Green roofs also provide a space of serenity and aesthetic beauty. It can be a place for day care, meetings, and recreation. Instead of taking a break in a dull and enclosed room indoors, employees can take breaks taking a scenic stroll on the roof. For the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, the kitchen saved up to $30,000 annually by growing it’s own greenery,

Although green roofs are still immature in North America, it is an investment worth looking into for your business. Give your employees a place to look forward to while they are at work!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Times are a Changing: Time to Update Your Air Conditioner

Big changes are coming to the world of air conditioning on Jan. 1, 2010. In an effort to comply with an international green treaty and slow down ozone deterioration, air conditioners across the country will be forced to comply with a new level of standards. Here are some key facts to help you stay ahead of the curve and save yourself from the heat, especially during crunch time.

These new standards in air conditioning can be attributed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to help curb damage to the Ozone layer. It is designed to lead to some actual recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050. Initially established in 1987, it has since been amended seven times and is continually looking to eliminate substances that have defiantly been established as reasons for ozone depletion. Chlorine is one of those substances that has been clearly identified as doing significant damage and has been used since the 1970’s as a coolant in nearly all air conditioning units. This chemical is called R-22 and as of Jan. 1st 2010 will be eliminated.

R-22 will be replaced with a chlorine free coolant called R-410A that has zero ozone depletion. Begin thinking about switching your AC now as R-22 units will no longer be manufactured and that means parts and supplies will make repairs harder and more expensive. In fact, chances are the EPA will make it illegal to sell any R-22 units by the end of 2009.

Don’t be discouraged though. Energy costs have increased 50 percent in the last five years and with the economic climate the way it is, this is a great chance to save money on proper energy efficient air conditioning units. Updating your air conditioner with the proper requirements can save you up to 45 percent. Look at the SEER rating, (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating when purchasing a new unit. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the SEER rating the better the efficiency. Of course, this is entirely depending on your geographic location and many can make do with a low SEER rating where air conditioning is not as drastically needed.

Also be sure to look at rebates and tax incentives while replacing your air conditioning units. Chances are you can get a great deal and save money with a correct purchase. The recent stimulus bill has set aside money for actions like this so search the web or look at your local states Database of State and Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency for proper deals.

The last step to get the most out of your air conditioner is to make sure you obtain proper installation. A key part of upgrading your unit is to get the most out of it and improper and shoddy installation can quickly defeat this purpose. Keep it well maintained as well and you will see a significant reduction in your energy bills. Don’t wait until its 2010, start looking for new and more energy efficient cooling solutions today.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Tips For Saving Money on your Heating and Cooling Bills

During these times with extreme weather, there is a good chance that you are heavily relying on heaters and air conditioners to optimize your house temperatures. Here are some helpful tips to keep your energy bill low when using heating or cooling appliances.

Keep baseboard heaters, radiators and warm-air registers as clean as possible. Make sure they have open circulation and are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes. Constantly replace your filters for heaters and air conditioners as needed.

Use fans during the summer, in combination with your air conditioners to create a wind-chill effect. Also, try reversing the fans motor during the winter to help drive warm air back down towards the floor for improved circulation.

Install a programmable thermostat that can adjust the temperature according to your schedule, especially when you are away from the house. Set the temperature as low as comfortable during the winter for a lower heating bill.

When using heaters, remember to keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day and closed at night to let the sunshine. For air conditioners, try placing them in a north-facing or shaded when as direct sunlight reduces efficiency.

Be sure to weatherize your home-caulk and weather strip any doors and windows that could be looking warm or cold air. Try placing heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators. Remember to turn off exhaust fans as needed. Seal any holes with caulk or spray foam where TV/cable wires, pipes and vents open your door.

Keep your system up to date, and add a supplementary source or replace your existing heater or cooling. Look for Energy Star products as they have been certified to reach the highest levels of energy efficiency. Replace your air conditioner if it is more the 10 years old as they are probably much less energy efficient then others.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Winterizing Your Home Saves You Money and Reduces Greenhouse Gases

Winter has just begun and energy costs are on the rise. The average American household spends up to $2000 annually on energy bills, and some have speculated that this number may even go up by almost 50% this year. Therefore, taking a few small steps now in reducing energy use can make a big difference in lowering your energy bills and even reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first and foremost steps in winterizing a home is to stop air leaks in a home. If air leaks aren't stopped, other weatherizing measures like installing insulation will be a complete waste of money and effort. By sealing holes, cracks, and openings in your home first, you can stop the flow of heat through your walls and ceilings, and also cost-effectively reduce energy bills, avoid potential moisture problems, and perhaps most importantly, stay warm this winter. With this in mind, here are few helpful tips published by the Environmental Protection Agency on how to seal your home:

1. Be sure to insulate and weather-strip your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out of the top of your house.
2. Holes leading from a basement or crawlspace to an attic are a huge energy waster. Be sure to cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary, and don’t forget to seal any holes in the attic that lead into a house.
3. Seal holes with caulk or spray foam where wires, pipes, and vents enter or exit your home, and be sure to check behind and under sinks.
4. Caulk window frames and door frames inside your home with clear or color-matched caulk to reduce drafts. If caulking an area outside of a home, use long-lasting exterior caulk.
5. Reduce any drafts in your home by putting foam gaskets around electrical outlets, and weather-strip doors and windows that do not seal tightly.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

DIY Air Purifier

The EPA has noted that indoor air can be almost ten times worse than the air outside. Thus, air purification has rapidly become a multi-billion dollar industry. While a small, no-frills air cleaner for your personal space can be had for less than $100, a state-of-the-art medical-grade air purifier aimed at microbiological abatement can cost over $1000. For those who wish to breathe in healthier air without spending a lot of money, read the directions below on how to create your own air purifier from inexpensive materials:

1 PVC water pipe
1 Replacement window screen (a piece of cloth will also suffice, or for aromatherapy, use a scented dryer sheet)
1 cardboard box
1 HEPA filter
1 small fan

1. Drill a small hole in the wall to the outside
2. Place a section of the water pipe in the hole and extend it all the way through the wall
3. Place your filter material on the outside of the pipe to prevent insects, pollen, and other particulates from entering inside
4. Place your HEPA filter inside the cardboard box and mount the box on the pipe
5. Cut a hole in the box and mount the fan inside the box. This will help draw outside air through the HEPA filter and blow the clean air into the room.

Keep in mind that although this air purifier may not be able to completely remove pollutants from your air, it may help filter your air in a pinch.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Alternative" Air Conditioners

Although the cooler months are upon us, in areas like Southern California where there have been a wave of brush fires, air conditioners used to ventilate homes from smoke and pollution may still be helpful. However, for those who don’t have conventional air conditioners installed in their homes, "alternative air conditioners" should be considered. Here are some suggestions and low cost options to help you keep cool, ventilate your home, and save money.

Passive Cooling
Passive cooling uses nonmechanical methods to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. One of the most effective passive cooling methods involves keeping heat from building up in the first place. The primary source of heat gain can often be attributed to sunlight that is absorbed by your home through the walls, windows, and roof. Secondary sources can come in the form of heat-generating appliances and air leakages.

Prevent heat gain by reflecting sunlight away from your house, shading and blocking the heat, removing built-up heat, and by reducing heat-generating sources in your home.

Save Energy
Sometimes the above strategies may not provide enough cooling, and mechanical devices may have to be used as supplements. Ceiling fans and evaporative coolers can be energy efficient choices, as they cost less to install and run as standard air conditioners. Ceiling fans have the ability to lower the air temperature by about four degrees, and evaporative coolers use one fourth the energy of conventional air conditioners. However, keep in mind that evaporative coolers are only suitable for dry climates.

Contact your local utility companies and inquire about rebates and cost-incentive programs when you purchase or install energy-saving products such as lighting, appliances, and insulation.

Consider a Whole House Ventilation Fan
If you are looking for a lower-cost, natural alternative to an air conditioner, whole house ventilation may be the solution. Installing a whole house fan costs only a fraction of central of central or wall-mount air conditioning (around $300-$400 versus up to $2500), and operating costs may be as little as 10 percent of the cost of operating an air conditioner.

When the fan is activated, cooler air from the outside is drawn into the house via open windows and doors, and warmer air is pushed out of the house through ventilation spaces in the roof or gable end walls. This air movement cools your house by replacing hot air with cooler air; by flushing out hot air; and by creating a gentle breeze that cools occupants by an evaporation effect.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Can A Green Roof Save You Money?

A green roof system is an extension of an existing roof which involves a high quality water proofing and root repelling system, a drainage system, filter cloth, and a lightweight growing medium and plants. Green roofs also involve “contained” green space on top of human-made structures. Although green roofs have been in used in Germany and other parts of Europe since the 1960s, the market remains immature in North America (besides in a few cities on the East Coast), as the benefits of green roofs have not been well-established.

Many green roofs are often installed to comply with local regulations and government fees, often regarding stormwater runoff management. In areas with combined sewer-stormwater systems, heavy storms can overload the waste water system and cause it to flood. Green roofs decrease the total amount of runoff and slow the rate of runoff from the roof. However, one of the greatest benefits of a green roof involves energy savings. In 2005, a study was conducted by the University of Toronto, which showed that green roofs also helped reduce heat loss and energy consumption in winter conditions. Green roofs can reduce heating by adding mass and thermal resistance value and cooling by evaporative cooling. This is especially true if the roof is glassed in so as to act as a terrarium and passive solar heat reservoir. Here are some other benefits of green roofs:

- Provide amenity space for building users and can replace a yard or patio
- Reduce the urban heat island effect
- Increase the roof life span
- Filter pollutants and CO2 out of the air
- Filter pollutants and heavy metals out of rainwater
- Increase wildlife habitat in build-up areas
- Retain rainwater, moderate the temperature of the water, and act as a natural filter for any of the water that happens to run off

To initiate a green roof installation, you will need to know the slope and structural building capacity, and nature of any drainage systems, electrical, and water supply. In terms of cost, for an installed, extensive green roof with root repellant/waterproof members, it will cost you anywhere from $10 to $24. However, this also depends on the type of roof you want and factors such as the depth of growing medium, selective plans, size of installation, use of irrigation, and whether they are accessible.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Save Money By Using Your Ceiling Fan in the Winter

Winter is quickly approaching, and now is the time to begin your home winter projects in order to ensure that your home is winterized and weather proof. Although most people only think of using their ceiling fans in the summer, turning on your ceiling fan when the weather gets cold could actually save you up to 10% on your heating bill when used in conjunction with your existing heating system.

Turning on your ceiling fan during the cooler months actually makes sense - a ceiling fan set to turn clockwise on low speed helps circulate warm air and push it down towards the center of a room. When using your central heating system during the winter, warm air that comes out of the registers in each room will naturally rise. Because these registers are up high, hot air will build at the ceiling level and gradually work its way to the floor level. Many people are unaware that many BTUs are wasted heating the ceilings of a home – areas where additional heat does not make a difference. With that being said, in order to get this hot air down, off the ceiling, and to the areas you need it most, using a ceiling fan will force warm air near the ceiling down into occupied spaces.

However, keep in mind that in the summer, ceiling fans are run in the counter-clockwise position. To use your ceiling fan during the winter months, reverse the motor and operate it at low speed in the clockwise direction. If your fan is mounted on a high ceiling, use a step ladder or an 8 foot ladder to get up to the fan and reverse the direction of the blades. This will produce an updraft that equalizes the temperature at the floor and ceiling levels, which will also prevent your heating unit from being overworked. As well, don’t forget to adjust your thermostat in order to realize even more energy savings.


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Friday, September 28, 2007

Save Money with Alternative Heating & Cooling Options

Unfortunately, when compared to the rest of the world, Americans use twice as much energy as necessary to heat and cool their homes, which accounts for a lot of wasted energy. In order to conserve energy, consumers can either replace non-renewable resources with renewable energy or try alternative heating and cooling sources. Listed below are a few examples of such alternative sources:

Swamp Coolers
A swamp cooler or “evaporative cooler” functions similarly to a conventional air conditioner, but at a fraction of the price. Swamp coolers operate on less than a quarter of the electricity of a regular air conditioning system and cool the air by blowing air through wet pads. Because these appliances blow slightly humidified air into the home, these are only suitable for climates that are relatively dry.

Wood has been used as a heating fuel since antiquity, and there are a variety of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves on the market today. Although wood can be used as a primary heat source, wood is best used as a supplement to existing central heating systems. If you have access to inexpensive or free wood, installing a wood-burning stove can dramatically reduce your energy bill.

Burning wood in an older fireplace is not practical, as the wood burns uncontrollably and inefficiently, with 90% of the heat energy produced going up the flue and producing copious amounts of smoke. In addition, heat that is generated through a fireplace leaks through windows and allows for drafts.

Standalone Wood Furnaces
The popularity of exterior wood furnaces continues to increase. These units consist of a small building that sits outside of a house that contains a wood-burning stove. This stove heats water that is then pumped into the house through underground pipes, with the pipes then traveling to a conventional air handler. These systems are advantageous because they use logs that do not require cutting or splitting, and they need to be fueled only once or twice a day.

Corn Stoves
Corn stoves are popular alternatives in areas where field corn is abundant and inexpensive. Corn stoves have a hopper on top or on the side into which bags or bushels of corn are deposited. An auger controlled by a thermostat then shuffles the corn into a firebox, where an intense fire combusts the corn and turns it into heat that is moved around the room by a small fan.

Masonry Heaters
Masonry heaters burn wood in an enclosed firebox and the combustion gases travel through a maze of masonry passages where they release their heat. While many of these heaters are ornate and can be considered works of art, these are often large and expensive, and a room or an entire area in a home is usually designed around a masonry heater.

While these cooling and heating methods require an initial investment, they can still help keep your energy costs down and provide comfort for you and your family.

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