Posts tagged ‘energy conservation’
It’s summer in the way deep south, which means we frequently reach into our refrigerators for cold beverages to help us keep our cool. Refrigerators are responsible for approximately 14 percent of a home’s energy use, more than any other kitchen or cleaning appliance. Making your fridge more energy efficient is one easy way to conserve our resources – and your money.
- Allow hot foods to cool before refrigerating or freezing.
- A new ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator uses about 40 percent less energy than refrigerators sold in 2001.
- Set your refrigerator temperature to 37-40 degrees and your freezer temperature between 0-5 degrees. A refrigerator colder than necessary uses up to 25 percent more energy.
- Clean a refrigerator’s coils every six months. Dirty coils cause the refrigerator to use more energy. Brushing or vacuuming the coils can improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
- Keep a full refrigerator. Your appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to keep food cold.
- Check door seals to make sure they’re airtight. To test them, close the door on a dollar bill and try to pull it out. If the dollar slides out easily, you’re losing energy and money.
The Green School Awards program, now in its third year, is accepting applications for the 2010/2011 school year. Public or private K-12 students, teachers, classrooms, schools and school districts can apply. Application deadline is June 21, 2011. Winners will be announced at the Learn Green: Green Schools Conference and Expo in Palm Beach County in November 2011.
The Florida Green School Awards Program recognizes and documents the achievement of students, teachers and school administrators to enhance learning by implementing green school initiatives in Florida. Last year, applicants for the Florida Green School Awards program saved more than 43,000 gallons of water and 56,126,468 kilowatt hours of electricity and reduced waste by nearly 5 tons.
Additionally, the schools saved $5.2 million dollars through greening efforts. With that kind of green, Florida can keep about 106 teachers in the classroom, buy more than 10,000 new computers or 263,000 new text books. As for environmental rewards – cleaner water, cleaner air, less waste – priceless.
Though a school’s traditional focus is on reading, writing and arithmetic, more schools are adding sustainability to the “things to learn” list. Since 16 percent of Florida’s residents spend at least six hours a day, five days a week during the academic year at school, the campus and the classrooms are also excellent venues for teaching and learning green habits that lead to a healthier school population, a healthier environment and a healthier bottom line.
If your school is greening, whether through a recycling program, water or energy conservation, flex fuel or a school garden, you can apply for a Green School Award. If you know someone in school who is doing great green things – student, teacher, administrator or support staff – encourage them to apply as well. One easy way to protect air and water quality, conserve water and reduce waste (both environmentally and financially) is to green your school and share the information with others.
Staying warm in Florida is usually not a topic of conversation. But the temps have dropped below 50 in Tampa, Conch Republic residents are pulling out their winter flip-flops, and Panhandle residents are practicing the fine art of layering. A few recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency will help you stay warm, save money and conserve energy this winter.
Keep Air Filters Clean. A dirty air filter can increase your energy costs. Clean or change the air filter in your heating and cooling system monthly. Some filters only need to be changed every three months. Also, have your equipment checked seasonally to make sure it’s operating efficiently. Safety check-ups can identify problems early and prolong the life of your system.
Seal Your Home. Hidden gaps and cracks throughout a home can add as much airflow as an open window. The more heat that escapes, the more cold air enters, causing your system to work harder and use more energy. Sealing the ‘envelop’ (the outer walls, ceiling, windows and floors) can save up to 10 percent in energy costs. Start by sealing air leaks and adding insulation. Pay special attention to your attic and basement, where the biggest gaps and cracks are often found. If replacing windows, choose ENERGY STAR qualified ones.
Seal Air Ducts. Leaky air ducts can reduce your system’s overall efficiency by 20 percent. Sealing your ducts can save money on energy bills and help consistently heat every room.
Test Your Home. ENERGY STAR’s online tools help evaluate your home’s energy performance and provide solutions to increase comfort and energy efficiency. Have your utility bills handy for savings calculations.
Consult a Professional. Hire an experienced, licensed contractor for help with a heating and cooling overhaul.
Cash in on Special Offers. Check with your local utility or visit the rebate finder to find special deals on high efficiency heating equipment. Manufacturer rebates are usually offered in fall and early spring. Ask for ENERGY STAR qualified equipment. While you’re looking, check for rebates on other appliances, insulation, windows or doors you want to replace.
Shop Smart. If your heating equipment has not been properly maintained and is 15 years old or older, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Ask for ENERGY STAR rated equipment when buying warmth for your home.
The average Florida household uses 1,120 kilowatts hours (kWh) of electricity each month, with nearly half of that used for keeping our homes at a reasonably comfortable temperature. Energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment can save as much as 20 percent on annual energy costs. In addition to saving money and helping Floridians stay warm in winter, energy efficiency also conserves water and reduces waste.
Currently in the U.S., electricity demand continues to increase even as energy efficiency gains are made. Since 1970, the use of coal to generate electricity in the U.S. has nearly tripled in response to growing electricity demand. Almost half of the electricity is presently generated by coal-fueled electric power plants. The more electricity consumed the more coal that is being used for energy production. Consider that the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that electricity demand will grow by 41% by 2030. With the burning of coal to produce electricity, ash is produced. In the process of converting coal into energy, the coal-fueled electric power industry generated approximately 72.4 million tons of coal fly ash (ash that rises to the chimney or stack), 18.4 million tons of bottom ash (ash that does not rise), and 2.0 million tons of boiler slag (molten ash) in 2008. Though some of the coal fly ash, bottom ash, and boiler slag can be used in cement, asphalt and construction projects, 70 – 80 percent of the ash ends up in a landfill.
Small changes in daily routines, such as turning off lights, unplugging appliances not in use, washing clothes in cold water, and maintaining moderate household temperatures reduces the amount of coal needed to produce electricity. So while you’re conserving energy, you’re also reducing waste!
Michell Mason Smith
Engineering Specialist III
Solid Waste Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Let there be light. And TV and DVD and Wii. Let there be laptops with printers and speakers. Let there be microwaves, refrigerators, cell phone chargers, washers and clothes dryers and hair dryers, water heaters, leaf blowers and circular saws. Let there be fax machines, copiers, and projectors for PowerPoint presentations. And, please, let there be A/C and coffee makers.
We Americans rely on electricity to power our lives. We also like to lower our utility bills. So when we hear “Conserve energy,” we’ve learned to turn off the lights, unplug techno toys when not in use, buy energy-efficient appliances. For most of us, conserving energy means using less electricity. Until I asked some of my DEP collegues, I didn’t know that conserving electricity also conserves water.
Thermoelectric power plants burn coal and natural gas or use nuclear fission to heat water. The steam drives a generator to produce electricity. The water for generating steam comes from nearby water bodies such as rivers or lakes. Most of the water is returned to its source, but it has to be cooled before being discharged back into the native ecosystem from whence it came, where fishes and other life forms have an aversion to steam baths. Cooling towers lower the water’s temperature, but some of the water evaporates as it cools. How much? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported that as much as 0.47 gallons of water evaporate for each kWh of electricity generated.
According to a 2006 U.S. Department of Energy report, water usage at thermoelectric power plants accounted for 39 percent of all freshwater use in the U.S. in 2000, almost as much as that used for irrigating our orange groves, strawberry fields, tomatoes, corn and all sorts of other useful agricultural products.
If you think that’s a lot of water to power our amenities, consider the water budget of a typical hydroelectric power plant. On a national average, hydroelectric power plants use 18 gallons of water to produce a kWh, about 40 times more than is used to generate thermoelectric power. These losses arise because reservoirs built to produce hydroelectric power create additional surface area where water can evaporate.
According to the NREL report, the 120 largest hydroelectric facilities in the U.S. lose about 9,063 million gallons of water per day to evaporation. That’s more than we withdraw for public supply in the entire state of Florida each day.
Though I don’t know how potential energy in water and a chunk of coal magically shows up to power my toaster, I do know that saving energy saves money. And now I also know that simple actions like turning off the lights, switching to energy-efficient appliances and unplugging electronics also conserve water.
Information provided by:
Daniel M. Kuncicky, PhD
Solid Waste Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection