Monday, November 26, 2012

Saving Water and Energy

I don't sweat water usage as much as I did when we lived in town because I know it isn't going to the treatment plant, and I'm paying the same cost whether I use it or not. Still, we do make quite a bit of effort. These are our methods for saving energy and water, and remember that these are rural solutions:

  • Never water a lawn. Lawns are stupid anyway.
  • Do not overmow. Mow as needed in the spring as grass gets high a few days after a soaking rain. When spring rains stop, do not mow again until fall. Mow in the fall only once!  
  • Put gutters with downspouts on the house and run the downspouts into rain barrels.
  • If trees require water during a drought, water each tree individually by putting a hose on trickle at the base. Cover the hose and the base of the tree with mulch. Move hose as necessary.
  • Plant drought resistant plants in areas of drought. Remove plants with high water requirements in areas of drought.
  • If you must water plants, they should produce food.
  • Put mulch on gardens and use soaker hoses under mulch to water.
  • Do not have pole lights installed on the property, or have power to them cut. 
  • Only use outdoor lights when needed.
  • Buy an anaerobic septic system if your location allows it.
  • Wash dishes by hand by filling the basins, not by running water over them while washing them.
  • Do not use a dishwasher.
  • "If it's yellow, let it mellow. When it's brown, flush it down." Try to limit flushes to about two per day per person.
  • We have a privy under our stairs with inside and outside access. Great for daytime when the weather is nice, and when we expand to downstairs (currently garage,) it will be great for all seasons and hours.
  • We have an old-school toilet tank in the upstairs bath. Put closed bottles of water in the tank and it will use less water per flush.
  • Don't flush anything that doesn't need to be flushed. Get a small trash bin with a self-closing lid to discard used toilet paper.
  • Buy hand sanitizer and wash hands less often.
  • Turn off the faucets when brushing. 
  • Turn the hot water off at the wall on hand sinks. People turn on the hot and let it run until it is warm.
Water Heater:
  • Put the water heater on a timer. 5pm to 10pm gives plenty of water in peak hours.
  • Get a 20 gallon water heater. Tubs don't get overfilled with 20 gallons of hot water.
  • Or get a solar water heater.
  • Or get an on-demand water heater (gas.)
  • Turn off the electric water heater completely during the winter when a wood stove will be burning during peak hot water usage hours.
  • Bathe together once a day in the evening. No morning showers. Go to bed clean.
  • Just one person? Take a hobo shower - turn on water, wet yourself all over, turn off water, lather up with a wet washcloth, turn on water to rinse.
  • Use outdoor shower in summer months with environmentally friendly soap.
  • Buy an atypically small bathtub. Clawfoots are available in 4 foot lengths.
Cleaning Clothes:
  • Donate the clothes dryer to the Goodwill.
  • Disconnect hot water from clothes washer.
  • Share a bath towel and washcloth. Wash bath linens once a week, bed linens once a month, quilts and blankets once a year. An old-timers trick to doing laundry less often was to take linens out to the line once or twice a week to get sun and air when the weather is sunny, then put back on the beds.
  • Not all clothes need to be washed every time they are worn if baths are taken and underclothes are changed daily.
  • Trade out lightbulbs for LED's, or maybe CFL's. Use attractive incandescents only in months when the heat they generate will be beneficial.
  • Trade out light fixtures with multiple lights for fixtures with a single light. Evening lights need not be as bright as sunlight. No room needs more than two lightbulbs. Bedrooms and bathrooms only need one lightbulb. Small closets don't need lightbulbs.
  • Do not decorate the house with lights for holidays, especially outdoors. If using a Christmas tree, only turn on the tree in the evenings when family is home and turn off before bed.
  • Use windows to generate light during the day. Open curtains to the north in the summer and to the south in the winter.
  • Turn off all lights during the day and at bedtime. Very small wattage LED night lights can be purchased if necessary.
  • Don't use any lightbulb that requires more than 10 Watts unless supplemental heat is desirable.
  • Instead of central air, put one window unit in the main room of the house and do not put any in the rest of the house.
  • Turn off the AC when not at home, or when asleep. 
  • Buy an energy efficient AC. Buy the highest SEER rating you can afford. Buy a heat pump.
  • Go without AC for as much of the year as possible.
  • Install ceiling fans to move air around the room, use box fans in windows to more air through a room.
  • Use windows to advantage. 
  • Consider an attic fan or a roof whirlybird vent.
  • Use a stovetop humidifier or electric humidifier in cold months. Dry skin feels colder than moist skin. (Close windows.)
  • Buy storm windows. Get insulated curtains for windows.
  • Make winter window insulation by cutting blue foam insulation sheets to fit in the window, then sew a cloth cover for it to make it attractive from outdoors. Cover on the inside by closing curtains.
  • Buy an efficient wood stove if wood is available on property or in the area. It should have a cooktop, at least, an oven if affordable. 
  • Use space heaters like electric radiators to only heat rooms being used. Radiators do not blow air across skin - moving air increases evaporative cooling in the body.
  • Reverse ceiling fan direction and turn on low setting to circulate warm air down and cool air up.
  • Insulate the home well and seal up air leaks.
  • Build or buy the smallest home that you can comfortably live in.
  • Buy an energy efficient refrigerator and freezer. 
  • Buy a mini-fridge instead of a large fridge.
  • Use a campfire, grill, outdoor oven, or solar oven for warm weather cooking. Cook more outdoors than is needed for a meal and refrigerate or freeze the remainder for quick reheated meals.
  • Use a wood stove indoors for cold weather cooking.
  • Eat no-cook foods in warm months.
  • Don't buy appliances with digital clocks or other digital info.
  • Donate any small appliance that has not been used in 6 months.
  • Install solid surface floors and sweep/mop rather than vacuum/steam cleam.
  • Don't buy dumb stuff. No power razor, no electric scissor, no waterfall cat bowl, no novelty arcade Ms. Pac-Man game in your basement. This should be obvious, and donating these items is an important first step toward energy conservation. And don't buy stuff like this for other people.
  • Unplug charging cords when not in use.
  • Buy a solar charger for charging cords.
  • Use power strips that can be turned off for most of the day that control televisions and entertainment equipment.
  • Buy a hand-held game system, or play games on a laptop.
  • Use a laptop instead of a large computer.
  • Use a laptop to watch television.
  • Cancel cable. Cable entices the public to think there is something good on now (but there's not.) Watch television when it's convenient and free on the internet with a laptop.
  • If a television is still required, buy the smallest and most energy efficient model that is acceptable. 
  • Do not put televisions, computers, or other entertainment equipment in rooms other than the designated entertainment area.
  • If using a house phone, get the old-school kind that doesn't require electricity.
Outdoor living:
  • Build a greenhouse or sunporch on the south side of the home for cool weather.
  • Build a porch, especially screened, on the east side of the home for warm weather.
  • Build an outdoor kitchen.
  • Build a privy or outhouse.
  • Put seating and hammocks in outdoor areas as indicated by season.
  • Put an outdoor shower connected to a garden hose under some shade trees. Put on a misting wand, put a table under the hose in the trees, and have a mister for the hottest parts of summer days.
Obviously, we haven't had an opportunity to implement everything yet (outdoor living list) because we are still building, but we know what to do as we go.

And, of course, we can't change the septic. I live out in the middle of nowhere, so I do not have municipal water. I have a well and septic. My septic system is the aerobic-type with sprinklers that put the water back onto my lawn. If I could change but one thing on my property, it would be to have a conventional anaerobic septic tank because it does not require electricity. Our septic runs about $20 a month. This doesn't seem so bad compared with paying for city services, but when I look at my electric bill, I find it very shocking that more than a quarter of the cost of our high-usage months is just the septic.

Consider that the mistake we made to teach others not to do it. It cost about $5000 to put in, it costs about $200 a year for electric, it requires twice-a-year tech visits to keep in good repair, and it's supposed to be pumped out once or twice a year. It will never pay itself back.

These tips will require some changes in thinking for most people to achieve. It takes some sacrifice to make a serious attempt to lower water and energy costs. Still, these tips are far less drastic than living off-the-grid.

No comments:

Post a Comment