Save Water, Go Brown

If you live in an area where water is plentiful, you may not hesitate to water your lawn regularly, even if your area is in a drought. Americans tend to have a fascination with green lawns, and if all of your neighbors have inground sprinkler systems, it’s tempting to install one too, or at least water consistently.

Grass is resilient though, and will go into dormancy if it’s not watered. Even though you may have a brown lawn, and your yard doesn’t look as good as your neighbors’ yards, the grass will come back next year.

Inground sprinkling systems are expensive to install and expensive to repair. A friend of ours recently spent $1200 just to fix his. Added to that is the cost of the water, which is no longer cheap. Even if your community allows you to install a separate meter for the system, just installing the meter and getting a permit for it runs $500 and up. Even if you don’t have a sprinkling system, the cost of regular watering results in a pretty hefty bill.

Last, but not least, is concern for the environment. Water is a valuable resource, and using it just so you can have a great looking lawn may not be in the world’s best interest.

Reduce Television Energy Use

Although televisions do not use an enormous amount of energy, they still add to your electric bill every month. Since many families have multiple TVs, trying to find ways to reduce the amount of power they use will result in significant savings. There are a few simple things you can do to achieve this goal.

  • Plug your television, game boxes, dvd players, etc into a power strip. When you’re not using them, turn off the power strip. Even when they are not turned on, they use power, so a power strip makes it easy to save.
  • Adjust the backlight setting on your LCD television so that it is emitting less light.
  • Adjust the contrast setting to a point where the picture is acceptable.
  • Adjust the brightness setting.
  • Often televisions are set for display mode in a store, so that they look better. Make sure that your TV is set for HOME use.
  • Many new televisions have energy saving or power use settings. Experiment with these to find the settings that save energy and still put out a good picture.
  • If you are the type of person who leaves the TV on, even when you’re out of the room for a long period of time, or you fall asleep while watching it, set the sleep timer to shut it off after a specific period of time.

Buying an Energy Saving Television

So, your old picture tube television has finally stopped working, and you’re in the market for a new one. With all of the choices available now, choosing a television isn’t as easy as it used to be. To add to the confusion, many new sets use a lot more electricity than the old ones. If you’re trying to cut down your energy use, this is something to consider before buying. Here are some things to look for.

Energy Star Certification – this is a good place to start, but since many television meet the criteria for certification, you might want to look at other factors as well.

LCD versus Plasma – LCD televisions use less energy.

Size – Bigger TVs eat up more power. If you need a huge TV, find a rear projection one, since they are more efficient.

Type of backlight – LCD televisions, unlike plasmas, use backlights. There are two kinds of backlights, CCFL and LED. Newer televisions use LED which conserves more energy.

In many households, televisions are on a lot more than they used to be. If your family has multiple TVs, game boxes or DVD player that are used regularly, this adds to energy consumption. Choosing the right TV is one way of reducing your electric bill.

Do You Need an Energy Audit?

So you think you’ve done everything you can to reduce your electrical use, and yet your bill is still higher than you would like. Besides that, when you look at the bill, it shows that you have used more electricity this year than you did a year ago, even though this winter was milder. What do you do now?

Many power companies send out a yearly summary in which they compare your energy use to other people in your neighborhood with homes of similar sizes. If this report indicates that you are using more energy than your neighbors, maybe it’s time for an energy audit.

Most energy companies have an online energy analyzer that you can use to determine if you are doing all you can to save energy. Many also have an educational section which gives tips for saving energy, along with information about rebates for new appliances. A few may even offer a free in home energy audit.

Another good place to look is Energy Star at This website also has a self-directed energy audit you can take, as well as suggestions for reducing your energy use.

How to Choose a Lightbulb

As if there weren’t already enough choices to make when faced with all the brands and types of groceries and household products, now even buying a lightbulb is confusing. Your hardest decision used to be just whether to buy a 60, 75 or 100 watt incandescent bulb. It started to get a little more difficult when compact fluorescent or CFL bulbs were added to the mix. Now there is the LED or light emitting diode bulb.

Soon, however, the decision will get a little easier because you’ll no longer be able to buy the traditional incandescent bulb. They will no longer be manufactured for use in the United States.

Although the fluorescent bulbs are more expensive, they last longer. When they were first introduced, there were some quality problems, but those have since disappeared for the most part. The big drawback is that they contain mercury, and shouldn’t be tossed into the wastebasket with the rest of your garbage.

The LED bulb is a relative newcomer to the market and will probably be the wave of the future. It lasts 10 or more years and doesn’t contain mercury. However, at the present time, it is very expensive, and may be out of reach of the typical homeowner. Just as the fluorescent bulb came down in price, the LED will probably do the same as more companies begin to manufacture them.

Meanwhile, your best bet and least expensive choice is the compact fluorescent. Just make sure to dispose of them responsibly. Home Depot is one store that will accept your used bulbs. For other sites, check with your local county or city office.

Help for Those Facing Eviction

Are you worried about being evicted from your home or having your gas and electricity turned off? There is probably a community action agency in your town or county that can help you. The Community Services Block Grant program, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issues funds to the individual states which, in turn, pass them on to the agencies in order to assist residents in danger of losing their home or utilities. Those seeking help must have been issued an eviction or utility shut-off notice.

The purpose of the Community Services Block Grant program is to keep people in their homes, whether they are owners or renters, and to assist them with utility payments if necessary. The first step is to apply for help through your state’s Department of Human Resources. Even if you are turned down by your state’s human resource department, it may be possible to receive funds from the community program.

Reduce Your Garbage Disposal Use

If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, you probably don’t give much thought to it unless it stops working. It’s certainly convenient to use and saves having to fill up your wastebasket with food remains. However, in order for it to function correctly, it requires a significant amount of water, both while it’s actually chopping up the food, and for a period of time after it’s finished. All that water costs money and wastes valuable resources.

A better solution would be to collect the food scraps in a separate container which can be emptied outdoors into a compost pile. Starting a compost pile will provide you with your own supply of garden fertilizer throughout the spring and summer.

There are a variety of containers for sale which can be used for this purpose. A tight-fitting lid is a necessity to keep out bugs and odors. A carrying handle might also be convenient. Some even have charcoal filters to eliminate odors. Want to save even more money? Make your own. Here’s a site with easy instructions:

Slow the Water Flow

So you finally broke the habit of running the water while you’re brushing your teeth. Hopefully, you’ve been able to train the rest of your family to do the same. Sometimes that’s not easy, particularly if you have young children. A simple way to reduce water use in bathrooms is to partially close the valve on the pipe leading to the sink. You’ll still have plenty of water for washing up or brushing your teeth.

Unplug It!

You may not think that your electrical appliances and gadgets use much energy, but when you add them all up, they can contribute a significant amount to your electric bill each month. Believe it or not, they use energy when they’re plugged in, even if they are not turned on. One way to offset some of the expense is to unplug items when they are not being used.

Cell Phones – It seems like everyone owns one, and busy families might have 3 or more. If you’re constantly leaving them plugged in several hours beyond the time they’re recharged, you’re losing money.

Televisions – They consume enormous amounts of energy, and how many of them do you own?

Computers – Sure, it’s a lot easier to leave it plugged in, particularly if you have to crawl under your desk to unplug it. But, you’re losing money while you’re sleeping. While you’re at it, change your power settings, so that your computer will hibernate after 20 minutes of nonuse.

Printers – Yes, even these are costing you money, and you may only use them once a day.

DVD Players – These are a little trickier since many of them have clocks which you would have to reset.

Game Systems – PlayStation, Wii and Xbox.

Cameras – It’s easy to forget about them when you are recharging the battery.

Rechargeable Battery Chargers – Try to remember to remove them from the outlet when the light goes off.

Book Readers – one of many other personal gadgets that need to be recharged.

These are some of the major culprits, but if you look around your house, you can probably find more. Your computer and printer are probably already on power strips which would be easy to turn off at night. Consider putting your televisions, game systems and dvd players on them too. You might also want to look into a smart power strip. These have the ability to turn off power to one or more outlets if it hasn’t been used for a specific amount of time.

Turn Off the Exhaust Fans

Bathroom fans are great to have when you want to remove steam after taking a shower or bath. They will prevent mold, and save wear on your wallpaper or paint. Kitchen fans also provide a way to expel hot air or odors. However, in addition to costing money to run, they waste energy because they are removing the heated or cooled air that your furnace or air conditioner has provided. The longer the fan runs, the more of the warm or cool air from the house is being lost to the outdoors.

If you are buying a new exhaust fan for the bathroom, try to get one with a sensor, so that it will shut off automatically when the moisture is gone. If your fan doesn’t have a sensor, you might try setting the timer on your microwave for 15 or 20 minutes so that you’ll remember to turn if off. You could also do this with the kitchen fan.

Remember, also, that when your furnace is running, you may not need to run the bathroom exhaust fan as long. The dry air from the furnace will remove much of the moisture.