Wind or solar? Biofuel or no fuel?
Energy prices are going up, pollution is a growing problem and every politician has the answer.
Whether you've followed the green movement since the late Senator Gaylord Nelson started Earth Day, or you're recent convert, energy is on the minds of everyone these days.
Many people are worrying about the price of fuel, but the energy efficiency remains the quickest, most cost-effective way to use less energy and reduce pollution, reports the Alliance to Save Energy.
Saving energy doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a new electric vehicle, or convert your home's heating system to solar power.
It can be as simple as turning a light switch.
The Alliance to Save Energy suggests ways to be more energy efficient:
- Remember when your mom would ask, "Do you think we own stock in the electric company?" Take her sage advice and turn off lights, computers, TVs, stereos, etc. when you are done using them.
- Green means clean - air filters, that is. Clean or replace HVAC filters monthly, whether you have a central heating and/or cooling system or window air conditioners.
- Don't let "standby power" suck your wallet dry. Instead, look for the Energy Star label on electronics - TVs, DVRs, CD players, DVD players, cordless telephones, and more that continue to use less electricity in the "off" mode to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working.
- Keep your tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage by about 3.3 percent. You could save more than 20 gallons of gasoline per year, which amounts to about $76 per car annually and about $152 per typical two-vehicle U.S. household with gasoline at $3.80 per gallon. Added benefits: Extended tire life and avoidance of more than 390 pounds of CO2 production per vehicle yearly.
- "Show the love" to your car by keeping it in good working order. Fixing a car that is noticeably "out of tune" or has failed an emissions test can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. That amounts to nearly 25 gallons of gasoline per year, or savings of about $95 per vehicle per year or about $190 per household. Added benefit: Savings of nearly 500 pounds of C02 per vehicle, or 1,000 pounds per household.
- Generate light, not heat, with Energy Star qualified lighting such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Energy-efficient lighting products use at least 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent lighting and last up to 10 times longer. So despite their higher up-front cost, they yield lifetime savings of up to $50 per bulb. Added benefit: CFLs generate 70 percent less heat than incandescents, so they don't add to the summer heating load that your AC needs to cool down.
- Don't waste money and pollution by heating or cooling an empty house. When installed and properly programmed to follow your daily and weekly patterns, a programmable thermostat can cut heating and cooling costs by about 10 percent - enough, in most cases, to pay for the device within one season and then yield home energy savings of about $150 a year. As an added benefit, the thermostat remembers when you come home and adjusts the temperature accordingly.
- Energy Star qualified products can cut related electricity costs by up to 30 percent. More than 50 categories of products are now labeled with this government "seal of approval" for energy efficiency. In addition to electronics and lighting, they also include appliances, HVAC systems, windows, and more. Visit www.energystar.gov.
- Don't waste money and energy heating and cooling the great outdoors. Make sure you have the proper amount of insulation, and seal leaks around doors and windows to cut your heating and cooling bills by up to 20 percent.
- Slow down and save. Each 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 mph costs you about 20 cents more per gallon of gasoline. And aggressive driving habits - speeding, rapid acceleration and braking - can lower gas mileage by a whopping 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent around town. But driving sensibly can save up to 200 gallons of gasoline per year at highway speeds, or about $760 per car and about $1,520 per household with gasoline prices in the $3.80 a gallon range.
- Turn down the air conditioning in your vehicle. Operating it on "max" can reduce miles per gallon by 5 to 25 percent compared to not using it.
- Use overdrive gear when appropriate to reduce engine speed. It will save you gas and reduce engine wear.
- Getting lost while driving can lead to an expensive waste of gas - and time. Invest in a GPS system or try an online map service to get directions before hitting the road.
- Plugging energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking can save up to 20 percent on home cooling and heating bills.
- Shift energy-intensive household chores such as laundry and dishwashing to off-peak hours - nights, mornings, weekends. There's less strain on the power grid during those hours so you'll save money and be green.
- Most ceiling fans today have a switch that changes the direction of its blades. When your fan goes clockwise, it will send the warm air collecting near your ceiling back into your living or working space.
- Your refrigerator is always plugged in and accounts for almost 8 percent of your home's electricity bill. To reduce energy bills and extend its life, keep your refrigerator's coils clean.
- Check with your local government or energy company to see if they offer free home energy audits.
- Use "cheap solar power" - let the sun shine in to warm your home or office in the wintertime. During hot months, keep window coverings closed on the south, east, and west windows.
- Insulate exposed ducts with mastic to improve your heating system's efficiency and your own comfort.