Three Solutions to “Live Well For Less” in the Conserver Economy

Sometimes it helps to put a face on economic statistics, so let’s look at a typical American family, calling them Bob and Mary Conserver. Bob and Mary Conserver earn $63,000 a year, the typical family income. Like millions of Americans, Bob and Mary Conserver have seen their earning power erode and are struggling to find their way to higher financial ground.

Bob and Mary both work but still have trouble making ends meet. They’ve already slashed their latte budget and eating out means ordering in Domino’s at most. They have debt up to their ears and refinancing their way out is no longer an option. They are ready for a change but not sure what’s next. They are ready to take on the challenge of building more sustainable lives.

Millions of people like the Conservers don’t have to be at the mercy of the economic tide. They can take charge of their lives to improve their financial well being and quality of life as well by joining the Conserver Economy. The Conserver Economy is green in many respects, emphasizing the careful use of resources, even if the motivation is more about saving money than saving polar bears.

Change can be hard. Once people take a few steps forward to save money, they’ll often lapse back into old habits. Here are three strategies to get your started in the Conserver Economy, and a way to help you maintain the path:

1. Sharing
Raised in the consumer economy, we often feel like we need to have every new gizmo or fashion, wasting $1000s every year buying things that soon sit in boxes and closets after the shopping buzz has worn off. An alternative to buying is sharing. Sharing can be as simple as knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking to use a tool or sharing a ride to the store. More sites like Zipcar and PickupPal are popping up in populated areas helping people connect and have access to cars without the cost of having a car sit in the driveway.

2. Renting
Like swapping, renting is another strategy to get what we want and need without having the goods and debts pile up. You can rent (or lease) everything from books, to solar panels (SolarCity) and purses (BagBorroworSteal), instead of spending the money to purchase items.

3. Rethinking
How big of a car do we need? How big of a house do we want? What does it mean to live well? Out of necessity, people like the Conservers are reconsidering what it means to live well. There is a move away from McMansions, as people rethink their homes as part of their changing life priorities. The Not So Big House is part of their Not So Big Life, as described by author and architect Sarah Susanka. There is a move toward reconnecting with communities rather than withdrawing.

We are also finding creative ways to live well for less. Our homes waste $ billions on energy every year, money that can be easily saved with simple energy efficiency training. With the typical home like the Conservers’ spending about $1500 – $2000 a year on energy, the potential for saving can be significant, even with relatively simple steps that are often missed.

If these trends make sense to you, addressing your everyday priorities like paying the bills without being consumed by them, maybe you are a Conserver too. Building a better tomorrow is a challenge, but isn’t it one worth taking? These Steps are just the beginning though. We have to come together and help each other, build support for each other to maintain the Conserver Economy. Starting with easy steps like these and those found in The Home Sustainable Challenge, you can take actions in your own home that lead to sounder finances, a healthy environment, and stronger communities. See you there. I Challenge You!

As the creator of the “Home Sustainable Challenge”, Croston is providing the training to a more financially secure, and fuller life in the Conserver Economy. To get the first Step in the Challenge for Free, visit HomeSustainable.com [http://www.homesustainable.com]

Glenn Croston is also the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green” and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping entrepreneurs from all backgrounds start and grow green businesses.

10 Ways to Promote Water Conservation Around Your Home

When it comes to water conservation and energy conservation, both categories go hand in hand with each other. By conserving water, we are in fact conserving energy as well. It takes a lot of energy at the water treatment plants to take the water from the sewer and convert it into drinking water. So by practicing a couple of water conservation techniques in your home, you are effectively conserving energy usage as well. In this article, we will discuss ten techniques you can use around your home to help conserve water.

1. Put a brick or plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank. By putting a plastic bottle in your toilet tank, you cut down on the amount of water that goes down the toilet every time you flush. Older toilets can hold up to 5 gallons of water. That’s 5 gallons every time you flush. It is not really necessary to have that much water to flush the toilet. Just make sure you have at least 3 gallons of flush water to ensure the toilet flushes properly.

2. Insulate your water pipes under the sink. It is fairly easy to insulate your water pipes under the sink by wrapping some fiber glass insulation around the white pipes. Be sure to wear gloves and a mask over your nose and mouth when doing this because the fiber glass can get in your skin and lungs, and that can be very bad.

3. Check for water leaks by using the water meter on the side of your home. You can find out if you have any water leaks in your home by making a note of the meter reading when you know no one is using the water in the house for the next two or three hours. Come back and check it after a couple of hours and if the meter has changed then you know there is a leak somewhere.

4. Do not leave the water running while brushing your teeth. The dentist tells us to brush our teeth for 2 minutes. Normally it does not take 2 minutes to get warm water flowing in the sink. Get the water warm and then turn it off when brushing your teeth. Trust me; it will still be warm in 2 minutes.

5. Fill the sink with water when shaving. Instead of rinsing your razor off with running water, fill the sink with some water and shake your razor in the sink to rinse it off. This works just as well as running the razor under running water, and will save you a couple of gallons every day.

6. Use your dish washer when ever possible. It seems kind of hard to believe, but you can save water by running your dish washer instead of washing the dishes by hand. This is also true with your washing machine. I’m not suggesting you wash your clothes by hand, but washing your clothes when you can run a full load only will help conserve water usage.

7. Rinse vegetables in a pan of clean water. Rather than rinsing off your vegetables before your prepare food under running water, fill either a pan or your sink with water and dip your vegetables in the bowl of clean water.

8. Put in water saving shower heads and take shorter showers. Nobody wants to here it, but obviously taking shorter showers will help conserve lots of water. Also, many new shower heads help limit the amount of water needed to effectively rinse off your body in the shower.

9. Check your toilet for leaks. It is very easy to test your toilet for a leak. Simply put some food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 30 minutes. If you see the water in the toilet bowl changing color, you might have a leak in your toilet.

10. Make sure your kitchen faucets and bathroom faucets have aerators. Aerators do pretty much what it sounds like. It adds air to the flow of water coming from the faucet to help reduce Gallons per minute going through the faucet while retaining the rinsing power of the faucet.

By following these simple techniques, you can rest easy knowing your doing your part to help conserve water.

Conserve Energy for a Better Quality of Life

When you conserve energy in your home, you can maintain or
actually improve the quality of your life. To conserve
energy doesn’t always mean to ‘cut-back.’ Conservation can
simply be a result of increased awareness. A small example
would be to turn off the lights when you leave a room.

By noticing how you use power, you can also find where
you’re wasting power, and change that by taking some
painless and positive steps.

A seemingly endless supply of electricity streams into our
homes without any effort on our part. The only time most
people think about it is when there’s a black-out or power
outage due to weather, and when it’s time to pay the
monthly bill.

The first benefit of conservation is that your electric
bill is less – giving you more money to spend on other
things.

I don’t have an electric bill. My home is off-grid. That
is, all the energy used in my house is created with my own
systems: solar panels, a small hydro-electric generator,
and a wind generator. Because my system creates all the
energy we use, my family has a heightened awareness of the
ways to avoid wasting electricity, and we still have a very
high living standard.

Forget the image of a rustic cabin with two light bulbs
and a wood stove. The truth is that our house is just very
energy efficient by design, with state of the art
appliances: dishwasher, washer and dryer, three computers,
a sound system, TV and DVD, and definitely more than two
light bulbs.

We are able to have all these conveniences on our stand-
alone power system because of our practices of
conservation. We run our entire house on about 3 kilo-
watts a day – less than the daily usage of most
refrigerators.

The reason this is possible begins with our heating and
cooling system. This is the biggest energy user in most
houses. If you’re starting from scratch and building a new
house, simply design an energy efficient building from the
beginning – properly situated houses can use passive solar
for heating, and ventilation with overhangs for cooling.

Existing buildings can be remodeled, or fitted for gas.
To use electricity for heating is utterly wasteful. Heat
is a by-product of electricity. Gas is an alternative that
is much better.

The second reason we can run a modern house using so
little energy has to do with appliances. As the ones you
currently have come due for replacement, make their
efficiency your top concern in choosing new appliances.

Our refrigerator, for example, is so well designed for
energy efficiency that in a 24 hour period it draws less
power than a 100 watt incandescent light bulb would in 5
hours. The fridge was more expensive initially, but over
time the reduced electric bill (or in our case the fewer
solar panels necessary) makes it worth it.

Take heart. You can be conservative about power without
remodeling or buying expensive new appliances. A very easy
and cost-effective place to begin is by using compact
fluorescent light bulbs. They give excellent light for 23
watts, compared to a regular 100 watt bulb.

The compact bulbs come in every style and size so you can
use them for everything from lamps to overhead fixtures.
They last much longer than incandescent bulbs, and the best
part is that they are affordable now. When they first came
on the market they could cost as much as $19 apiece. Now
you can get them for $2 or $3 if you watch for sales.

When you conserve, you save money, and have more
disposable income. That adds to the quality of your life.
But what’s even better is that a consciousness about how
your electricity is being used is actually a source of
satisfaction.

It takes Earth resources to create most of our
electricity: rivers are dammed, coal is mined, etc. If
everyone does a little bit to conserve, that much less
drain on Earth occurs.

Water Conservation Tips

With the help of some tips from ENERGY STAR, we can more efficiently make use of the rooms in our home. No one enjoys wasting resources, but finding ways to save these resources isn’t always as easy as we’d like. So, here are some great ways to reduce unnecessary water usage and to increase your Connecticut home energy savings.

The Notorious Bathroom

Most people use the bathroom to take a load off – you can be as creative as you’d like with that phrase. The point is that the bathroom can provide some pretty great ways for relaxation– from taking baths and long warm showers, to reading and other pampering ideas.

Guess what that relaxing does? It causes an influx of energy depleting stress. Did you know that the water used in the bathroom amounts to half the water used throughout the whole house!?

You can increase your CT home energy savings by following some guidelines:

Try to only run water when necessary whether washing your hands, brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
If possible, spend a little less time in the shower and don’t fill the tub unto overflowing!
Avoid flushing your toilet an excessive number of times.

The Kitchen & Laundry Room

We worry about wasting food when we’re in the kitchen, but we may not always consider the effects of our water usage. Think about all the ways we all overuse water in the kitchen.

We:

Measure water and dump out the excess instead of using precision.
Grab a glass, fill it with water, take a sip and dump out the rest. Drink what you need!
Let the water run until it finally gets cool instead of keeping a jug of cool water in the refrigerator.
Allow the water to run while washing dishes or vegetables instead of filling the sink, scrubbing the plates and putting in dishwasher, or scrubbing the veggies.
Run water to defrost food instead of using a defroster or putting it in the refrigerator over night.
Fill a huge bucket with water and cleaner only to remember you have an appointment so you toss out the water.
Use the dishwasher before it’s full.

These things are easy to do and we’re all guilty– but the water conservation can be just as easy!
When it comes to the laundry room, we have to utilize one major principle: do not use unless full! You can use cool water when washing your clothes, and adhere to any instructions regarding load size.

Even More Savings

These tips can surely help conserve water usage and decrease your energy bill. Did you know you can magnify all these savings by having someone conduct a home energy audit of your house?! It’s true.

When an energy expert performs a home energy audit, he/she is actually identifying the areas in your home that are not performing to their highest energy efficiency capability. Not only can this expert point out areas for improvement, but he/she may also be able to perform the necessary repairs.

Home Energy Conservation – Real Savings With Power Factor Correction

If you are like most interested in home energy conservation, the bottom line is: how much can I reduce the cost of the utilities I purchase for my home? How much will it cost me? And, what’s my return on the investment?

In the past decade a whole new industry has evolved, home energy auditing. Auditors will often analyze your home for energy efficiency on the speculation of selling you products to save you money on utilities. Much of what you will hear from an auditor about boosting the energy efficiency of your home you could pick up from a visit to a Lowes or Home Depot. Adding items such as programmable thermostats, hot water heater timers, adding attic insulation and so on are pretty much common sense.

Since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, which overnight tripled the price of oil, homeowners have been on a never-ending search for products and new or improved technologies to save money on heating oil and natural gas.

But what about home electric consumption? You could replace all your home appliances with Energy Star rated equipment. However the 5% savings you would gain would hardly justify the expenditure.

The solution to reducing your home’s electric consumption comes from the 1920’s: Power Factor Correction.

Adding a power factor corrector to your home’s electric panel will improve the quality of the electricity delivered to you from the utility company. Yes, electricity has a quality component to it. You will never be encouraged to add a Power Factor Corrector to your home from your utility. Why? Electric companies (and their shareholders) wish to sell you more electricity, not less.

Average electric savings with a Power Factor Corrector installed in a home is between 12-15%. At approximately $250 the corrector pays the consumer back in about six months, then continues to provide a return each month.

Correcting Power Factor has been practiced in industry since the 1920’s making it one of the oldest conservation measures one can take to lower electric consumption. Return on investment is quick, and consumers with a $200 per month electric bill will save approximately $400.00 per year, every year.

Top Six Reasons Why Home Automation Is For You

Smart homes are increasingly common in Australia. As we bring more lifestyle enhancing technology into our everyday lives and high speed internet becomes available to almost every household, the possibilities for more control and convenience have multiplied when it comes to home automation. Here are the top six reasons why home automation is for you.

1. Total Control of Your Environment: A smart house allows you to take total control of your environment. Security is just one area among many. Home automation systems allow you to personalise different rooms and spaces for light, temperature, music and mood. You can schedule changes by pre-programming and leave the details to your system.

2. Remote Control: Control any aspect of your home that is connected to your automation system from a remote location. For example, if you’re on holiday or at work, you can control your security and alarm system, monitor your house, adjust your multimedia system to tape new shows when programs change, or turn on the lights before you get home. Once you get home, you can access and watch the video in any room in your house.

3. Energy Conservation: Home automation allows home owners and property management managers to closely monitor energy and water usage. With energy management software, any device that is connected to the network can be monitored and detailed reports generated according to time, hour, day or month. You can also request reports for each device and room or area so energy consumption levels are easy to identify, and informed choices can be made about conserving energy. Moisture sensors can be incorporated into you system so when you go on holiday, your lawn is only watered when it’s needed. Lights can be set to automatically switch off at a time, or if there is no one detected in the space, saving energy expenditure.

4. Great Security Options: There’s no better way to have a comprehensive and user friendly security system than home automation. Smart home systems commonly feature voice or video intercom for front doors and gates, movement censors, activated lighting, and security cameras for different rooms. In apartment buildings it’s also common to have door release and elevator control options. Sensors can range from movement sensors, to temperature sensors, photoelectric beams, and even reed switches, which send you a reminder when outside gate or garage door is left open for more than say, 10 or 20 minutes.

5. Integration and Convenience: Any home or building works best as a whole instead of a collection of separate component parts, and home automation allows users to make use of the latest technology in security, lighting, temperature control, and energy conservation on a single platform. It creates a central point of control with user-friendly software. After setting your preferences, you can leave it all to the system. Remote control of devices adds to convenience – you can change settings while you’re in the next room, in another city, or on another continent.

6. Information Gathering: Home automation systems are also potentially informational gathering devices. They are particularly useful for large apartments or houses where residents or building managers have a strong need to conduct monitoring and collect information for security, energy, and the manage of public spaces in a shared building. Even smaller residences can benefit enormously from having information on their energy and water use.

Home Heating Systems: Benefits of Geothermal Heating

Geothermal Energy

The power or energy generated from the heat source within the Earth is referred to as geothermal energy. It is considered one of the most environment-friendly options of energy as compared to fossil fuels. Also, in the long run it is quite a cost-effective solution. With depleting fuel sources and greater emphasis on energy conservation and environment protection, more people are turning towards geothermal pumps for their home heating systems.

Energy Conservation

Home heating systems that utilize geothermal energy save 25%-50% electricity as compared to home that uses other alternate HVAC systems. Geothermal heating systems (GHS) use one unit of electrical energy to extract up to three units of heat source from the earth. These systems also enable humidity control and are very useful in humid areas.

Environment Friendly

GHS not only ensure conservation of energy but also reduction in emissions as compared to air-source heating systems and electric resistant systems. Also, as already mentioned, in the current scenario of fast disappearing fuel resources, geothermal energy is one of the best environment-friendly energy sources available to man.

Flexibility, Durability, and Reliability

GHS allow design flexibility and can be considered as a HVAC system whether you are looking at a new system or considering modification of the existing system. Also the equipments required for implementing geothermal systems are lesser compared to conventional heating systems, resulting in more space to live. Almost all the equipment for this system are sheltered within the building making it a more reliable and durable heating system. Most of these heating pumps come with a warranty of 25-50 years and the equipment has a life of more than 20 years. Further all components are easily accessible making it convenient for regular maintenance and tuning, further ensuring its long life.

Reduces Noise Pollution

Unlike conventional home heating systems, geothermal systems do not have any condensing units located within or outside the home. This ensures that the noise pollution generated by conventional systems is absent.

Creative Ideas To Consider While Comparing Custom Home Designs

The advancement in information technology has enabled modern people to design their own homes. An individual has option to browse through a large collection of online home designs, along with using home designing software applications to create custom home designs. But a homeowner must remember that the home designing trends and techniques change at frequent intervals. So he must consider several options to design custom homes according to the most recent trends in residential home design.

Ideas to Optimize Your Custom Home Designs

Avoid Cutting Trees

While constructing or renovating a house, people often forget to save trees. You must remember that you can avail several benefits by saving the trees. The tree will keep your home and shaded, while enhancing its aesthetic appeal. Thus, you can save energy bills over a longer period of time. While placing the decks of your house, you must remember the existing trees. The design will make your home more energy-efficient, while reducing the number of trees to be cut down.

Explore Options to Generate Green Energy

You can even consider generating green energy to curtail your monthly electricity bills. However, the choice of energy source will vary based on the location of the property. If your home receives adequate sunlight you can consider installing solar panels. The photovoltaic panels will generate electricity by converting sunlight.

Similarly, you can consider installing a residential wind turbine if you live in an area with high average wind speed. The wind turbine will generate electricity by harnessing the kinetic power of the wind. The electricity generated through the solar panels or wind turbine can be further stored for future by using batteries or a grid.

Consider Roof Improvements

A number of reports have highlighted that the attic temperature can be reduced by using the right roof color and material. You can always opt for the light colored tile roofs to decrease the temperature. It is also a good idea to reroof the property with white tiles. The color and nature of the tile will reduce the amount of heat gained by your attic.

Conserve Home Energy

You can even conserve home energy by concentrating on the doors and windows. The doors and windows must be inspected thoroughly to detect air leaks. The air leaks must be fixed immediately, along with applying weather stripping. Similarly, you also need to seal the less obvious spots that can result in energy loss. For instance, the areas around electrical outlets and light switches must be sealed to prevent energy loss.

Save Water

You also need to opt for custom home designs that allow you to save water. It is also important to furnish your bathroom and kitchen with accessories effective in saving water. At the same time, you can further make each member of your family aware of simple ways to avoid water wastage. For instance, the kids must make it a habit to turn off the water while taking shower or brushing their teeth.

Home Energy Conservation Strategies

An energy efficient house can reduce energy consumption up to 40 percent. This can translate to hundreds of dollars annually. That’s why homeowners are developing home energy conservation strategies to reduce their energy bills and be environmentally friendly at the same time. By identifying and prioritizing the areas where energy is not being used efficiently, you will be able to correct the problem and make a huge improvement on your finances.

Quick Facts about Energy Conservation in the Home

The average American home uses 38% of its energy consumption on heating and cooling. That’s why it’s important for you to have an efficient heating system and cooling system. For maximum energy saving, a house that is occupied should have the thermostat set at 68 F during winter. If the house will be unoccupied for at least 24 hours, set the thermostat at 50 to 55 F.

Install a central air conditioning system only if necessary. Otherwise, install an air conditioner only in selected rooms.

Strategies to Conserve Energy in Your Home

1. Heating and Cooling. Set the thermostat at a comfortable setting appropriate for the season. During summer, turn off the A/C unit in a room that will not be occupied for a long time. Consider using ceiling fans instead of an air conditioner. If you have a fireplace, close the damper if the fireplace is not used.

2. Lighting. Instead of incandescent light bulbs, use energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. Switch off unused lights.

3. Appliances. If you are planning to purchase new appliances, choose a model that is ENERGY STAR qualified. An Energy Star qualified appliance saves more energy than a standard model.

4. Refrigerators and Freezers. Defrost freezers and refrigerators regularly to prevent frost build-up that can increase the load on the compressor. Refrigerator and freezer doors should seal tightly. Avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door unnecessarily because this can contribute to frost build-up.

5. Laundry. Run your washing machine only on a full load. This will help conserve water and energy. Keep in mind that electric dryers consume a lot of energy. If possible, use the conventional way of drying your laundry.

6. Kitchen. The kitchen is one of the areas in the home that uses a lot of energy. Just think about how much energy you use to cook food. To conserve energy, use small burners for small pots and pans. When the food you are cooking starts to boil, turn the heat down to low. Boil water in a covered pot or pan.

A home energy conservation plan is an important tool to help you save money on energy costs. Be sure to focus on areas that use higher amounts of energy because that is where you have more potential for bigger savings.

Reduce Home Energy Bills – How to Create a Personalized Home Energy Conservation System

Notice I didn’t say “how to install” an energy conservation system. To create an energy conservation system that’s going to reduce your home’s energy consumption requires a combination of conservation and efficiency, or choices and technology.

Here’s how you create a home energy conservation plan that will help you reduce your home’s electric bill.

Think about like this:

· Conservation results from conscious choices over time.

· Efficiency utilizes technology.

Start With Conservation

Conservation is not deprivation or lack.

Simply put, conservation is being aware of how much energy your home uses and making behavioral changes in your energy habits. Conservation takes into account the final end sum of the energy it takes to maintain your home’s minimal comfort level.

The minimum comfort level of your home cannot be measured against another home. Factors vary with each home’s location, family size, and family lifestyle.

If you live in Maine, your greatest energy expense may be heating your home; if you live in south Texas, your greatest expense may be cooling your home. A family of two (2) whose members work away from home five (5) days per week need less energy than a family of four (4) who work from home.

Think about. Look at the ways your home uses energy. Heating, cooling, heating water, cooking and storing food, lights, laundry, and electronic equipment.

Here are five (5) actions to begin reducing your overall energy use?

· adjust your heating system thermostat down in winter,

· turn your cooling system thermostat up in summer

· take short showers instead of long baths

· wash laundry in cold water

· turn lights of when leaving a room

Now Add Efficiency

Efficiency is the use of technology to maximize our conscious conservation choices.

Here’s how to apply technology to the conservation choices listed above.

· Install a digital, programmable thermostat compatible with your heating and cooling system. Program the thermostat for the temperature settings that work for you during the day, at night, and while family members are away from home.

· Reduce your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees (rather than the manufacturer’s setting of 140 degrees)

· Install a timer on your electric water heater. Set it to automatically come on during the hours your family actually uses hot water for showers and laundry. Set it to automatically turn off when no one is home to use it.

· Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) when you replace your standard incandescent bulbs.

Making conscious decisions to reduce your home’s energy consumption coupled with the technology compatible with your choices, creates a personalized energy-reducing plan for your home. In a sense, you put your energy conservation on automatic pilot.