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Not handy? You can still go green
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I am a “house junky.” I love vintage and older homes. If you’re like me, you may also be a fan of the television program “This Old House.” If so, I have good news: There is a very interesting “This Old House” website,, with loads of helpful information that homeowners can use in their old — or new — homes.
I recently came across a few helpful, inexpensive and simple suggestions for “greening” up a home. That means a shorter “honey do” list for all those husbands out there who want to be greener but also feel compelled to answer the calls of fishing boats and golf courses. By making these easy and cheap improvements around your house, you can reduce your carbon footprint, create a healthier home and lower your monthly bills. And I am sure you will feel much more environmentally responsible when you do get out on those fishing boats and golf courses. Check out these tips:
• Take yourfridge’stemperature. Stick an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of your refrigerator, or between frozen goods in the freezer, and leave it overnight. Your ’fridge temp should be between 37 and 40 degrees. To keep bacteria at bay, don’t let it climb higher than that. Your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees. If either compartment is too cold, adjust the setting. Keeping them just 10 degrees colder than necessary can boost your energy consumption by up to 25 percent.
• Freeze your assets. Slip a dollar bill between the rubber gasket on your freezer and ’fridge doors and the frames. Close the door and tug on the buck. Notice any resistance? If not, the seal’s not tight enough and cold air is probably leaking out, which makes your appliance work harder to stay cool. Try this on all four sides of the door. If necessary, call the manufacturer’s service department to find out how to replace the gasket.
• Throw a dinner party and use all the stuff in that second ’fridge or freezer in the garage or basement. Then banish the appliance to the recycling center. Getting rid of either one can save you more than $200 a year, especially if it’s an old, inefficient model.
• Invite your strongest buddy over. Ask him to help you move your ’fridge out of direct sunlight or away from the stove and/or oven. The heat from either will force a refrigerator compressor to gobble up more energy than necessary. A fridge uses up to 2.5 percent more power for each degree that the surrounding temperature is above 70 degrees. So, if you move that fridge out of a 90-degree spot, you can actually save as much as $70 a year. If you can’t move it, try to at least block any sunny window with curtains or blinds and put as big a buffer or as much distance as you can between it and your stove.
• Use the dishwasher. Doing a full load in your machine is far more efficient than washing the same number of dishes by hand. This is especially true if you have an Energy Star dishwasher, which requires an average of four gallons of water per load, compared with the 24 gallons it takes to do them in the sink. Using one will save you 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs and 230 hours of your time each year.
• Turn your toilet tank blue, or green or red. Pour food coloring (or you can use a little kit available at any hardware store) into the water in the tank. Wait two hours and check to see if any color has seeped into the bowl. If it has, your tank’s flapper is leaking, either from mineral buildup or worn parts. After you flush the dye away so it doesn’t stain, head to the hardware store for a replacement flapper assembly (then go to for step-by-step instructions on how to install it). Toilet leaks waste up to a gallon of water per minute. That’s more than 43,000 gallons a month.
• Run the shower. Place a one-gallon bucket under the running water to see how long it takes for it to fill up. If it’s less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with one that sprays one and a half gallons per minute. That could save as much as 14,600 gallons of water a year — especially if you limit your showers to 10 minutes or less. It will also save you around $22 on your annual water bill and approximately $150 per year on water heating.
• Go from scalding to just hot. Turn your water heater’s temperature setting down from the standard 140 degrees to 120 degrees. Not only will this save you some bucks, it will also slow down mineral buildup and corrosion, which prolongs the life of your tank. Since a new water heater costs about $900 installed, each additional year of use saves you money as well.
• Endthe watertorture. One drip per second from a leaky faucet or pipe can waste up to five gallons of water a day — and up to 1,800 gallons a year. While you won’t notice much of an increase on your water bill (around $3 annually), if an overlooked leak soaks through your kitchen floor, you could wind up with a $1,000 repair job — money that could have been saved by simply replacing a 50 cent washer.
Sure, there are more expensive and time-consuming ways to save energy and decrease household costs. But why bother with those when there are plenty of ways for those of us who aren’t very “house-handy” to make a difference? Shoot, I can even change a (compact fluorescent) light bulb …
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