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Baker’s Dozen Energy and Carbon Saving Tricks

By December 22, 2020Energy Rant

Do squeaky wheels get the grease? No. They get replaced (Peter’s principle). Adulators get dessert. That is the case this week as I had considerable positive feedback from last week’s post: 12 schemes for waste and carbon-reduction.

I will move one step upstream of that pie chart that showed shares of carbon emissions by household. That was a page by, featuring 20 ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some of Global Steward’s recommendations.

1. Walk when your destination is within a two-mile radius. This is great, except it comes with a big non-energy penalty: time. This is great for retired people. Have your parents retired yet? If not, prepare for a year or two after they do, and they will sound like they are busier than people working full time with two kids, soccer, ballet, and piano lessons. Believe me when I say that all you will hear about is how busy they are.

2. Minimize the purchase of new resource-intensive stuff with excessive packaging. I’m proud to say that my fridge is full of beer in aluminum cans – the most cost-effective recyclable material there is. It also has a big non-energy benefit: it’s compact and stackable. Try stacking bottles or packing a cooler with them. It doesn’t work well.

3. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. I love this one and it jibes with my recommendation to build or buy small, forcing the simple life. Buy used stuff, but not the used crap that was purchased at Target or Walmart. For example, I bought my TV cabinet at a junk store. I don’t know its original intent, but it was made by hand with solid wood and quality parts. Also, last week as I drove a country road, I came upon a massive 5×5 inch (railroad tie, I think, but chippy and weathered without creosote) hunk of wood lying in the middle of the road. I turned around and scooped that up. It will become a plant stand in my house. This is fun because it’s like making a video. Don’t waste time trying to make it look professional. Rough and rugged is cool.

4. Sealing and insulating ducts apply more to southern and milder climates than here in the upper Midwest, where our ductwork is almost always in conditioned spaces. In warmer climates with cooling dominance, ductwork is often in the attic with a ceiling supply. Heat loss or gain is 100% wasted. If my ducts ran through the attic, they’d be insulated and sealed like crazy. The conditions are extreme up there and, for that matter, should not be allowed by energy codes.

5. Add insulation and weatherstripping – the unsung warriors of energy savings. I hired a guy to spray foam insulation on my rim joists in the basement, both for insulation and sealing, and I nailed rigid insulation to the knee wall spaces upstairs. This may sound simpleton but insulate where you have the least to provide your dollar’s greatest mileage.

6. Take the zero-volt challenge. As you might guess, this one involves vampire loads, which are comprised of things like device chargers that are not actively charging. I researched this eight years ago, Bait and Switch, and found that the vampire loads are more like mosquito bites. However, I suggest you buy a “watt meter” from your favorite retailer for less than $20 and assign your kids to do an energy audit of everything that plugs into the wall outlet. Do it.

7. Switch to a renewable option through your utility. I looked into this for my home. The cost is an extra $4-7 per month. Renewable energy is cheaper? How is this circle squared?

That’s all the good stuff from that article. Let’s move on to this retail energy provider, Bait and Switch, from Texas.

8. Coast your cooking by turning off the heat a few minutes before the food is cooked. I do this, but it probably saves 12 cents per year. It’s a sound safety practice and a way to avoid burning the food; however, it’s a non-energy benefit.

9. Only preheat the oven when necessary (which is always). I do not recommend this for baking at all.

Finally, here are some of my favorites:

10. Don’t put hot food in the refrigerator, especially during the heating season. This adds a heat and defrost load to the refrigerator.

11. Chest freezers or anything without auto-defrost need to be defrosted regularly. Ice and frost are fine insulators, which makes the refrigeration compressor work harder. For a chest freezer, I put the food in coolers, turn the freezer off, put a fan in there, and the ice will fall off in a jiffy.

12. Big one: only use dehumidifiers when necessary. They shouldn’t be necessary for winter in cold or dry climates. If they are necessary, why? Where is the water or moisture coming from? Stop the source. In the summer, rather than using a dehumidifier in the basement, draw cooling air from the basement through the air handler serving your house. This does two things: it takes advantage of cool basement air for cooling and dries it out for zero added energy compared to running a dehumidifier.

13. Minimize braking, which destroys energy, even if you have regenerative braking (which destroys less). Pay attention to traffic patterns and traffic light timing. Anticipate curves and corners. Use gravity (hills) to your advantage. Coast! I did get pulled over for coasting a big hill too fast one time – no citation, however.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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