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Archive for September, 2012

ImageThough winter might seem far off in the distance, pretty soon the first snows and icy mornings will be coming to Toronto soon. While a good energy efficient furnace is an effective way to stay warm this coming season, there are also a variety of tips and tricks you can use to keep energy costs relatively low. Here are a few things to keep in mind this winter.

Heavy curtains
Believe it or not, something as simple as installing a heavy pair of curtains or window dressings around your home can greatly reduce the amount of cold air that makes it inside. This is particularly effective if you have older windows that may be leaking some heat during the winter months.

Home appliances
While you don’t want to overdo it, running your home’s appliances when it’s particularly cold can provide a much-needed blast of warmth. Consider throwing a load of laundry into the drier, running the dishwasher, using the stove, Vacuuming the house or even switching on a desktop computer to help stay warm without running for the thermostat. (I have tried this personally and it works!!)

Fireplace
Of course, lighting a fire in your home’s fireplace is a great way to stay warm, but you can also help keep things toasty by keeping tabs on the chimney’s flue during the winter. After curling up beside the fire before bed, it’s easy to forget to close the flue, which can allow cold winter air directly into your home.

Remember to follow these tricks and save on your energy bill. Thanks to Bournes Energy

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Furnace Maintenance

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Furnace maintenance is extremely important to the life of your furnace; proper cleaning and repair will ensure that your furnace works its best and lasts as long as you own your home. Here are some tips to help you keep your furnace in good running order so that you don’t have to replace before its time.

Furnace Care and Maintenance

Start by considering your furnace filters – do they need changing or replacing? Furnace filters catch all the dust, debris and hair that run through your ducts and help to purify the heat that comes out of your vents. When the filter gets clogged, your furnace stops running as well and exerts more energy than necessary. In extreme cases, the blower may be affected, triggering the need for costly repairs. Replace your disposable filters as the first part of heating maintenance.

Schedule a tune-up yearly by a licensed HVAC repair specialist to keep your furnace in good running order. It’s a good idea to schedule this in early fall, before you have to turn on your furnace, to give you time to schedule any furnace repairs that need to be done. A technician will check your flues, ducts and temperature settings, examine your heat exchanger for cracks or other damage, and double-check all safety mechanisms to ensure proper furnace efficiency. HVAC maintenance should take place regularly if you want to avoid emergency furnace repairs.

Some HVAC technicians will offer furnace maintenance packages. It may be a good idea to look into these if you don’t feel up to maintaining your furnace yourself. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can keep your furnace running efficiently by checking your owner’s manual regularly. Tasks you can do yourself include checking to see if the blower motor needs to be lubricated, replacing frayed belts, checking for visible cracks or blockages, and more.

Proper furnace maintenance allows you to keep your furnace running longer and put off any expensive repairs. Always make sure to check your furnace annually for any of the problems mentioned above and keep your equipment in good running order.

How to Practice Safe Furnace Cleaning

When you are cleaning your furnace, three things should be cleaned:

  • The filter system
  • The blower
  • The motor

Replace your furnace filter at the beginning of the heating season to keep your home cleaner and to keep dirt and debris from flying into your blower and ruining it. Check the filter by holding it up to the light. You’ll be able to see if it’s clogged just by looking at it. If it’s disposable, replace it. If it’s a permanent filter, follow the instructions on the side of your furnace to learn how to clean it.

Clean your blower by removing the panel that covers the filter to gain access to the blower or the panel on the front of the furnace. Slide out the fan unit to gain access to the blower and clean it out. If you are not comfortable doing this, hire a certified HVAC specialist to clean all three parts of your furnace for you. HVAC specialists have a complete range of experience with gas furnace cleaning, oil furnace cleaning, and electric furnace cleaning. It is a good idea to get your furnace serviced by a professional even if you are willing to clean it yourself.

You should also clean your furnace’s duct system. Furnace duct cleaning is a huge industry and it actually does improve the quality of the air in your home as well as the efficiency of your furnace. Benefits of duct cleaning include:

    • It can provide you with better indoor air quality (or IAQ)
    • It reduces the presence of house molds and allergens
    • It eliminates extraneous dust in your home
    • It provides better airflow in your home
    • It helps to reduce energy costs

Furnace cleaning is extremely important to the life of your furnace. Schedule your furnace cleaning before the heating season starts to put your furnace in sound running order.

Furnace Filters

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Since the average person breathes in over 35,000 pints of air a day, all of which is filled with billions of particles of dust, furnace filters clean the air significantly so that the air we breathe is better for us. Furnace filters remove allergens and dust from the air, purifying the air in our homes.

Furnace filters need to be changed several times a year to maintain their benefits. While they don’t necessarily lower your energy bill, the health benefits are numerous, and it has been proven that, over time, a well-maintained furnace with special attention paid to replacing the filter will prolong the life of your furnace and cut down on unnecessary repairs to the blower or mechanisms due to dust damage.

Types of Furnace Filters

Furnace filters come in different sizes, types and shapes to fit your individual furnace. Some types include:

  • HEPA furnace filters. These are filters that block allergens. While they work for people with extreme allergies, they can also block airflow, so ensure that your furnace can handle a HEPA filter before you use one.
  • 3M furnace filters. These disposable filters fit most furnaces and provide medium-level protection against allergens and dust.
  • Electrostatic furnace filters. These filters attract dirt and dust for a cleaner airflow, but don’t block allergens.
  • Washable furnace filters. Extremely durable, washable filters are probably the best option for both airflow and allergens, if the filter carries a high MERV rating.

Whatever filter you choose, make sure you do your research and choose the best one for your furnace. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to find the filter you need to protect yourself, your family and your furnace.

Hope all these tips helps you to keep your furnace in good condition ready for the season. If you have any please share in the comments section below.

morEnergy sells/rents Furnace at affordable rates. We offer free GE SS Appliances when you rent a furnace with us. Rental rate is $59.95 for a brand new 92% Eff. Furnace.

Contact us today at 1-866-225-7204 to book your new furnace. 

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Choosing the Right Light

ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs and Colour

CFLs are available in a wide variety of shades of white light, ranging from yellowish to white to bluish white light, which allows you to customize the mood of your space. Many CFLs come in “warm” colours to match the yellowish light of incandescent bulbs, but you can also choose “cooler” colours with whiter or bluer light.

Choosing the Right Colour:

  • Light colour is measured on a temperature scale referred to as Kelvin (K).
  • Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light appears more yellow; higher Kelvin numbers mean the light is whiter or bluer.
  • Most ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs are made to match the colour of incandescent bulbs at 2700-3000K and work well in most residential settings and enhances warmer colours (red, yellow,  orange) found in your home.
  • For a whiter light, look for bulbs marked 3500-4100K.
  • For bluer white light, look for bulbs marked 5000-6500K.
  • These colours will enhance cooler colours (blue, green, violet) in your home.

CFL Sizes and Shapes

CFLs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The majority of CFLs are designed to look identical to the incandescent light bulb version. The table below identifies the most popular CFL shapes that are available at retail:

Bare Products

Covered Products*

Reflector Products

Mini-Spiral or Twist

Tube or Universal

Incandescent/ A-line

Globe G25, G30, G40

Candelabra, Post or Bullet Shape

Indoor and Outdoor
R20, R30, R40, PAR38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Use CFLs Around Your Home

The following chart provides guidance on how to choose the best CFL for a specific fixture. You can either look for the fixture you want to use a CFL in, or pick your favourite CFL and see where the best fixtures to use it in. In many cases, a certain CFL type can be used in multiple fixtures. For example, today’s bare spiral CFL is small enough to use in table lamps, wall sconces, ceiling-mounted fixtures, ceiling fans, etc.

*Covered bulbs have a traditional lamp shape with either a spiral or tube lamp inside

For more information see Natural Resources Canada

Shapes and Sizes

The ENERGY STAR CFL search can help you find a specific bulb to meet your needs or see if a particular model is qualified.

Remember:

  • Only bulbs marked “dimmable” will work on dimmer switches.
  • Only bulbs marked “three-way” will work on three-way sockets.
  • Most photocells, motion sensors, and electronic timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Check with the photocell or timer manufacturer and the CFL packaging for compatibility.

Shapes and Sizes

Spirals

If these spiral-shaped bulbs look familiar it’s because they’re the most popular type of CFL. Spiral CFLs create the same amount of light as traditional incandescent bulbs, but use less energy. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75% less electricity and lasts up to 10 times longer.

A-Shaped

A-shaped bulbs combine the efficiency of the spiral bulbs, with the look and feel of the traditional incandescent bulbs. These products are great for consumers who don’t like the look of the spiral bulbs but still want efficient lighting.

Globe

Globe-shaped bulbs are ideal for bathroom vanity bars and ceiling pendants. Like other covered CFLs, globes need a little time to “warm up” and reach full brightness. But be patient — ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs use up to 75% less electricity and lasts up to 10 times longer. They generate just as much light as traditional bulbs, while using less energy.

Tubed

Some of the first ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs were tube shaped. Basically straight versions of the spiral bulbs, tubed bulbs work well in lamps that have slender covers such as wall sconces.

Candle

These products are ideal for use in decorative fixtures where you can see the light bulb. The sleek shape also allows you to use them in tight fitting light fixtures where a covered globe won’t fit.

Posts

Covered post bulbs are great for outdoor fixtures; manufacturers design these bulbs to hold up to outdoor conditions. There are also yellow “bug light” covered posts, designed to keep away insects. Check compatibility with timers and photocells.

Indoor Reflectors

Reflector bulbs are perfect for providing directional light – think of recessed ceiling lights in kitchens or ceiling fans. Indoor reflector bulbs are much smaller then those that are designed for outdoor use. Some are small enough to fit in ceiling fan lights, and some can be used with a dimmer – the packaging will tell you.

Outdoor Reflectors

For use outside, reflector bulbs are sealed to withstand the rain and snow. Because of this, they’re usually much larger then the reflectors designed for use inside. Don’t use the outdoor reflectors with timers, photocells, and motion sensors because you could shorten the life of the bulbs.

How do CFLs Work?


CFLs produce light differently than incandescent bulbs. In an incandescent, electric current runs through a wirefilament and heats the filament until it starts to glow. In a CFL, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapor. This generates invisible ultraviolet light that excites a fluorescent coating (called phosphor) on the inside of the tube, which then emits visible light.

CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. A CFL’s ballast helps “kick start” the CFL and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing.

Older CFLs used large and heavy magnetic ballasts that caused a buzzing noise in some bulbs. Most CFLs today — and all ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs — use electronic ballasts, which do not buzz or hum.

Do the Twist.
Screw in your CFL by holding the ballast (the white plastic part), NOT the glass tubing.

Don’t Flip too Fast.
You’ll maximize the lifetime savings and effectiveness of your CFLs by keeping them on for 15 minutes or more at a time.

Choose 3 for 3.
Only use bulbs labeled as three-way on three-way sockets.

Don’t Dim a Non-Dimmable.
Only use bulbs labeled as dimmable on dimmer switches.

Check your Controls.
Most photocells and electric timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Always check with the manufacturer of the control for compatibility and the lamp packaging to make sure the lamp is suited for this application.

Give them Air.
CFLs are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so place your CFLs in open fixtures indoors. Using them in enclosed fixtures indoors can create a hot environment that reduces the lifetime of your bulbs. Note that covered reflectors are best used in recessed cans.

Protect them Outside.
Protect bulbs from the elements by placing them inside enclosed fixtures outdoors. For colder climates, look at the packaging for optimal operating temperatures.
Always follow manufactueres directions.

Amalgam

A mixture that puts mercury in a solid form.

Argon

An inert gas used in CFLs to regulate the environment inside the glass tubing so that the mercury vapor can absorb the electrical currents.

Base

End of the light bulb that inserts into the lamp socket.

Ballast

A collection of electronic parts that regulates the electric current through a fluorescent lamp.

Ballast housing

The casing that covers the ballast, usually made from plastic fire-retardant material.

Candelabra Base

A small screw base typically used in small or decorative fixtures such as nightlights and chandeliers.

Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT)

A description of the “colour” of a light source measured by the Kelvin (K) temperature scale.

Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

Ability of the CFL to show colours compared to an incandescent. The ENERGY STAR criteria require a CRI of at least 80 for qualified CFLs. Incandescent light bulbs have a CRI of 100; commercial linear fluorescent tubes typically have a CRI around 75.

Cover

A plastic or glass material placed over top of a bare CFL to mimic the style and shape of incandescent light bulbs. Covered CFLs may take longer to reach full brightness.

Efficacy

A description of the efficiency of a light source, as measured in light produced (lumens) per unit of power consumed (watts). ENERGY STAR efficacy requirements vary with the style of CFL (bare spiral, covered reflector, etc.) and wattage, but are generally 3-4 times higher than comparable incandescent light bulbs.

End-of-Life Protection

Circuitry used in the ballast of a CFL that stops the flow of electricity when a CFL fails, eliminating any potential safety hazard.

Filament

The wire inside an incandescent light bulb that produces light.

Fixture

A complete lighting unit consisting of a lamp or lamps and the parts designed to distribute the light, position and protect the lamp(s), and connect the lamp(s) to the power supply.

Heat/Light Output Ratio

CFLs use power more efficiently than incandescent lamps, and therefore require less energy to create the same amount of light. About 90 percent of the power used by an incandescent bulb is wasted as heat, while only about 10 percent is converted to light in the visible spectrum. By more efficiently using the power they consume, CFLs are able to provide the same amount of light, while producing much less heat. ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs use up to 75% less electricity and lasts up to 10 times longer

Kelvin (K)

In lighting, the Kelvin scale is used to describe the colour of light.

Lamp

In the lighting industry, “lamp” is the term for a light source. Technically, incandescent light bulbs and CFLs are both considered “lamps,” and table and desk lamps are referred to as fixtures.

Lumen

Measure of light.

Mercury

Mercury is an essential element used to create light in a fluorescent bulb. Mercury can come as vapor or in a solid amalgam form. ENERGY STAR criteria limits the amount of mercury that can be used in qualified CFLs. Many manufacturers have reduced mercury content even further — some to as low as 1 mg per bulb. 

For more information see Natural Resources Canada  

Phosphor

A powder-like mixture of elements that convert UV rays into visible light. When the UV rays hit the phosphor, they fluoresce, or glow. The phosphor mix determines the colour of the light.

Photocell

A light-sensing device used to control fixtures and dimmers in response to detected light levels.

Rated life

A light bulb’s estimated lifetime measured in hours. For all light bulbs, lifetime is determined by operating a sample of bulbs according to industry test standards. The time that half of the test sample fails is considered rated life. By definition, some lamps will fail before their rated life and some will operate beyond their rated life. The ENERGY STAR CFL criteria require additional testing to show that the sample can withstand a number of short start cycles and monitors early failures throughout testing.

Special features

Most CFLs are designed to operate on an on/off switch. However, some CFLs have been designed with features to perform in specialized applications, such as on dimmers or three-way fixtures. This should be clearly marked on the box of any CFL designed for that application.

Ultraviolet (UV) light

Light waves on the electromagnetic spectrum that are similar to the light from the sun.

Visible light

The light waves on the electromagnetic spectrum that can be seen with the human eye.

Watts

Measure of power, or energy consumed per unit of time.

 

Decorative Lighting

  • Light emitting diodes (LED) lights use up to 90% less electricity and last 10 times longer than incandescent lights.
  • Use ENERGY STAR qualified seasonal light-emitting diodes (SLEDS) light strings.
  • Solar-powered seasonal (SLEDS) use improved solar technology and require only a little sunlight to recharge, even recharging on cloudy days.

Exterior Lighting

  • The outdoor porch lamp is one of the most used light fixtures in any home, making it the perfect place to install highly efficient ENERGY STAR qualified lighting products. Many compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will fit easily into existing porch lights. Be sure to use bulbs approved for use outdoors.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs are bright and warm but use about 75% less electricity than incandescents and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Whether welcoming visitors, searching for your keys or ensuring safety, motion sensors are an electricity-saving option for lighting your way, because they only operate when they detect movement.
  • Consider photocell timers, which react to sunlight.

General Lighting Tips :

  • Replace your high-use incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use up to 75 % less electricity and last up to 10 times longer.
  • ENERGY STAR quality light fixtures use only 1/4 the electricity of standard fixtures and distribute light more efficiently and evenly.
  • Whenever you leave a room, get into the habit of turning off the lights.
  • Disposal of CFLs: CFLs contain small amounts of mercury. We encourage you to dispose of your used bulbs in an environmentally friendly way. Please contact your local municipality for proper disposal.
  • Motion sensors are ideal for rooms where you may forget to turn off the lights.
  • Use area or task lighting instead of full, overhead lights. For task lighting consider light emitting diodes (LEDs). They provide focused lighting, making them a great choice for tasks such as reading lights, desk lamps, night lights, spotlights, security lights, signage lighting etc. and are energy efficient and long-lasting.

More

  • Maximize the amount of natural daylight.
  • For those lights that are on all night, use the lowest wattage bulbs possible.
  • Make a point of keeping your light fixtures clean for maximum light.
  • Install dimmer switches and use dimmable CFLs. Check the packaging for compatibility.
  • Install programmable timers or motion sensors on interior and exterior lights.
  • Remember the Canadian government has pledged to phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs by 2014.

Thanks to https://saveonenergy.ca for the information. 

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Step 1: Check for Drafts

First, determine if any air is flowing through your closed windows. A great way to do this is to hold a lit candle close to the window seams. If the flame bends, then it could be signs of a draft.

Also check the caulk on the outside window frame. Exterior caulk can dry out in the heat of summer. If you find a whole lot of gaps and cracks, it’s time to re-caulk.

check for drafts

Step 2: Remove Old Caulking if Necessary

Use caulk softener to help you remove the old caulking. It should be applied at least two hours in advance to give it a chance to work. Once the old caulking becomes soft enough, it should come up fairly easily with a putty knife or five-in-one tool. You must remove as much of the old caulk as possible to ensure that the new caulking will adhere properly and give the window a good seal.

Step 3: Apply New Caulking As Needed

Polyurethane caulk works for both small and large gaps, so one tube should take care of a whole window. To begin, cut the tip off of the tube of caulk at a 45-degree angle so that the tip will fit nicely into the window seam, and load it into a caulking gun.

Clean the surface as best as you can and make sure there are no traces of old caulking still left. Push the caulk along the seam in a smooth motion (Image 1). When filling larger gaps, move more slowly to let the caulk adequately fill the space. Finally, use a wet finger to smooth out the caulk and give it a clean, finished look (Image 2).

Give the caulking 12-15 hours to dry and set, and your windows should be airtight for the season.

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ImageIn Ontario and most parts of Canada, we’ve had yet another incredibly dry summer. While many of us have been more than thrilled with what seems like endless sunny days, lawns everywhere are feeling the brunt of the dryness. For many homeowners, dealing with their lawns during these intense dry periods can be a frustrating ordeal.

Instead of giving up completely, consider embracing the opportunities for your lawn heading into the fall and winter months. There is a science behind lawn care and timing is a crucial component to having a well-balanced, healthy-looking lawn. In fact, lawn care professionals and horticulturalists alike recommend a late summer tune-up in order to keep your lawn healthy into the winter months.

Here are two simple things to consider doing this month:

1. Look for signs of lawn disease and pest damage. August is the ideal month to combat certain lawn diseases and pests because late summer is when most insects lay their eggs, which remain in the ground over the winter. Some of the diseases you should be on the lookout for include summer patch disease, fungal diseases such as brown patch and dollar spots, and damage caused by a drought or flood.

Lawn pests that are especially active towards the latter part of summer include yellow chinch bugs, mole crickets and spittlebugs. In most cases, lawn diseases and pests can be dealt with by applying an environmentally friendly lawn care treatment. By dealing with these issues now, you will not only avoid further damage to your lawn, but you likely won’t have to deal with them again in the spring, making springtime gardening a much easier task.

2. Consider late summer fertilization and seeding treatments. Most lawns are fertilized in the spring, but by September the effects will begin to wear off. Just like in the spring, grass enters a new phase of growth in late summer, providing an ideal time to fertilize yet again. Not to be confused with the late fall fertilization treatment (three applications should be done annually), late summer fertilization or “bridge treatment” as industry insiders call it, should be done just after the summer heat and before the grass goes dormant. It is recommended that you contact your local lawn care specialist or greenhouse to determine how much and what type of fertilizer should be used.

Most horticulturalists and lawn care specialists also agree that late summer and fall is an ideal time to establish new lawns or overseed damaged ones. It is recommended that you begin this process in mid-August and complete it by the end of September.

While it is important to consider these recommendations for your lawn during this time of year, there are other common problems that should also be taken into consideration year-round. For example, mowing your lawn too short can cause great stress to the grass. When cutting the grass, don’t cut off more than 2/3 of the length of the grass blade.

Another common problem is over- and under-watering your lawn, and watering at the wrong times. It is suggested that homeowners water their lawns in the morning when moisture levels are at their peak. Lawns typically require about one inch of water a week during the growing season to stay green and continue actively growing. Anything more or less can damage the grass over time. This amount will vary depending on the weather, but during periods of extremely dry or hot weather, such as the weather we’ve been experiencing here in Ontario, be sure to check with your local municipality for any water usage bans. If you have an in-ground water system, late summer or early fall is also a good time to have the system inspected and tuned-up.

For more information and tips on how to care for your lawn, contact your local lawn care specialist or greenhouse. If you have any valuable suggestions, please post in the comments section below. 

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ImageMany of us can’t afford solar panels or a new hybrid car — and newly produced items like those can actually add to a personal carbon footprint, because of the energy and resources needed to make them.

But there are simple, constructive ways to reduce your carbon shoe size without the big price tag.  Here are some easy everyday choices and actions can make a huge difference:

 

Buy organic and local

When possible, buy organic or “fair trade.” There’s a better chance the food was grown in an eco-friendly way, and if it’s locally grown, it didn’t have to travel that far. This also goes for those double lattes — coffee often has a large carbon footprint because of the distance those beans had to travel to get here, and how they were produced. Also, try eating at restaurants that serve locally produced or seasonal foods.

Pay attention to packaging

When out shopping, try to go to stores or co-ops that keep packaging to a minimum. For example, you may chose to buy the loose tomatoes rather than boxed or plastic-wrapped tomatoes. Also, take reusable bags to the grocery store. When it comes to resources, plastic is better than paper — but a reusable cloth tote-style bag is better still.

Bye Bye bottled water

Bottled water has a huge carbon footprint — it’s bottled at one location in small plastic bottles and shipped all over. Try buying a reusable water bottle or canteen for your water. Also, a lot of restaurants have made the move from offering fancy bottled water, usually imported from an exotic source, to using in-house filtration systems that make tap water a good choice. Many plastic water bottles are recycled, but most are not, making the footprint even bigger.

Energy-proof your home

We’re not talking major upgrades here… Make sure all of your windows close properly and that the attic in your home is properly insulated. This can save you big bucks on your energy bill. Also, keep your heating and cooling systems properly maintained, and switch to reusable filters when possible. Try switching from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs. Compact florescent light bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than our normal light bulbs and last much longer. Compared to regular bulbs, the fluorescents are more expensive, but they will eventually pay for themselves due to lower energy costs.

Go native

Use native plant species to landscape around your home or business. The plants will probably grow better in a familiar environment, and the plants may also get shipped a shorter distance to get to your local nursery. Also, use organic soil when planting — it’s made using more eco-friendly methods, and uses less resources. And remember, green plants are a good way to offset carbon. So plant something, anything — it helps.

Window shop

If you have the urge to spend, try window shopping or browsing first. This helps ensure you are only buying things you really need, or really want, and you’re not just impulse buying. Remember, every item in a store, no matter how small, has a footprint — so if we are conscious consumers, we can reduce our own footprint and the overall footprint of our nation.

Take a direct flight

If you need to travel by airplane, try taking a direct flight when at all possible. Your impact is reduced when you take one flight, as opposed to hopping on a couple or more passenger jets to reach your final destination. You might also feel a little less harried when you arrive, because changing planes can be a real hassle.

Switch water heaters to vacation mode

Most water heaters have a “vacation” setting for when you are away from home for an extended period of time. Switching to that “away” mode still keeps the water warm, but will not use the energy it takes to keep a tank full of piping-hot water. Enjoy your vacation even more, knowing that you’re saving money and reducing your footprint.

Unplug it!

Unplug appliances that you don’t use frequently. Most electronics have a standby mode that siphons energy even when not in use. Cell phone chargers, laptops, televisions, stereos — there’s a whole list of items that should be unplugged when not in use. Try using a power strip for groups of electronic items. One flick of the switch and it’s all off.

Keep your car

With gas prices seemingly always on the rise, it’s tempting to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle. But if your older-model car is in good condition, you’re better off keeping it in good running condition. Even hybrids create a big footprint when they’re built, so consider driving that old clunker for a little while longer. Also, try more eco-friendly modes of transport when possible, like buses, trains, a bicycle, telecommuting or even walking.

Chuck your microwave

Admittedly, this is a bit drastic. But this speaks more to those convenient frozen dinners some rely on because of their busy schedules. A freezer full of meals is actually more energy-intensive — it costs more to freeze foods, ship them cold, display them frozen in the grocery store and keep them frozen in our homes. So while the modern convenience of the microwave and the Lean Cuisine is enticing, it’s much more resource-intensive. Cook fresh food when you can, and you’ll also find yourself eating out less often.

Use cold water

No, not in the shower… but maybe in the washer. Try using cold water to launder things that don’t need to be cleaned in hot or warm water. It takes a lot of energy to heat up water — multiply that by the number of loads, and that’s a big footprint. Most major detergent makers sell detergents designed to have the same cleaning power as with regular soap. Try washing mixed loads in cold water, too.

Have the family over

Family gatherings are a good way to spend some quality time with loved ones, with very little carbon impact. Cooking and entertaining for larger groups is more efficient and, per person, a lot less expensive. And who can put a price on these “carbon freebies”?

Make time for errands

A lot of us try to run errands in-between work and other commitments. Try bundling errands together to reduce how far you need to travel. Going back-and-forth to the same part of town on different days to run errands uses more gas than if you planned and did everything in the same area all at once. And if you really want to make it a “carbon freebie,” try carpooling and running errands with a buddy.

The Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It seems like something from a kid’s sing-a-long, but sometimes we lose sight of just how much we buy. Try buying less, and reusing and fixing things when you can instead of buying new. And for a lot of people, recycling is as easy as rolling the trash bin to the curb. Just remember to do it at work, too.

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