Category Archives: Home Energy Reduction

Let There Be Light!

SDA Holiday Image 2012Tip of the Month – December 2013 

By Cynthia Ruzzi

Believe it or not, it’s already that time of year.  If you’ve taken your lead from the many retailers around town, you set up your holiday lights at Halloween, changed colors subtlety to match the Thanksgiving season and now you’re ready for the big finale.

While I’d rather save energy and the hours of untangling and hanging thousands of blubs outside my home to spend with friends, I don’t want to be known as the ‘Environmental Scrooge’.  So instead, may I suggest you trade-in your outdated incandescent holiday lights and ‘deck the halls’ with LED holiday lights?

Switching to LED lights used to mean a large initial investment, but checking the holiday aisles of the local home supply stores, I was thrilled to find that there’s a bigger selection than ever and the price is near parity with old energy-hog technology.  Of course the real savings comes from reducing your holiday energy costs.  As this year’s holiday advertisements rolled in, I noticed many stores offering trade-in and discounts on LED holiday lights.  Do a little legwork, comparison shop wisely and you’ll save yourself some green for your pocket. Also, don’t forget to look for sales after the holiday – it’s a great way to gain additional savings for your holiday wonderland.

Our friend Bob O., retired Director of Finance and Facilities, The Athenian School, graciously shared the following quick dollar savings calculation with us to demonstrate what can be realized by switching from incandescent bulbs to LED lights.

Say you put up 5 strands of 25 C9 6.6 watt holiday lights.  That’s 825 watts.  Let’s say you turn them on for 5 hours each day for 30 days.  At a total of 150 hours, that’s 124kWh. Now look at your last PG&E bill.  Do you see an average cost of 15 cents per kWh?  Let’s use that tier price for our calculations.  That would make the cost of the power for the traditional lights $18.50.  The 125 C9 .08 watt LED lights will cost you about $25 to purchase at OSH, Target or Home Depot and will cost $.26 cents for the comparable season.  A true carbon footprint calculation would include that the new lights have been manufactured and shipped using fossil fuels.  The price of the LED lights is a good indicator of the CO2 generated, so we can assume that half of it is for energy used in some form.  Bottom line is that the carbon footprint of the new lights may be covered in just one season of use by energy reduction at PG&E. That means the payback of your new lights is less than 2 seasons.

If saving green for your pocket or ‘doing good’ for the planet isn’t your thing, then consider that LED lights are more durable and safer to run than incandescent lights.  LED bulbs generate less heat improving the life span of your holiday twinkle.  You can expect LED light strings to last up to 100,000 hours – using our assumption above at 150 hours a season – your LED lights will outlast Santa! The limited heat output of LED bulbs that contribute to their lifespan also provide safer illumination.  Definitely worth considering as you trim your family Christmas tree this year.

Of course, there are advantages of LED lighting over traditional bulbs and CFLs beyond the holiday season.  While incandescent 100-watt bulbs have been phased out throughout the US, the cost savings of replacing these inefficient blubs in your home with LED or CFL is over 75% energy savings.  And the cost of LED bulbs have come down tremendously since last year.  You can now purchase a CREE or HALO LED replacement bulb for $7 and even replacement bulbs and trim for recessed cans for just $35.  PG&E has a simple efficiency chart online that shows the watts for different bulbs at various lumens (brightness) which can be found athttp://www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates/light/products/index.shtml.

In an honest disclosure, I am not a big fan of CFL bulbs.  Each of these bulbs contains a small amount of mercury which means used bulbs must be treated as hazardous waste.  That means it is against the law to put these bulbs in your waste or recycling bins. Instead, please bring them to your local Ace Hardware or Home Depot that as a courtesy to their customers, will properly dispose of your residential CFL bulbs. Also, PG&E has a fact sheet, Recycling CFLs: What You Need to Knowhttp://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates/factsheet_recyclingcfls.pdf including important information about proper clean-up procedures for broken CFL lights.  Please keep your family safe and follow these valuable instructions.

Sustainable Danville Area hopes the joy of connecting with your family, friends and neighbors over simple meals and activities will light your holiday season and all the days of the New Year.  Please follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville.com or visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com.

It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

Let There Be Light

Tip of the Month – December 2012 By Cynthia Ruzzi, President

Could that be the inspiration for the many holiday lights that fill our community throughout the season?  Or perhaps it’s just our resistance to the daylight savings time change, plunging us into the dark an hour earlier each winter evening.  Whatever the reason, the post-season electric bill is probably the one gift you wish you could return.

While I’d like to recommend you consider saving the energy and hours of untangling and hanging thousands of blubs outside your house, I don’t really want to take the chance of becoming known as the ‘Environmental Scrooge’.  So instead, may I suggest you trade-in your outdated incandescent holiday lights and ‘deck the halls’ with LED holiday lights?

Switching to LED lights can mean a higher initial investment, but the real savings comes from reducing your holiday energy costs.  As this year’s holiday advertisements rolled in, I noticed many stores offering trade-in and discounts on LED holiday lights.  Do a little legwork, comparison shop wisely and you’ll save yourself some green for your pocket. Also, don’t forget to look for sales after the holiday – it’s a great way to gain additional savings for your holiday wonderland.

A quick search on the Internet points to a multitude of cost savings models demonstrating what can be realized by switching from incandescent bulbs to LED lights.  Most comparisons start with the assumptions that the average home holiday light display contains at least 500 light bulbs (a conservative estimate for some spirited neighborhood competitors), that the light strings are turned on from sunset to bedtime (6 hours per night), and that the season lasts a minimum of 30 days.  In the average holiday light string each incandescent bulb (C7) uses 6 watts.  When we compare the LED bulbs usage of .08 watt each, it’s not hard to imagine the savings boost for your holiday decorating fever.  So not to completely bore you with the price of kilowatt hours in the PG&E 3, 4 and 5 tiers, let me just say that the larger your holiday light tradition, the more dollars there is to save.

If saving green for your pocket or ‘doing good’ for the planet isn’t your thing, then consider that LED lights are more durable and safer to run than incandescent lights.  LED bulbs generate less heat improving the life span of your holiday twinkle.  You can expect LED light strings to last up to 100,000 hours – using our assumptions above at 180 hours a season – your LED lights will outlast Santa! The limited heat output of LED bulbs that contribute to their lifespan also provide safer illumination.  Definitely worth considering as you trim your family Christmas tree this year.

Of course, there are advantages of LED lighting over traditional bulbs and CFLs beyond the holiday season.  While incandescent 100-watt bulbs have been phased out throughout the US, the cost savings of replacing these inefficient blubs still in your home with LED or CFL is over 75% energy savings.  PG&E has a simple efficiency chart online that shows the watts for different bulbs at various lumens (brightness) which can be found at http://www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates/light/products/index.shtml.

As a honest disclosure, I am not a big fan of CFL bulbs.  Each of these bulbs contains a small amount of mercury which means used bulbs must be treated as hazardous waste.  That means it is against the law to put these bulbs in your landfill or recycling bins. Instead, please bring them to your local Ace Hardware or Home Depot that as a courtesy to their customers, will properly dispose of your residential CFL bulbs. Also, PG&E has a fact sheet, Recycling CFLs: What You Need to Know http://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates/factsheet_recyclingcfls.pdf including important information about proper clean-up procedures for broken CFL lights.  Please keep your family safe and follow these valuable instructions.

Sustainable Danville Area hopes the joy of connecting with your family, friends and neighbors over simple meals and activities will light your holiday season and all the days of the New Year.  As ‘tradition’, there will not be a forum in December, so that we can devote time to our loved ones.

We hope to see you next year, when The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area host a three-part speaker series, FOOD FOR THOUGHT, to nourish your spirit, feed your mind and body and help the environment. For more information, please visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com  and on Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

 

RUB-A-Dub-Dub, Less Water In The Tub

TIP OF THE MONTH – March 2012

By Rachel Egan, Sustainable Danville Area 

Have you ever wondered where your water comes from? Of course you know that the water comes through your pipes and into your sink every time you turn on your faucet, but did you know that every time you flush the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower, water your lawn or run your dishwasher you are using a portion of the world’s minimal potable water?

Potable water is that which is available for human and animal consumption. Although the earth is comprised of over 70% water, 97% of that is salt water, 2% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers, which means that only about 1% is fresh water available for human use. Some even argue that, at the rate at which we use fresh water, we will run out of the resource within the next 20 years.

That really puts your water usage in perspective, huh?

In winters as dry as the one we are having now, it is especially important to conserve water so that the water that is available can be allocated to areas such as agricultural land and other industries that require water in order to thrive.

There are, however, steps you can take in order to reduce the amount of water you use in your daily life. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go as far as collecting rainwater off your roof, instead there are smaller, more manageable steps you can take in order to conserve water and make sure you aren’t overusing this limited resource.  Not to mention, using less water saves you money too!

Here are some tips for water conservation in your home, especially through this dry winter, but also throughout the rest of the year:

  • Water your lawn deeply instead of daily,and do so in the early morning hours before dawn. By watering your lawn early in the morning, you are giving the soil and plant roots adequate time to absorb the water without it being evaporated by the sun first.  For more helpful instructions, check out this helpful guide from EBMUD:  http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/WateringGuide_0.pdf
  • Reuse water from cooking to water plants inside and outside of the home (using water from cooking spaghetti, rinsing vegetables or boiling potatoes are wonderful places to start).
  • Wash your car in carwashes such as Sponges or at gas stations rather than in your driveway. Car wash stations have special draining systems that prevent pollutants from soap and car grease from entering into the groundwater and fresh water supply – they also recycle their water and use just the right amount of water needed to rinse your car (instead of letting the hose run while you’re not using it.)
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth twice a day for the recommended 2-3 minutes and leave the water running – even using a low flow faucet – you would be wasting up to 3,285 gallons per year.  Imagine a family of four could fill an average backyard pool instead of letting this water ‘go down the drain’.
  • Make sure all of the pipes and taps in your house are tightly sealed so as to prevent leaking and water loss. According to the National Environmental Services Center, one drop of water per second can add up to 2,700 gallons per year. (Hint: put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If you start getting color in the toilet bowl without flushing, there is a leak.)
  • Only do laundry if you have a full load – when washing laundry, do so in cold water (this reduces the amount of electricity used, as well as prevents colors from bleeding).
  • Take shorter showers. (You may even want to try turning off the water when you are lathering up with shampoo, soap, or conditioner.) On that note, you might also want to take a look at the gallons-per-minute (gpm) ranking on your showerhead and if more than 2.0 gpm, then new models provide wonderful pressure for a wonderful, relaxing experience.
  • Compost organic waste instead of using the garbage disposal – this will reduce your water usage and you can use the compost as fertilizer, all at the same time!
  • Don’t use water to wash porches or decks; instead, use a broom.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and East Bay Mud (EBMUD) have many more water conservation resources on their websites. To learn more about how you and your family can conserve water, please visit http://www.epa.gov and http://www.ebmud.com, respectively.

Want to know more about this precious resource?  We do…so Sustainable Danville Area and San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are bringing you two events in March to help us learn more about global and local water issues.

Join us on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at SRVHS’ Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd. for a screening of the award-winning documentary Blue Gold that sheds light on the approaching crisis of dwindling water supplies. Suggested donation $5.

And to compliment movie night, join us on March 21st at 6:15pm at San Ramon Valley High School in Room S3 in the Administrative Building (upstairs).  Our speaker, Leslie Dumas, Hydrologist and Senior Project Manager with RMC Water and Environment will help us gain an understanding of our local water resources and future vulnerabilities.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News