Tag Archives: home energy reduction

Please turn off your smog.

Tip of the Month – October 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Recently on a beautiful morning, with a lovely temperature of 68 degrees, I arrived at the dry cleaners at the same time as another car. As I turned off my vehicle and collected my garments, I admired a young father and his two young children—who were reading peacefully in the back seat. The father mirrored my actions, gathering his garments before exiting his car, but, he left one step out – he didn’t turn off his vehicle. Instead, this father left his car idling.

Idling is when a driver leaves the engine running and yet, the vehicle is parked. Every day in the US millions of cars and trucks idle needlessly, sometimes for hours. Certainly there are times when a driver may not be able to avoid running their car engine, such as when stopped at traffic signal or stuck in slow-moving traffic…but honestly, stepping into a store for five or ten minutes is not one of those unavoidable times.

Besides the inexcusable danger of the possibility that one of his precious children might have wandered to the drivers’ seat for any number of reasons and accidently or intentionally thrown the car into gear endangering their lives and others – this father added to unnecessary air pollution that his family and all of us don’t need.

An idling car spews out as much or more unhealthy smog and soot as a moving car. Nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds are the main health-harming pollutants. These pollutants have been linked to asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and cancer. Unfortunately, children and the elderly, along with those with asthma and other chronic health problem are especially susceptible to the dangers of car exhaust.

Idling cars also emit carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a main heat-trapping gas leading to global warming. Each day, Americans waste approximately 3.8 million gallons of gasoline idling their cars. To offset emissions in our community, we would have to cover the entire land mass of our city each and every year with new trees.

Besides polluting our air and wasting gas, idling is also a poor practice for modern automotive engines. Many have a misconception that idling is beneficial for our car engines, but this outdated habit actually harms the car, our wallets and the environment.

Here’s four ways to be idle free:

Turn off the ignition when you’re waiting for more than 10 seconds. Just idling for 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine. Car experts share that if you idle longer than 10 seconds both you and your car engine are better off if you turn your vehicle off and then restart it when ready to move.

Warm up your engine by driving it, not by idling. Modern cars require only a few seconds of idling time before they can be driven safely, even in winter. The best way to warm up a car is to ease into your drive and not revving the engine. In fact, the engine warms twice as quickly when driven verses standing still.

Warm up your car’s interior by driving. Driving is also the best way to get your car’s heating system to deliver warm air faster. Remember when you sit in an idling car you are breathing in dirty exhaust fumes that leak into the car’s interior cabin. Is the warmth of sitting there worth damage to your health – or the health of your children?

Take care of your car engine.  Restarting your car frequently is not hard on the engine, nor will it provide undo wear to your battery. The opposite is true – engine idling forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.

By understanding the effects of idling and reducing the times you do so can improve your car’s performance, save you gas money and most importantly – keep the air clean for those we love.

Want to learn more about reducing pollution, waste and preserving our environment? Follow us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville or visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com






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.