By now, most people are familiar with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), those curly energy saving bulbs.  They’ve become popular due to the energy savings they offer over old incandescent bulbs – but they’re not perfect either: they take a few minutes to warm up, they’re quite fragile and like all fluorescent bulbs they contain a tiny trace of mercury.

Light Emitting Diode bulbs, or LEDs, are a newer, far better type of light bulb:

  • They turn on instantly – no warm-up time
  • They have excellent colour quality
  • They work well outdoors and in cold temperatures
  • They’re durable
  • They’re as efficient as, or more efficient than, fluorescent lighting
  • They last for 25,000 hours (IE 20 years) so say goodbye to the nuisance of changing burnt out bulbs

So consider investing in LEDs when you look for new light bulbs.  They’re a bit costlier up front, but when you pro-rate that cost over their lifetime, they provide convenience, efficiency and savings.  (And prices are coming down quickly.)

Read more about LEDs here, and always look for the ENERGY STAR logo when you buy.


Efficiency, a small investment with a big return

If you were buying a new fridge, which would you choose?

  • Fridge A, which costs $1,000 to buy but consumes $40 a year in electricity; or
  • Fridge B, which costs $750 to buy but consumes $100 a year in electricity?

Here’s the quick math on the above choice: after five years, Fridge A would cost a total of $1,200; Fridge B would cost $1,250.  After 17 years (the average life of a fridge), Fridge A would cost a total of $1,680; Fridge B would cost $2,450.  You can see what’s happening: the efficient choice may cost more up front, but it’s cheaper in the long term.  The fridge that appears cheaper is actually more expensive.

When making a purchase, we often look exclusively at the first price tag – the purchase price – and overlook the second price tag – the operating cost.  But efficiency, particularly in home appliances, is a small investment that pays.  If you’re in the market for an appliance, efficiency is the wise choice.

Click to learn more about EnerGuide or ENERGY STAR efficiency ratings.  (Reminder: NBers can save and take advantage of special rebates on energy efficient appliances during the month of November.

Efficiency in the kitchen

October 2, 2013

Simple cooking and baking practices to save money and energy

The stove is probably the biggest energy user in our kitchen; there’s a reason for that massive power cord!!  But a few simple techniques can help most cooks save in the kitchen:

  • Use reflective foil drip pans under stovetop elements; in addition to catching spills, they reflect more heat up to where you want it
  • Use a microwave where possible; it uses less than a quarter of the energy of a conventional oven to do the same job
  • A small pot on a big element wastes nearly half of the element’s heat, so match the pot size to the element size
  • Preheat ovens only when necessary; except for baking, most foods can be cooked without heating (and the oven is the biggest energy user in a stove)
  • Turn things off a few minutes before cooking is done, and ‘coast’ to completed cooking; ovens can be turned off 15-20 minutes early

For many more similar kitchen tips, visit here.

Take an egg for a drive

Here’s a simple, zero cost way to improve your gas mileage by 10-20%: the next time you go for a drive, take an egg and tape it under the toe of your right foot.  Then try to get where you’re going without breaking the egg.  It’s a simple trick that will produce significant savings, guaranteed.

Here’s why.  Much fuel is consumed when we speed up aggressively, and we waste our hard-won momentum when we jump on the brakes aggressively.  It’s well documented that gentle starts and gentle stops can save the average driver 10-20%.  That’s like driving over a month for free every year.

So strap on an egg.  And if you happen not to have one with you the next time you get behind the wheel, good news: it works with imaginary eggs too!

Four tips to improve cooking efficiency

Just about everyone cooks, and cooking takes energy.  Here are four tips to help you use less energy and save money:

1.    A slow boil is just as hot as a fast boil, but uses less energy – so get in the habit of setting your food to boil gently.  Use lids on your pots to keep the heat in.

2.    Use flat, smooth-bottomed pots, and match them to the size of the element.  A lot of energy is wasted when small pots are used on large elements.

3.    Use your oven as a last resort because it consumes A LOT of power; stovetop cooking, microwaves, toaster ovens and pressure cookers use far less.

4.    When oven use is unavoidable, skip the preheating.  Make sure the seals around the door are in good shape to keep the heat in.

For more related tips, visit here.

Cruise control or not?

August 24, 2010

Will cruise control improve fuel economy?

The answer: it depends.

On level highways with light traffic, it is YES: cruise control holds a vehicle to a steadier speed than most drivers can, and that’s more efficient than continuous acceleration and deceleration.

However, in hilly terrain, cruise control ‘tramps on it’ when it encounters a climb, trying to maintain a constant speed – and that consumes a lot of fuel.  So in hilly areas, a driver with a skilled foot can easily get better mileage than cruise control.  (A skilled foot means allowing the vehicle to slow down on the upgrades instead of tramping on the gas, and then using the other side of the hill to pick up speed.)

One caveat: safety first!  Always ensure your driving style is compatible with road and traffic conditions.

Thanks to Stephanie McClellan in St. Anthony, NL for the question that led to this Green Idea!

Just unplug it!

June 1, 2010

Many appliances in our homes and workplaces use electricity even when they are turned off.  Incredibly, they were designed that way – usually for convenience.  It’s called ‘phantom power’, and dozens of items in a typical home use power 24/365.  The phantom power used in Canada is more than enough to power every home in New Brunswick.

What to do?  Here are three suggestions:

1.  Learn to recognize things that use phantom power: anything with a clock, a remote control, a charger, one of those blocky-looking plugs, or a quick-on feature (IE most televisions).

2. Get into the habit of unplugging items when they are not in use, or use a power bar: when clicked off, it eliminates phantom power.

3.  When buying, choose appliances that use little or no phantom power; look for the ENERGY STAR logo, indicating best-of-class performance.

For more info, check out this great overview of phantom power from the Office of Energy Efficiency.

You probably already know how terrible stop-and-go-driving is for gas mileage; it’s the main reason why fuel economy ratings are much worse for city driving than for highway. A lot of energy goes into speeding up, and then it’s lost and wasted when we hit the brakes.

The same thing applies to the trucks that pass by your home to collect garbage and recycling. A stop at every driveway means an awful lot of fuel spent on stop-and-go driving.

So what if… What if we all got together with our neighbours, and did one small thing: agreed to put out our trash and recycling at the same spot each week? We could cut the number of stops for the truck by half, or even more. Way less fuel burned, way less emissions, better air for all, a happier trash collector. No financial payback for us, but a warm fuzzy feeling for doing a good thing.

Why not talk to a neighbour, and try it this week – and every week?

In the news

Churches the world over can be tremendous catalysts for change, and some leaders are speaking out: an Alberta bishop has dared to publicly challenge the development of the tarsands, and the head of the Anglican Church in New Zealand has called on church leaders worldwide to show moral leadership on global warming. The Vatican is going green too, with a huge solar installation completed in November.