You've probably heard by now of Al Gore's energy challenge. He wants to see the US producing all of our energy from carbon neutral and renewable sources within the next ten years. Whether or not you think this is possible, there are some steps at home that you can take to reduce your energy consumption.
(If you've just read the headlines about Gore's speech, it's worth a quick read. The LA Times has a slideshow with excerpts and there's lots of discussion elsewhere on the internet. Check the New York Times opinion blog for mostly positive reaction; the Wall Street Journal is, predictably, less optimistic.)
The environmental question aside, almost everyone can agree that it's worth making a few energy efficiency upgrades at home to save on the energy bill. Here's a quick list:
- Switch to CFLs. (We've said it before, and we'll say it again.) They all use about a third of the energy of conventional bulbs, they result in less mercury in the environment, and good ones can look about as good as regular bulbs if you know how to choose.
- Insulate, insulate, and insulate. Heat rises, so start with the roof and work down. Weatherstripping old doors and windows (or replacing them) can make a huge difference.
- Turn up the thermostat a few degrees. If you install a new one, make sure to dispose of your old thermostat properly; older models are likely to contain mercury.
- OK, it's not that easy, but if you're ready for a big change: move closer to work or to a neighborhood where you can take public transportation. (You can use the Walk Score website to evaluate how walkable a neighborhood is, and a Location Efficient Mortgage can help cover the increased cost of housing in these areas.)
- Think in the long term about energy choices. When your water heater or furnace gives out, think about switching to a renewable source of energy—or one that might become renewable in the future. For example, a heating source that uses hot water can be upgraded later to use water heated in solar tubes. An electric furnace or hot water heater, likewise, can use electricity from PV panels on your roof, or generated by a wind farm at your utility. Gas or oil-burning appliances will lock you into fossil fuels.
image by stevex64 via sxc.hu