Conservation at Home

Home resource use: Sink water recapture is not one I have figured out yet. I do have a call in to 311. This resulted in them giving me the following number to call, leave my information, and have someone get back to me: 312.743.7477 -- I spoke with the city plumber and though the details are worth another post, suffice it to say that you can use roof runoff water without an ordinance provided you drain it into a barrel that is not inside your living space.  


For the shower, it’s easy enough to place a bucket under the spigot to recapture the water that would otherwise go down the drain while the shower heats up. Still, it seems a worthy design challenge. Taking cold showers also conserves energy otherwise used to heat the water.  While we’re thinking about the water heater, insulating your water heater is one of the cheaper, easier steps to energy conservation – low hanging fruit.I'm beyond frustrated with my landlord for the three large uninsulated waterheaters in our basement. Here are some water heater-related links and photos I'm compiling to make the case with them.


Tankless or instant water heaters are another way to go in the same vein. You might also consider the occasional navy shower to increase your water conservation. These are easiest to bear when it’s warm. A little more on home energy use: Heating / cooling: Perhaps the largest use of energy in the home and responsible for up to 70% of urban emissions, click your thermostat down in the fall/winter months and use air conditioning systems less in warmer months. Sometimes easier said than done in an office setting, but very much worthwhile, not only for the environment, but also for your pocketbook! 


Lighting: You can often find free CFLs, compact fluorescent light bulbs, to replace shorter-lived, more energy intensive incandescent bulbs. There’s a whole bunch of lighting technology out there including LEDs, which don’t have the mercury downside of CFLs, but are even more expensive. While your current incandescents are living out the rest of their natural lives, think about turning them off when they’re not really needed, especially when you leave your workspace or home. Also think about the fact that they generate heat; during warmer months this can mean fighting your air conditioning a little more than you need to if you can figure out a way to turn that light off.  Kitchen: Refrigerators are one of the biggest culprits, here. They’re constantly busy keeping your goodies chilly. They also have a notorious design flaw or two. The warm coils are often found on the underside of the unit, which means the box itself is fighting against any warmth that makes it through the insulation. Even if the coils are on the back of the unit, which is a best-case scenario for most American made models, it’s still an energy-hungry appliance. Consider shifting to a model where you have a separate icebox and a smaller refrigerator, depending on your space constraints. Other energy users in the kitchen: stove, microwave, dishwasher, toaster, coffee maker, and other appliances. The stove is perhaps most interesting because it’s possibly natural gas, which has different environmental repercussions than electricity. Get to know where your energy is coming from. It’s all very impersonal at the point of consumption, but can be devastating during the harvest and delivery stages. I’m not encouraging you to go live in a cave, just to be more aware about the repercussions of your actions.  Phantom Load: I had originally devised another category for electronics and then thought to include them in the context of ‘phantom load’, because the primary action step in the home is basically the same. Besides thinking about whether the doen things that are on really need to be on (television?), consider attaching groups of electronics to a surge protector and turning them on and off as a team. An example might be: computer, light, speakers (don’t forget they draw power), printer. All these devices can be easily turned on and shut off together to conserve energy, save money, and prolong their respective lives. Being more conscious of the energy use may also result in more free time for you; turn on the computer, do what you need to do, turn it off and go relax! The Phantom load is the amount of energy your electronics consume while they’re ‘sleeping’. I’ve read statistics that put it as high as 19% of our total electricity consumption. Bottom-line: it’s real and it accounts for a lot of energy use. Unplug your cell phone when it’s done charging and apply that to anything else you plug into the wall when it’s not in use.