Sunday, August 23, 2009

Car Talk exposes eco-scams

On today's episode of the Car Talk radio show on NPR, those crazy Tappet brothers mentioned their "scam detector" research about products claiming to boost your MPG, ethanol makers, engine treatments, etc... turns out that most of the product claims are bogus, but the ethanol maker is legit and actually used by the Sierra Nevada brewing company. Don't get burned by the others!

Check out the research (and other fun car stuff) here...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gimme five, Brita!

I'm a heavy drinker... of water, that is. Lately I've noticed that Brita and Pur have been marketing water filters as a way to save money (bottled water is expensive) and the environment (processing and shipping bottled water emits unnecessary carbon dioxide). I'm a fan of both ideas. But what do you do with the filters when they're used up? Recycle 'em.

Brita has launched a filter recycling program with the Preserve Gimme 5 program, which collects #5 plastics at Whole Foods stores across the USA (unfortunately, none yet in Maryland). There are also links to join the Filter For Good program by pledging to reduce bottled water waste, and the Brita Climate Ride for bicyclists.

I was disappointed to see that Pur doesn't mention any filter recycling options on their website.

So until our local Whole Foods stores start collecting Brita filters for this program, you can mail them to the program in Cortland, NY, using ground shipping... or stockpile them at home and wait. Pur users: go write some letters!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On ceiling fans and clotheslines

I'm sure I've mentioned the Everyday Cheapskate newsletter before: author Mary Hunt writes from experience about how to get out of debt by living below your means, and many of her suggestions focus on the reduce/reuse/recycle theme. Today's newsletter shared a few tips about conserving energy in your home.

Dear Mary,
How much electricity does it take to run fans? I wonder if fans really are more efficient than air conditioning. Susan, Michigan

Dear Susan,
The difference in energy use between running the air conditioning and an electric fan is huge. In the typical home, air conditioning uses more electricity than anything else, about 16 percent of the total electricity used. In warmer regions, air conditioning can be 60 to 70 percent of your summer electric bill.

Electricity is measured and billed according to the number of kilowatt-hours you use with a scale of 1000 watts per hour. A 2.5-ton central air conditioning system uses 3,500 kilowatts per hour of use, which is 3.5 kWh. A medium-sized window a/c unit uses 900, or 0.90 kWh. A floor fan uses 100 watts, or 0.10 kWh on the highest speed, and a 42-inch ceiling fan set on high uses only 75, or 0.075 kWh. Where I live in California, we pay 17 cents per kilowatt-hour billed. That means it costs about $.60 per hour to run a home central air conditioner, but only 1.2 cents per hour to run a ceiling fan.

Dear Mary,
How can I get my spouse on the same page as me when it comes to saving money? I'd like to save on our electricity by using a clothesline and installing more power strips that we can switch off at night to stop the phantom load. I know both of these can significantly reduce our costs. My husband doesn't see the point to either of these ideas, nor does he like the feeling of clothes dried on a line. How can I bring him around? I'd like to reduce our cost so we can build a fund for the winter months when our power bill is sky-high. Sarah S., e-mail

Dear Sarah,
Your best bet is to compromise. Make a deal with him that if you can get the laundry soft without using so much expensive energy, then he'll install a good, strong clothesline at a height and location that are best for you.

When line-dried laundry comes out stiff, it means the detergent is not getting rinsed out completely. Use only the amount of detergent recommended on the container. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the last rinse to get all of the soap rinsed out. Jeans and bath towels receive the most complaints. To prevent their stiffness, remove them from the line when they are almost dry and run them through the dryer for five to 10 minutes.

Take the responsibility yourself of installing power strips and turning them off at the end of the day. Start keeping track of the amount your utility bills drop as a result of these simple techniques. Then, show him in black and white how much money you're not spending. I think he'll come around when he starts seeing those dollar signs.

Subscribe to the newsletter here.