Hot tips to get your home ready for summer

Posted on: April 27th, 2019 by rjohnson

From the Spring 2018 issue of the CUB newsletter.

Energy efficiency is key to keeping your power bills under control: The cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you don’t use.

You can save hundreds of dollars a year taking simple actions like recycling your old refrigerator or insulating your attic – and on top of that, the utilities offer incentives to increase your energy efficiency.

Set the Thermostat at 78 degrees when you’re at home in the summer.

The biggest contributor to high power bills in the summer is the air conditioner. You can lower your air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent by raising the thermostat just two degrees and using a ceiling fan.

Turn the AC off: It’s a myth that if you go out for part of the day it’s better to keep your air conditioner running because when you get home it won’t have to work harder to cool a warm house. Even for a quick errand like a trip to the grocery store, you will save energy by turning off the AC when you leave the house.

By the same token, don’t crank your air conditioner to 50 degrees to cool the house more quickly. The truth is your system will deliver cool air at the same rate, no matter the temperature you set on your thermostat. (The exception is a room air conditioner that uses a “low, medium and high” setting instead of a thermostat.)

Turn the fan off when you leave the room – fans cool people, not spaces.

Remember, a smart thermostat can be a big help in setting the right temp.

Upgrade your appliances: Look for models that use less electricity and generate less heat. Replacing a 10-year-old AC unit with a newer unit will result in at least a 15 percent gain in efficiency, and up to 50 percent if you choose a model with the Energy Star label.

Ditch your old, hot incandescent light bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs.

Maintain your AC unit: Clean the filters every three months. A dirty filter will slow air flow and decrease efficiency by as much as 30 percent.

Get a yearly inspection from a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist. Putting off routine maintenance can cost you more later if the whole system breaks down.

Warning: Don’t assume you have to sign up for a maintenance plan, which costs $8.95 to 15.95 per month. If you really think you need one, first check to see if your AC unit comes with a warranty that covers maintenance.

Turn off your power strips when you’re not using the devices plugged into them.

Don’t make the AC work too hard: Reduce the space that needs to be cooled by closing doors to rooms that you don’t use as often. Close blinds or shades during the day, when the sun is beating onto your home.

Check windows, doors and floors for hidden gaps and cracks. They can bring in as much hot air as an open window.

Lower the temperature setting on your water heater to 120 degrees.

Ensure cool air can’t escape by sealing leaks with a caulking gun or weather-stripping tool and filling holes where electrical wires and plumbing pipes enter the home.

Adding insulation to your attic can help maintain indoor temperatures and make a difference on your attic floor: If the insulation is even with or below the attic floor joists, it’s time to add more.

Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes, and consider air drying them.

Ventilate your home: Fans consume much less electricity than a traditional cooling unit and will allow you to raise your thermostat by a few degrees without impacting your comfort. During summer, run ceiling fans counter-clockwise to create a gentle downdraft.

Take advantage of any wind and open windows to create a cross breeze, especially in morning and evening when it’s cooler.

Move hot items, such as lamps and TVs, away from the thermostat.

Reduce heat-producing activities: Unplug appliances and use a smart power strip to help power down electronics when not in use.

Delay heat-producing tasks, such as dishwashing, baking, or doing laundry, until the cooler evening hours or early morning.

Use your bathroom’s fan to remove heat and moisture when bathing and use an exhaust fan while you cook – this will help remove heat and humidity.

When you can , use a microwave or grill outside instead of using the oven. Ovens make your house warmer while grilling helps you cut costs and spend time outdoors.

Human Activities Cause Climate Change

Posted on: March 18th, 2019 by rjohnson

The cause of Climate Change is human activity! Worldwide this is agreed upon with a 95% certainty among climate scientists.  Why is it accepted science that the burning of fossil fuels and other actions of people is the main driver putting our climate in peril?   

Many water, earth, and air measurements are taken by weather balloons and weather stations, ice cores, weather officials, and satellites.  This expanding number of data readings is examined by Climate Scientists. Natural events that effect climate are things like: particles from volcanic eruptions, dust, salt sea spray, the sun, and variations in the amount of snow and ice covering the planet.

The human activity of burning fossil fuels influencing climate are things like: coal and gas power plants, vehicles, the cutting of forests for farming or raising cattle and other reasons demanded by people.  Both natural and manmade actions put CO2 and other heat trapping gases into the atmosphere. 

 Computer models compare by simulation what is observed in real life to what they expect and predict to see.  For example: scientists know the sun is not the only cause of a warming planet.  If it was just the sun all levels of the atmosphere would warm the same.  In reality, the part of the atmosphere below the CO2 level is warming.  The atmosphere above the CO2 is cooling.  This indicates that the CO2 is trapping the heat that is below it.  Another fact that supports the fact that CO2 is causing climate change is that overall night time temperatures are rising faster than day time temperatures.  This indicates that the heat from the warmer day time is trapped in a CO2 blanket and is not allowed to escape during the night time.

The amount of CO2 being added by the burning of fossil fuels has doubled since 1979, to 10.82 gigatons/year.  The amount of total CO2 in the atmosphere is up 22% in that same time, from 337 ppm to 412 ppm.  Since heat trapping gases like CO2 stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years the effects of our burning fossil fuels will continue long after mankind quits burning them.   A good part of the CO2 that is put into the atmosphere is absorbed and held in the oceans.  As they absorb CO2 their acidity increases. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the ocean has become 30% more acidic.  According to scientists this is happening faster than it has in the last 100,000 years. 

It is interesting to note that private scientists working for fossil fuel companies like Exxon Mobile advised their companies that climate change was real and that the cause was from burning fossil fuels like their petroleum and gasoline products.  This was being discussed in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  It was discovered from the subpoena of internal Exxon e-mails and documents, which were sent from Exxon scientists to Exxon executives.   Exxon may lose a lawsuit brought against it for lying to Congress about knowing climate change was real and the burning of fossil fuels that they were promoting and selling was the cause.  Why would scientists who worked for Exxon and other petroleum companies come to this conclusion if the evidence was not there for them to see?

Climate Scientists can also say that hurricane rainfall and temperature rise are affected more by human activity than events like tornadoes.  The terrible rainfall from Hurricane Harvey was made worse by manmade climate change. Scientists also predicted the incredibly cold weather of Jan. 30,2019 which was caused by a change in winds in the upper atmosphere around the north pole.  This drives the polar vortex down into the Midwest and the Eastern parts of the U.S.  Just because a part of our country is cold sometimes does not mean the Earth isn’t overall getting warmer, as scientists say.

I hope the scientific evidence makes you see climate change is real and caused by people.  There are steps people can all take to lessen global warming and the problems it is causing.  1) Be mindful of how you consume energy.  2) Drive a car that is fuel efficient and don’t idle it for no reason.  3)  Improve the insulation in your home and reduce the amount of heating and air conditioning you use.  4) Use LEED and CFL bulbs.  5) Buy Energy Star appliances.  These are all good first steps in helping our planet and our people.

Source:  Dr. Geeta Persad, Climate Scientist with Union of Concerned Scientists.  She earned her Doctorate in Atmospheric Science from Princeton University. 

Source: The Royal Society Dec. 05, 2018

New report says over 90% of coal burning power plants are contaminating water

Posted on: March 6th, 2019 by rjohnson

WEEK Journalist Kyle Beachy has a story on the WEEK website detailing a report from the Environmental Integrity Project. Read the full story and watch the video on their website. Links to the full report can be found there.

Tips to get your home ready for winter

Posted on: October 13th, 2018 by rjohnson

From The CUB Voice newsletter of the Citizens Utility Board

You might want to ignore the fact that winter is fast approaching, but now is the perfect time to prepare your home for the chilly months ahead.

Here’s a Checklist:

  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees (warm setting). Cover it with an insulated blanket you can purchase at a hardware store.
  • Get your furnace inspected. Have a certified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor inspect your furnace. If your furnace is 15 years or older, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer system.
  • Replace filters. A clean filter helps your HVAC system operate at its best and last longer. You may have to change your filter every month, but at least do so every three months. If you have pets or allergies you may need to clean and replace your filters more often.
  • Keep warm air in, winter cold out. Weather-strip doors, caulk windows and install storm windows if you have them. A door guard or sweep can help fill the gap at the bottom of your front and back doors. You can find most of these items at local hardware stores.
  • Clean gutters. If your gutters are filled with build-up like leaves, they can damage your home’s siding and roofing, causing cracks and letting cold air in.
  • Reverse ceiling fans. In the winter, run the fan clockwise (from your position, looking up at it) to pull warm air down from the ceiling and keep it circulating in your house.
  • Tree branch trimming. Cut down any extended branches that can get tangled with power lines, causing outages.
  • Turn off outdoor faucets. Flushing outside faucets before winter is a great way to remove any excess water that could freeze up later and cause damage to your pipes.
    This only takes a few steps and you can find instructions on CUB’s blog. (Shut off the inside valve that leads to the outdoor faucet and turn on the outdoor faucet until the water stops.) Consider buying an insulated cover for each outdoor faucet.
  • Bonus tip: If you have WiFi, a smart thermostat can help control your home’s temperature and cut heating and cooling costs by up to 20 percent.